LABOR & COUNTRY CHAPTER II - WHOAMI
A policy challenge to the Democratic Party of the United States of America.
LABOR & COUNTRY FULL BOOK
My name is Anthony Manalakos. I am a regular working-class citizen from Massillon, Ohio and I'd like to earn your vote for President of the United States of America. I do not take lightly the gravity of this moment, with the country floating at sea on a small boat, waiting for the next act of violence, or injustice to shatter through the water’s surface. Leadership is the decision about what type of vessel we must build together in preparation for the storms of tomorrow. I do not take lightly any citizen's vote in this momentous time of change. I hope to change the conversation and give a focused vision to the liberal movement with specific goals. Building blocks that WE THE PEOPLE, can carve into the new sculptures of law and service desperately needed to lead our populous forward.
I grew up on the edge of town in Massillon, Ohio. Rolling Hills Trailer Park is a mobile home community adorn with older trees, clean streets, and beautiful amenities. The best part was all the kids running around, all available without me needing to leave the comfort of my own two feet. The cornerstone of Rolling Hills was an awesome park, sitting quaintly nestled in the lower part of the property. I have fond memories of zooming toward it on many bike rides, flying down the hill at top speed, crouched down making sure to limit drag.
There was also a little conference center, baseball diamond, and small gas tower that will almost break both of your legs if you jumped off it and the older kids failed to educate you on the novel concept of shock force. At the conference center, the Boy and Girl Scouts would meet, allowing me to sneak in occasionally, and get some much-needed hard skills without the unpleasantries of paying and registering.
With a single mother and strict religious grandfather attempting to beat the devil out of me, I roamed the streets early, expanding outside the park quickly to a big world inside my little town. I would roam into the forgotten factories, now long abandoned, wondering how so much useful space could sit empty. I lived in the small single wide trailer with my little brother, mother, and grandfather. My grandfather, a West Virginia transplant now living on social security, was a hard man that fought in Korea and worked for a steel mill for nearly thirty years only to have his pension vanish, replaced with a paltry payout forced down our citizens throats when steel left our town. My brother and I had been reacquired from my Texas after my mother’s failed relationship with my father, both of us still very young.
With a fledgling single mother, we had difficulties as all impoverished do, struggling to get the necessities to exist in our empire. However, in our most dire times of need, my brother and I were kept under the wings of the government getting every type of assistance my mother qualified for, no more important than food.
During the young years of my life, I looked forward to the first of the month with great zeal. It meant a high-end box of cereal like Cookie Crisp or Lucky Charms was going to be bought. As long as I got to the Lucky Charms before my little brother did, all marshmallows would remain intact! That box would be gone in a day but remembered long after with happy little tummies looking forward to what might come the next month. Looking back, even for a family with more money, I'm sure between the appetites of my brother and I it would've shaken even the sturdiest of budgets!
Without food stamps and free lunch, two pieces I think critical to the ability to learn and excel, I likely would not be writing you today. Lunch was always my favorite class, with pizza Wednesdays and taco day shooting to the top of the list. My nickname in fourth grade would become 'garbage disposal' as I'd collect the food from other children’s trays and eat it right there or save it for later. One day, collecting the unwanted tacos from the table would lead me to setting a brand new, completely arbitrary record within my little school. Students began to gather around once I ate the ninth taco, with one more left on my little tray to go. Teachers and monitors, noticing the ruckus began scuttling over as the bell rung in the background.
As the students noticed the adults started to march over the cries of 'eat it, eat it' started to be screamed in the background sending my confidence soaring. I left that lunch hall having to be picked up and dragged from the table with that tenth taco in my mouth. That record would not be broken due to one of the worst stomach aches of my life, a key early lesson about the pressure of crowds to my own ego.
A governor recently passed a bill in Minnesota that would make all lunches free in his state. Perhaps no bill has had such a peculiar guttural effect on me like this one, knowing its importance and the real impact it was going to make on his young citizens. This is legislation that moves working people and I personally think is good governance. Ubiquitous in nature and backed with sound cost benefit analysis, it is a wonderful marketing concept for the state, setting itself apart from others. The investment in brain capital, an underrated abstraction of the newly fed and supercharged minds, will be better able to competently listen and learn, a long-term benefit with incalculable benefits. Thank you, Governor Walz.
Back when I got free lunch, you were separated in line, and had to fill out paperwork every day. This was a devastating proposition that I know left other young children hungry and was one of the first times early in my life I was ashamed of being poor, but never left unfed.
Teachers and librarians were some of the most critical, and kind community members to help me through my formative years, a sympathy that I carry now for others. These community leaders were compassionate when it seemed a foreign idea by many in my community, sure I was on the road right to the jail house.
I lived in the Massillon Public Library as a teenager, a beautifully sculpted building with grand columns up front, yet neatly nestled right on our main street. It was by far my favorite building in the city, an air-conditioned citadel where I traveled round the world, discovering Tom Sawyer and Tom Waits, curiously reading about the boom time years when Canton, Ohio, now nearly a century back when it was still called little Chicago, a must-see destination when traveling to New York City from the West.
I've visited some of the fanciest libraries this world has to offer and it's still my favorite. Libraries had just begun serving a new, expanded multimedia experience in my town, so now there was a one stop shop for everything I needed from books to music! All for free! All served up by sweet ladies that could show you how to access all the information you'd ever need. The value to me as a citizen and individual is incalculable.
Teachers share quite a large place in my heart as well, instrumental in smacking the back of my head all the way up the K-12 ladder, clumsily stumbling and somersaulting up, making many, many, many mistakes along the way. Family is where you find it, and I had a genuine, true love for my fellow schoolmates and teachers alike, working people struggling and suffering themselves putting up with an ornery rebellious child and teaching me damn well anyway.
I was desperate for attention, mixed with self-hatred and destruction all of us feel a bit of as teenagers. I often acted out and was very disruptive. This would fade as I grew older, unsure of the use or future I wanted to seek. Suddenly, I was finding myself playing with an idea of leadership as I reached the end of my high school career. This had been a stark turnaround from a troubled adolescence, resting very much on the shoulders of great teachers, coaches, extended family, and the people that support them. "It takes a village" as the well-known saying states.
I know these stories like mine happen every day as these institutions make life in our empire much better than any one of us as sole individuals in any part of the country can realize. Rich people have now given me the impression that they do not care about these institutions the same way working people do. I have not given nearly enough back to librarians or teachers but will be a warrior against the politicians and corporations alike that prey on our communities for political gain.
I would go to join the Air Force in 2004 after college proved too expensive and the lack of a clear vision had me roaming around at night getting into trouble all over the town. The military would prove the most difficult part of my journey, feeling the most rebellious in my life just as I had signed a serious contractual agreement with the government. I fell into the typical trap as many men do of a lack of higher purpose and expectations of myself, boozing and longing for something I could not put my finger on. I did however learn at a very good police academy and spent many years dealing with use of force situations and training that I think would be valuable to a national conversation.
I was not the best Airman, unable to focus on my own service before self, lost in feeling sorry for myself with much death in my early military career. A young, ignorant man unable to seek help, I would finish my service and then attach myself to a destructive relationship that would take me a full decade to build my life back up after.
I was with protestors gushing into the streets of Chicago after the death of George Floyd, looking for answers into a starless, smoke-filled sky billowing in between as red and blue lights reflected in the broken glass of our beloved city. The electricity of a people when collectively struggling in real time is something I will never forget and changed me irrevocably. I was there to help clean up the next morning as our city began to pick up the physical and emotional pieces.
I was there helping coordinate on the ground resources in Canada during the Canadian Trucker protest, even after our own news media and so-called liberal outlets turned against these working-class men. I've been roaming the internet, trying to inspire new ideas for labor movements and on the floor of Labor Notes watching the new leaders of tomorrow being carved.
I work in cybersecurity by day as an engineer, unable to move up the corporate ladder because middle management seems unnecessary. Now, my wife and I recently bought a dilapidated petting zoo to turn into a free-range chicken farm with fresh produce aptly named "The Chickopolis".
As my name might indicate I am Greek, and my wife Italian, so we're going to bring the Mediterranean to Ohio! Hoping to bring an idea within my 'Future School' framework to life, we plan on integrating animal bioscience, care, and general work into a physical learning adventure. Longing to build something to inspire the hearts of local citizens, a large fountain, myriad statues, structures, and gardens with Greek themes will accompany chicken shaped hedges, roman columns, and colorful gardens to adore while waiting for the children or for all to enjoy.
However, my dreams are on hold as I cannot sleep. I know there are men like me out there that can't sleep in this way. With families and plans. Plans for men in our class take years to finance, plan, and execute. More chaos will not lead to more plans. I can feel the pain of a leaderless people manifest on my conscience until I fall into a restless sleep and then awake again.
Now the spring has come, and I cannot build. I am stuck to this chair with the gravity of our nation's injustice keeping me from moving forward. Keeping me from my wife and son. Keeping my mind nowhere but here. Locking me to these thoughts, clanging around like the sounds of a busy restaurant kitchen. The cruelest of ironies being after finding the quiet peace I have longed for on my own land disrupted by what my heart tells me I am called to do