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Real people, Real problems

By Al Mollo
Arizona Daily Wildcat
April 19, 1999
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Arizona Daily Wildcat

As a student, there are not many jobs better to have than that of a waiter.

At least I don't think so. With flexible hours, can't-ask-for-much-better hourly take-home, and continuous cash on hand, serving tables has become a popular occupation for those working toward their degree.

There is one benefit, however, that I covet most: the people.

Coming into contact with hundreds of people each week can offer incredible opportunities for learning. From all walks of life, men and women sit at my tables for about an hour. They are there to eat. But we also talk.

So one Saturday night I decided to discuss with people exactly what they expect from their government, and more importantly, their country. I asked what was most important to them. And more significantly, why.

What I found to be most interesting, was that there was not one issue of particular importance to a majority of the people. The list went on and on. Immigration. Taxes. Welfare reform. Moral Values. Abortion. Education. Heath Care. AIDS. Economy. World hunger. Pollution. Foreign Affairs. Racism. Drugs. Crime.

While there was no general consensus among issues, there were patterns to be found within the variety of age groups. With the youngest, I found the most genuine, sincere motives.

Jamie, an 11-year old cheerleader, was worried about the water supply and pollution. Her older sister, world hunger. I found that with most teens, the emphasis was on issues of real significance to their lives.

Monika, 18, told me of her annoyance at paying so much of her small paycheck to the government in the form of taxes.

"If we bust our butts working, why should we have to pay the government our hard earned money? Also, we shouldn't have to pay taxes to support all this welfare. If we have to work, so should they."

Christy, 21, had an even more frightening concern.

"Senior citizens behind the wheel? It's not safe!"

There seemed to be a particular concern among young people about the involvement in foreign affairs outside the scope of American national interests. The current conflict in Kosovo has likely stirred up this worry among young people. And the unanimity was clear: Stay out of the business that is not our own.

Christy added, "The government is too nosy. These are unnecessary wars. Put it this way: if you walk past a pile of dog sh-, what would you rather do: look and keep walking, or put your nose in it and sniff?"

And Alicia, a 16-year-old high school student, told me that the United States was "getting involved in too many foreign affairs."

At the other end of the spectrum, seniors seemed to think more about present quality of life issues. Nearly every senior citizen that I spoke to mentioned crime and drugs as their biggest concern.

Barbara, a 65-year-old grandmother said that she was worried about the future of her granddaughter and the effects that crime and drugs would have on her life.

"I'm afraid that the drug issue that we face will continue, despite what the government does."

Joe and Clem agree. The Italian-American seniors said that they have witnessed their hometown go from a close-knit family neighborhood to one that has become plagued by crime, violence and gangs.

"It's a real shame what has happened there. Once you get the wrong element in your town, that's it. There's nothing the Congress or president could do. And I don't care what anyone says, as soon as you see a lower-class of people move in, that's when you start to see the problems. There was never graffiti in our town."

And of course, they talked about Darryl Strawberry. But we've certainly heard enough about that low-life.

Naturally, heath care was also atop the list of the older folks.

Larry, a 71-year-old retired police officer, said that he was fed up with the exuberant heath insurance rates.

"The cost of health insurance should be rated by an individual's history."

Well, I suppose I could go on and on with the interesting remarks of these ordinary Americans. But I think I've already learned my lesson.

Real people care about real problems. At times it is so easy to get consumed with the big-boys: abortion, impeachment, capital punishment. But it seems to me, from talking to these hungry though helpful guests, that they want their government to work for them. For the real things that effect their lives each day. Is that good? Well, I'm not quite sure. I left work that night with $145 in my pocket and a better understanding of those who actually are the "American people" we always hear of. So I guess I can't complain.