The Reluctant Census Taker

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I am an anarchist
and a government employee.  Due to my economic circumstances,
I have been forced to accept the only job that will provide me a
sufficient opportunity to get my family out of the rapidly deteriorating
condition we find ourselves in.  My wife and our children are
stuck in a Mexican border town that is plagued by the violence of
the war on drugs, at least until we can obtain the necessary visas
and funds to move to a place that puts us out of harm’s way. 
It was with their welfare in mind that I reluctantly applied for
a job with the U.S. Census Bureau.

My wife and
her son from a previous marriage are Mexican nationals. When we
married, I had no idea how difficult it would be to obtain authorization
for them to immigrate.  Our ongoing struggle to meet all of
the requirements of the Federal government is a story to be told
at another time. That entire process was expensive, time-consuming,
and frustrating. 

I lost my last
job about a year-and-a-half ago. Since then, I have been doing temporary
work while attempting to find more gainful employment.  It's
hard to suppress the panic that comes with the knowledge that my
savings have been completely depleted and the people who depend
on me have no other means of support.  It was with this in
mind that I agreed to take the test for census takers in early December
at the employment office near my parent's home in the American Deep
South.

I was searching
through job listings at an Internet terminal when I was approached
by a friendly, well-dressed black woman who informed me that she
was proctoring pre-employment tests for the census bureau that afternoon.
She said I was welcome to take the test.  I took it and did
well. She said that I could expect to hear back from her in a couple
of weeks.  More than two months later, I got a phone message
asking me to call in for a phone interview. When I called in, I
was apologetically told that my application had been lost. 
I didn't know whether to laugh or cry. The census bureau, whose
only job is to collect and organize information about people, had
lost my application AFTER they had called me and asked for an interview!

My application
was eventually found and I was called back, but my relief at that
development ended when I heard the interview questions. Did I mind
asking complete strangers personal questions?  Would I object
to using misleading tactics in order to obtain information? Would
I agree to use subtle, veiled threats if that became necessary to
gather the data? Of course the questions weren't worded exactly
that way, but it was obvious what they were really asking. 

Thus I was
faced with a dilemma. Either I would agree to be a part of this
evil, fourth amendment-violating organization, or I would risk letting
my family perish in the volcano of violence erupting in northern
Mexico.  I report for work next week.

In an attempt
to at least partially atone for the deal I have made with the devil,
I intend to fully document all of the evil I will participate in
as a census taker.  If the incompetence and malevolence I experience
in the future is anywhere near as disturbing as I suspect, it should
make for interesting reading.

March
4, 2009

Articles
from Mr. X [send
him mail
], the Reluctant Census Taker, are collected and edited
by Karen A. DeCoster.

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