Don’t let economy lead to depression

Posted on 19 Mar 2009 at 5:24pm
By Hardy Haberman Flagging Left

LGBT community can help itself recover from downturn by fighting fear, supporting gay-owned businesses, performing service work

I’ve got my fingers crossed — for a lot of reasons.

First I am hoping that the economy can turn around.

I know we often speak of the economy as something separate and apart from our lives, but it really is our lives, at least the way they relate to the world of commerce and finance.

Until that time when we all board the Enterprise and money is no longer an issue, we will continue to be part of the economy.

The LGBT economy — and yes, there really is one — has ground to a crawl just like the rest of the country. If you don’t believe me, talk to a few friends about how secure they feel in their jobs or with their current financial position.

If you are like me, you will hear the same kind of trepidation that is reflected in the stock market and on the news.

That fear is the real problem. Roosevelt was absolutely right about "nothing to fear but fear itself."

In this age of 24-hour blather that passes for news, the fear meter is really ratcheted up. It is that fear that slows everything down.

If you are afraid of losing your job, you pull back on spending. When you do that, stores where you shop pull back on things like new orders and employees. The salon you patronize lays off a stylist.

The café drops a couple of waiters. The bookstore closes, and the newspaper gets fewer advertisers, and sooner or later, it affects you.

It’s a downward spiral that is driven somewhat by big factors like tight credit and a lot by small factors like fear.

I am no Pollyanna, though I think I might look pretty good in gingham.

I do not believe we can just all go out and start spending and crank up the local LGBT economy as if by magic.

I do believe we can minimize the effects by being rational and perhaps turning off FOX or CNN for a while and just calming down.

Almost $800 billion just started flowing into the nation’s economy for projects like rebuilding roads and fixing our infrastructure. Additionally, there are plans afoot to help out people who are crushed by mortgage debt left over from the housing bubble.

It’s not going to be a quick fix, but it is a start.

Getting money flowing again is what it is all about. That’s why the banks are being rescued and why automakers are working out plans to stay in business.

On a local level, we haven’t been hit as hard as many communities. But still, people are in financial trouble and their problems affect us all.

The LGBT community has traditionally been in a better position to weather recessions than our straight friends. But that was before we started having gaybies and buying homes in the suburbs.

Still, many LGBT people have a bit more disposable income than those with large families and the financial obligations they bring.

Why does this matter? And what the heck can we do about it? Well, here are my suggestions.

First: Don’t be foolish. Have a prudent reserve of some kind.

I once heard a figure that showed most Americans are one paycheck away from the street.

Perhaps having a couple of months’ rent saved up is a good idea.

Second: Don’t cower in fear. If you succumb to the fear the news is selling you will find yourself in a state of inertia. That does no one any good.

Third: Find a way to help others. A little volunteer work goes a long way, and local LGBT service organizations are hurting from lack of donations.

They can always use extra hands and that costs you nothing but a little time. You’d probably otherwise spend that time watching the news and being afraid.

Fourth: When you do spend money, patronize LGBT and LGBT-friendly businesses. There are lots of them in Dallas, both in the gayborhood and elsewhere.

Finally: Take a few minutes to find those things in your life that really are important.

I know I am often caught in a whirlwind of meaningless minor irritations that blind me to the good things that I have — a loving partner, a large family of choice, a couple of enigmatic cats and an outlet for my creativity.

If all this sounds like a recipe to avoid depression, it is.

The economy can sink or float on how we feel, and why should we let ourselves or our economy sink into depression?

As Auntie Mame said, "Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death!”

Hardy Haberman is a longtime local LGBT activist. His blog is at http://dungeondiary.blogspot.com.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 20, 2009.

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