July 25, 2012

From the Department of Just This

Filed under: Uncategorized — Jarek Steele @ 12:20 am

I was eight when Ronald Reagan was first elected president.  I knew nothing of politics then and frequently wish that I didn’t have to pay attention now.  My first inkling that guys who didn’t wear clip-on ties (and who would probably only visit the dirt road and trailer I called home on some press conference about poverty eradication) actually influenced what happened to me was when my dad got laid off from Merz Sheet Metal.  It was right after Reagan busted the airline strike and deregulated the industry setting the stage for a cascade of deregulation that has birthed companies that are too big to fail and corporations that are considered people.  Did the government directly cause my family’s financial woes? No.  As always, things were more complicated than that.  But the climate made it nearly impossible for Dad to find work.

By the time I was ten, the sound of Reagan’s voice made me sick to my stomach.

Odd, you may say.  This blog is usually about the book selling industry, chock full of railing against Amazon.  Why am I sifting through the ruminations of some middle Illinois hick’s childhood?

Indulge me a while longer.  I promise to get to the point.

I’ve been sitting with the DOJ’s decision about the “anti-trust” lawsuit brought against some in the publishing industry feeling an eerily familiar feeling.  I couldn’t quite place it at first.  Sure, there was disappointment.  Anger.  A touch of bitter resignation and despair.  After all, I was one of the over 800 people who sent public comment letters rationally explaining why creating a diverse marketplace was actually good for consumers and that the success of this lawsuit would only benefit one company – Amazon.  When fellow book lovers and I were unceremoniously dismissed and ignored because we actually know something about the industry and have a hand in keeping it healthy, I had a right to feel kind of pissed off.

Also dubious is the no-bid contract with the state department for a gajillion Kindles.  It’s all so cozy, isn’t it?  So very sewn up.  Finished.  Decided before it was asked.  Yes, I’m angry as both a citizen and a business owner.  I’m almost speechless looking at the blatant, immoral and possibly illegal disregard for the other side of this argument in favor of short-sighted politics.

But there was that other thing.  Something akin to a bruise.  An old one.  Yellowed and spread out over time, sure, but still vaguely painful.  A reminder of earlier flailing against immovable walls.

It’s the eight year old in me who believes in the better angels of our nature and the power of the underdog only to find myself shoved firmly back on the front porch of our trailer drinking Mountain Dew out of the glass bottle, petting one of the dozen cats all named Kitty, knowing life couldn’t be any bigger than my yard because success is against the rules.

Do I sound heartbroken?  It’s because I sort of am.  Nobody likes to watch the other team spike the ball.  But tomorrow will come, and when it does it will come to this:  

Booksellers: No one will help us.  There is no protection.  We are the architects of our own redemption.  If it’s against the rules for us to expand outside our own yards, we must make our yards better.  If the administration-backed mega monopolizer wants to step on us, we must penetrate its boot and become the annoying sharp tack.

Readers:  Love is essential, but it doesn’t pay the bills.  You have to buy local, too.



  1. I so understand what you are saying, J, and I certainly don’t disagree with you. But I guess the way I try to deal with the giant is to work with it and not against it. I hope you’ll make the difference, though, and I’ll watch from the sidelines with my tail between my legs. You are a hero!

    Comment by Deni Bouillon — July 25, 2012 @ 10:35 am | Reply

  2. Wow!….under our wonderful Patriot Act, could this quote below be considered a “threat”….

    I’d hate for DHS to show up on your sales floor arresting people for… “becoming the annoying sharp tack.”….

    “If the administration-backed mega monopolizer wants to step on us, we must penetrate its boot and become the annoying sharp tack.”

    …I’d started this out with a sarcastic theme, but now as I write it, I realize that it is not so far-fetched…isn’t that sad…!

    It looks like the “Conspiracy” that we “nuts” have been talking about for thirty years is beginning to come-together…get ready to either lose or save your republic…(and your bank account, retirement account and precious metals).

    It is all corrupt to it’s core…I worked for DoD for over twenty years…I have been a “Federally protected whistle-blower” (Ha!..please don’t make me laugh, it hurts too bad….) for over twenty years…and I’m trying to point out that the corruption and monetary policy theft that is breaking America…it is purposeful and targeted!!!

    …anyway, get ready, please…! Shelter, Water, Weapons & Food…

    Oh, and read my memoir!….order it from LBB’s if you can…..but read it…you will laugh your ass off…(sadly)…and perhaps come to understand why our society is in this place, at this time..and in this danger…!


    RJ O’Guillory
    Webster Groves-The Life of an Insane Family

    Comment by RJ OGuillory — July 25, 2012 @ 10:46 am | Reply

  3. Dear Jarek,

    I know this is a roundabout way of contacting you, but I thought I’d give it a shot. My name is Neil Kalsi, I am a 4th year medical student at St. Louis University. About 3 years ago you spoke to a small group of medical students in the Physicians for Human Rights interest group at SLU, I happened to be in that small group. Unfortunately I forgot the name of the other speakers, but that hour made quite an impression on me. Thank you for taking the time to come speak with us about your life and experience with healthcare, I know I have benefited from your words and the care I have provided to my patients is better because of your words.

    I would like to invite you to speak again on the topic of the LGBT community and healthcare, but this time to a group of 4-5 SLU undergraduate students also interested in the medical field and social justice. This talk would be part of class I am creating for these students with the main goal of increasing their awareness of health disparities in St. Louis and different populations. I do not have any set day, but this talk would take place in the evening, 30-60 minutes, and would be after September.

    Please let me know if you are interested in speaking or other speakers I could also invite. You may contact me at my email Kalsins@slu.edu. Thank you for your time and consideration.

    Neil Kalsi, MSIV
    Saint Louis University
    School of Medicine

    Comment by Neil — August 9, 2012 @ 11:46 pm | Reply

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