ORLANDO — Last month, the federal government reported, the U.S. created 214,000 jobs. That brought the unemployment rate down to 5.8 percent and it signaled that more companies would be hiring in the next two months for the holiday season.
It seems like there was good reason to cheer the news. As the government noted, the economy has added 200,000 workers or more for nine straight months.
And yet, as the Nov. 4 election results demonstrated, people are still feeling nervous about their job security — and angry and frustrated that despite the acceleration in hiring, average hourly wages barely nudged, and hourly pay increased just 0.1 percent in October — meaning the 12-month increase in wages has been just 2 percent.
Anyone who got downsized during the great recession, and found a new job — or multiple jobs, including part-time positions below their skill levels — at a far lower rate of pay is now feeling that painful financial pinch.
Freeline Productions’ novel “Bloody Rabbit” explores that economic anxiety, a nervousness and unending tension being felt even as jobs get created each month, even as gas prices fall, and even as the pace of layoffs has slowed to a crawl. If this is a recovery, the nation seems to be saying, it sure doesn’t feel like one yet.
The book’s author, Michael W. Freeman, views this economic terror through the eyes of the book’s lead character, R.T. Robeson, a resident of Orlando who had assumed that by his late 40s, he was financially stable and successful. Then the recession and housing market collapse came along, and took everything he had — his job, his savings, his home, car, even his cat. As he struggles to find employment, he also tries desperately to hold onto his dignity.
Things eventually turn around for Robeson: he finds a new, lower paying job, and a tiny apartment that is affordable on his new salary. But something else has changed. In a society that has seen its wealth and opportunities wiped away, there are some who look for scapegoats. In the minds of the most twisted among them, those scapegoats are easy to find.
Freeman based many of the anecdotes in “Bloody Rabbit” on his own experience being downsized from the newspaper industry in early 2011, and his slow fight to climb back. It’s a story that millions are likely to easily relate to.
How many of us got downsized between 2008 and 2011, and spent so many harrowing days looking in the mirror and asking: Is this nightmare ever going to end?
How many of us experienced months and months of complete of total silence after sending out scores of resumes?
How many of us cringed when a friend on Facebook posted, “I just found a great new job” …. and while your mind told you that it’s wrong to be envious of other people’s success and good fortune, it felt like torture to be left out of that kind of excitement?
How many of us felt so inadequate that we no longer blamed politicians or big business for the struggling economy, and simply started castigating ourselves, as if we were such pitiful failures that we clearly caused our down downfall?
Welcome to the world explored in “Bloody Rabbit,” a novel of our time.
The book is available on Amazon.com and has also been released on Kindle, available to download in eBook form. It also explores the ways in which economic distress causes some people to cast blame — on politicians, perhaps, or large businesses. But others think particular groups deserve to be singled out — and punished.
As the book opens, Robeson is putting his life back together. He commits himself to the new full-time and part-time jobs that he’s taken, and lives a quiet, economical life in that small apartment.
Maybe he should have been forewarned, though, when his new landlady admits the gruesome history of that apartment, of the atrocities committed against a Jewish civil rights activist who rented it during the Jim Crow era.
Robeson is also working on fighting off feelings of being a failure, and he is increasingly drawn to faith to help him cope. He considers attending a local Synagogue and joining the Jewish faith.
This is before he starts being stalked by an ominous, intimidating man who blames Robeson for his own personal misfortune — and does not hesitate to admit his absolute hatred of the Jews. Suddenly, Robeson starts to feel dangerously, perilously vulnerable.
“Bloody Rabbit” takes an unnerving look at one man’s struggle to keep his life on track – and the strange twists that his frequent bouts of depression have on the life he’s trying so desperately to rebuild.
It also explores how small minority groups — gays and Jews among them — become convenient scapegoats for those who vent anger and hate in rough economic times. It is a book that speaks of, and about, the world we live in today.
Michael W. Freeman was born and raised in Fall River, Massachusetts. He has lived in Orlando, Florida since 2002. He received his Bachelor’s degree in writing and communications from Hampshire College and a Master’s degree in political communications from George Washington University. He has spent the past 26 years working in the field of journalism, most recently at The Orlando Sentinel as the editor of two community newspapers.
In November 2008, Freeman created Freeline Productions as a vehicle to produce his original play, “Hooked,” at the May 2009 Orlando International Fringe Theatre Festival. He soon expanded Freeline Productions to become a full-scale writing and editing production company that includes the online magazine, Freeline Media, which went live in November 2011, and is still going strong today.
His favorite member of the 1960s pop band The Monkees has always been Mike Nesmith.
“Bloody Rabbit” can be purchased in paperback or Kindle eBook directly from Freeline Productions’ online bookstore or at Amazon.
Contact Freeline Media at Freelineorlando@gmail.com..