I walked up having no idea which way I would cast my vote: True or False?

As published on ArtsCultureBeat.com on October 9, 2013 [a student-run site as part of the Arts & Culture concentration at the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism].

I walked up to Steve Lambert’s public art work, “Capitalism Works For Me!,” in Times Square having no idea which way I would cast my vote: True or False? Below is a glimpse at my thought process before and after choosing a side.

Photo by Abby Wood

Capitalism seems to be alive and well in Times Square, even on a gray, rainy Monday afternoon.
Among the flashing billboards announcing new musicals, wailing car horns, panhandling homeless people, and businessmen rushing by in blurs of shiny leather and pinstripes, the gaudy, Vegas-esque Capitalism sign looks right at home.
I take a deep breath, fold up my umbrella, and approach the blinking monstrosity.

Photo by Abby Wood

 Once out of the rain, I realize it won’t be very long before I have to make a decision: True or False, True or False?
I begin to panic and frantically scan my surroundings in hopes of finding an answer.
“Does capitalism work for these red-suited men?” I ask myself. They seem to be working hard for their paychecks, and isn’t that what capitalism is really all about?
My parents worked very hard to raise six children and put us all through college.


Photo by Abby Wood

 “What about this lonely girl, does capitalism work for her?”
Less than a year after graduating from college, I found myself unemployed when the magazine I worked for folded. It was a very scary, and lonely, time, and it took five months for me to find meaningful work again.



 The guy in front of me just voted True. “Does he really think the system works for him, or is he just being optimistic?” I wonder.

Photo by Abby Wood

 Suddenly, it is my turn at the podium. True or False?
I concentrate on the line of script above the obnoxious buttons: “In my life this is…”
In my life. “Okay,” I tell myself, “I need to think about this in terms of myself, right now, in this moment.” Up until now I’ve enjoyed educational and employment opportunities that many people will never see. I’m lucky enough to be attending one of the best graduate schools in the country. I’m financially stable. And I’ve worked really hard to get here.


I triumphantly hit the button: True!


 I immediately regret my decision.
I briefly consider running back to try and change my vote. Are all the people in line behind me silently judging my declaration of faith in this economy?
“Why is this question so important to me?”


 This question is important to me because I’m scared about the future, as I imagine most twenty-somethings are.
Capitalism has worked for me, most of the time, so far. But what about when I reenter the workforce after graduating this May, or, more importantly, what about when I have to begin paying off my massive student loan?


 Capitalism may or may not be working for this man trying to convince me to buy a spot on a bus tour. According to the scoreboard so far, it’s working for about half the people who will pass by in Times Square today, and not working for the other half.

One of Steve Lambert’s volunteers asks me how I voted.
“Today, I voted True,” I say, “but ask me again in five years.”