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Di Leo: Who Do We Need, at Christmastime?

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By John F. Di Leo, Opinion Contributor

During the 2020 “pandemic,” America learned a new concept: “essential workers.”

Governments took it upon themselves to decide who was important, or at least, important enough to remain at work while other businesses were being unconstitutionally shuttered for days, for weeks, for months, and in far too many cases, forever.

What we soon learned – those for whom it wasn’t obvious from the start, that is – was that in fact, all jobs are essential.

Our economy is the most complex of symbiotic relationships, as all the cogs of our economic engine work together for the greater good.

In 2020, the central planners made snap decisions, based on impressions of importance that they pulled out of the air. They allowed grocery stores to sell food, but banned farmers from buying seed and fertilizer to produce that food. They allowed stores to ship products purchased online from distribution centers, but closed the factories that produce such goods.

Some states awakened to the idiocy of such policies quickly, others were slow to change, and still refuse to admit their error. We are still suffering from the results today, over two and a half years later.

All jobs are essential.

No matter whether the specific product or service is considered a “necessity” or a “luxury” by the economists and the tax collectors, they all contribute to our society. Our Western standard of living, the most advanced in human history, is based on the complete picture; the neat interworking of every aspect, from farm to table; from factory to store; from iron mine to household. Shut any of it down for long, and our system is no longer the advanced, happy, prosperous society that our Founding Fathers intended for us to enjoy.

At no time is this more clear than during the weeks of Christmas and New Year’s, commonly known as “the holiday season.”

At this time, we have a far greater percentage of people than at any other time of the year upsetting their usual patterns; buying more ingredients to do their cooking at home; driving or flying long distances to visit family and friends; treating families or employees to shows; restaurants, and parties.

Retailers sell more goods, the transportation industry moves more goods, manufacturers race against the clock to manufacture and sell more goods, before closing the books on the calendar year.

And while we make all these many different industries work harder than ever, weather issues are more likely to arise, as indeed they have this year; as indeed they do most years.

National storm systems are bringing disabling cold to some areas, powerful rainfall to others, dangerous snow to others. No point in complaining about it; this is normal, this is life in America. In fact, this is life on earth; such weather events are nothing new.

But the fact that it’s nothing new doesn’t change the issues of the day: our society has needs in the moment, needs with deadlines that can’t be changed. Christmas Day is December 25; New Year’s Eve is December 31. If everything isn’t in place in time to meet these deadlines, businesses suffer and lives are incomplete.

So, while many of us are able to take vacation days, or our employers close for the holidays, our neighbors are taking on additional shifts, to meet their respective businesses’ greater demand at this time of year.

It’s not a surprise; people take those jobs in full knowledge that they may have to work the holidays, or that inclement weather may make their jobs rougher than usual.

Drive through the neighborhood this week, and don’t just admire the Christmas tree lights this time; look at all the people working hard in the cold and rain and snow.

We see mailmen and parcel couriers beating the snowplows into our neighborhoods, making those deliveries.

We see police, firemen, state troopers and road crews hard at work despite the snow, the rain, and the cold, answering emergency calls and keeping our roads safe.

We see the linemen from the power company, high above us in cherry pickers, repairing power lines, and we see crews surrounded by caution tape, repairing the natural gas lines, the water mains, or the sewers.

Doctors and dentists, nurses and surgeons are still at their clinics and hospitals; health emergencies don’t wait until it’s convenient again.

To handle the travelers, there are 24 hour gas stations and train stations, airports and fast food places. The commuter trains and buses still run; the private vehicles still have to be refueled and serviced.

The retail workers are there in the big malls, the strip malls, and the stand-alone stores; to sell those Christmas presents (batteries not included) and those Christmas dinners (fully prepared or still in the form of ingredients).

Despite the snow, despite the cold, cashiers are in the front of the store, as receiving clerks and stock boys work in the back. And all those goods get there by truck, train, ship and plane, all of which keep on moving, day-in and day-out, year after year. These goods keep being made, in factories big and small, from coast to coast, from raw materials to finished goods.

The snow and ice don’t stop all this action, though they may certainly slow it down.

Why?

Because our economy – our system, our society, our way of life – needs all this to happen, and to keep on happening, around the clock, almost without interruption.

You can’t have one without the other. You can’t celebrate Hannukah or Christmas at your church or synagogue without electricity and natural gas for the lights and heat. You can’t host a Christmas dinner at home without the grocery stores; and maybe for the cookbooks and kitchenware, the bookstores and the cookware stores too. You can’t give gifts if they haven’t been made and shipped and delivered.

It’s that symbiotic relationship again. Harder at this time of year than ever – with weather events throwing more curve balls, and sometimes making our essential workers fight even harder to play their part in our nation’s story.

But along with the big lessons of Hannukah and Christmas – the historical and theological lessons taught by the valiant fighters who stood up to the Roman government to save their people, and by the Messiah born on earth to save humanity – there are economic lessons too, at this time of year.

During these hectic weeks, we are reminded that every worker is essential, that every industry, every product, every service, cooperates as one more critical cog in the great machine of the American free market system.

And on these days of thanksgiving and prayer and celebration, we thank everyone who plays a part in this wonderful system, from the trucker to the shipping/receiving clerk; from the manufacturer to the retailer; from the seller to the consumer.

And special thanks and compliments to those who must also battle winter storms and government barriers along the way.

Merry Christmas, and Happy New Year, to everyone out there who makes America, America.

Copyright 2022 John F. Di Leo

John F. Di Leo is a Chicagoland-based trade compliance trainer and transportation manager, writer, and actor. A one-time county chairman of the Milwaukee County Republican Party, and former president of the Ethnic American Council, he has been writing regularly for Illinois Review since 2009.

A collection of John’s Illinois Review articles about vote fraud, The Tales of Little Pavel, and his 2021 political satires about current events, Evening Soup with Basement Joe, Volumes One and Two, are available, in either paperback or eBook, only on Amazon.

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