Thoughts on poverty and homelessness in the U.S.A.

Archive for the ‘Empathy and Compassion’ Category

Freedom is priceless: First they came for the homeless…then… we became homeless too.

A city in Florida is making it illegal for homeless people to carry possessions in public places.

My question is, how will they know whether or not a person is homeless? Are they just going to target people who are poorly dressed, assume they are homeless then take away whatever possessions they are carrying with them? If someone is walking home from the grocery store, carrying a bag of groceries and looking poorly dressed, might the police not stop that person and demand he/she give up the groceries? Suppose the police officer is hungry, for example, hasn’t eaten in hours and then this rather homeless-looking person shows up carrying a bag of groceries in a city that doesn’t allow possessions to be displayed on public sidewalks?

http://think-progress.tumblr.com/post/83441673147/florida-city-about-to-make-it-illegal-for-homeless

http://wonkette.com/547183/fort-lauderdale-will-magically-fix-homelessness-by-stealing-homeless-peoples-stuff-basically

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/city-pass-law-allowing-cops-seize-homeless-peoples-belongings

Am I trying to be funny here? Just a tongue-in-cheek little anecdote for today’s Mad Bag Lady blog entry?

Look, I know most Americans don’t care at all about the homeless. Whether you’ll admit to it or not, most of you still believe in the “temporarily embarrassed millionaires” nonsense. You think that if you keep supporting the system, keep working hard at tiny wages for bosses who act more like slaveholders than business owners that one day someone will recognize your good “attitude” (slaves are notorious for having good attitudes toward their situation) and promote you to CEO of corrupt corporate America. So you dare not speak out on behalf of the homeless. After all, they’ve just made “bad choices,” obviously. Otherwise, they’d be temporarily embarrassed millionaires too.

Believe me, I get it. I get it.

But remember this: dictators always choose a scapegoat, deprive them of their civil rights first and convince the rest of the population to support it. But the real agenda is to deprive everyone of their rights. It’s just easier to start with the most unpopular people first. The homeless are just guinea pigs for an overall plan to eliminate our public spaces, privatize everything, and take away all of our rights (unless of course we’re wealthy and can afford to buy the streets and sidewalks so that we can do whatever we want on them.)

So Hitler attacked the Jews, for example. But ultimately, no one was free under Nazi leadership. What many people don’t know is that Hitler went after union leaders too.  Union leaders, communists and democratic socialists–anyone who wanted more civil liberties for the average person (as opposed to the wealthy elite) was the enemy of Hitler and the Nazis.

http://www.ushmm.org/wlc/en/article.php?ModuleId=10005686

http://www.johndclare.net/Nazi_Germany1.htm

This might surprise many Americans who’ve been brainwashed into believing that “socialism” is the enemy. In fact, Hitler was strongly against democratic socialism and communism.

Think about that for a moment. Please. Please think, and think for yourself, if only for a moment. Because it’s important to remember that “communism,” “socialism,” “capitalism,” etc., are all just labels. None of those systems are practiced in their purest forms (at least to my knowledge.) Most countries use ideas from all of these systems and combine them to create their own systems. (More about this will be addressed in a future blog.) The Nazis may often be thought of as socialists and may have claimed to be wanting to help the average German (who was struggling during the Great Depression) but the Nazis persecuted union leaders, democratic socialists and communists, threw them in prison or executed them. What the Nazis said publicly and what they actually did were often two different things, as we now know from history. (Oddly, I had a hard time finding any videos online about this. Most were filled with propaganda about the Nazis. However, I’ve read the history of Nazi Germany, and I urge you to do the same, so that you don’t believe the lies being told by people who assume you won’t take the time to actually read about it for yourself.)

 

But back to the point. Laws restricting the rights of the homeless to sleep on “public” sidewalks, to ask for money and now to own possessions of any kind affect all of us. Homeless or not, should you decide to “hang out” in public, you may be accosted by the police. And now, in some cities, you can have your possessions taken from you.

Is this what you want, America?

Perhaps I’m an unusual person because I value freedom over everything, including money. (OMG! OMG! You value something over money!) Yes, people. And I’ll even say it again. Freedom, civil liberties, civil rights–are more important to me than money.

I think we’ve all read about wealthy people who’ve been very unhappy in spite of their material wealth. Marilyn Monroe was a classic example. She was beautiful, wealthy and famous but very, very unhappy. She was not free. That’s right, Marilyn Monroe did not have freedom. As a woman, she was oppressed the way all of us females are. She was a mere sex object. And that’s all she was allowed to be. No matter how often she cried out that she wanted to be taken seriously as an actress, that she didn’t want to be a “joke,” the business people who managed her career would not allow her to be herself. To be herself and a serious actress would have meant speaking in her own authentic voice, not the child-like, false-innocent ingenue voice that had made her famous. Being herself meant not flirting with every man–perhaps there were some men who irritated her. Perhaps there were times when she didn’t feel sexy, when she didn’t want to wear makeup or do her hair. Perhaps there were times when she thought about civil rights issues and politics herself. (From what I’d read, she’d had democratic-socialist ideas. That’s not surprising as she’d grown up poor.) But a sex object does none of those things. A sex object is pretty, mindless and always eager to please.

So tragic. So sad. Ms. Monroe seemed to have it all. But the one thing she didn’t have was that which is priceless, that one thing money cannot buy: freedom. Should she have dropped everything to pursue her own desires, she would have lost all that money, all her connections. And then what? Happiness, maybe. But money? She could have lost it all. Instead she gave up her life. So ultimately she lost it all anyhow.

Personally, I don’t see the point in that. But then who am I? I don’t have a lot of money myself, so I suppose nothing I say really matters, does it? Believe it or not, I was faced with similar choices to Marilyn’s. In some ways, my childhood was similar, and I too–yes, me, the mad bag lady!–was thought of as rather, shall we say, sexy… I could have slept my way to the top…

But I chose a different route. And look where I am today! Woohoo!

I haven’t committed suicide because I chose to be myself and not be commodified, but I, obviously, paid a financial price.

However, it could have been different if I’d had a large following. What I mean is, if millions of Americans had also chosen freedom –and we can do it now, all of us, we can choose freedom today!–if Americans were to choose freedom then the few of us who value freedom wouldn’t be the outcasts, the dregs of society. We’d be the heroes.

But today’s American heroes are sellouts. They live like Marilyn lived. It’s fun for a while until the years go by and you start to find you can’t be a commodity any longer. If you’re an intelligent person, eventually, you’ll start to realize that there are aspects of yourself you’ve had to suppress in order to appease those you’ve allowed to have power over you.

And increasingly, it’s getting dangerous to hold onto our humanity, to be ourselves. We’re all under surveillance. We go to work and our bosses are watching us via cameras all over the building. They watch us as we drive into the parking lot and park our cars. They see us applying that extra dab of lip gloss and straightening out the wrinkles in our clothes before we exit our car. They’re watching while we think we’re alone in the elevator and pulling the crease out of the back of our skirt when we forget someone else is there (behind the surveillance camera.) Even some public restrooms have surveillance cameras in them. But we ignore all that, telling ourselves no one is really watching us, and we adjust our bra strap, maybe remove our blouse to fix our bra, and all the while a man is watching us behind that camera in the restroom where we thought we were alone.

We have no privacy. No time to be ourselves, even when we’re alone. No time to lock ourselves in the bathroom to have a good cry–because they’re watching us there too. But that’s not enough for them.

Now they want the right to stop us and confiscate our belongings–but only if they think we’re homeless.

Well, guess what, Americans? We are homeless! All of us. They’ve taken our country away from us. We grew up living in the Land of the Free and the Brave, the land that claimed, “Give me your tired and your poor…” but our land was taken away from us.

So where do we go now?

 

 

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“Help! Help! I’m drowning. Please, please, someone help me!”

He cried out as loudly as he could, given the circumstances. His body was rapidly getting weak, and that was his last real cry. His arms flailing high into the air, he was desperately searching for something to hold onto–a tree branch, a rock, something tangible. But…there was nothing. “Please help,” he attempted weakly. But it was only the sound of the voice in his head. His vocal cords had stopped functioning. There wasn’t enough breath to get the words out into the air.

Now, he was sinking. Soon his flailing arms and outspoken voice would be submerged beneath the water, along with the rest of him.

Who would have thought that something as harmless, as ubiquitous and gentle as water could be such a strong killer? How he had underestimated the power of this translucent, flowing stream that runs through all things? In the past he would drink it or sit beside it as it trickled lightly over the rocks. There he would meditate to the soothing sound of running water. He thought water was a healer, that demons couldn’t cross it, that beside water he would always be safe and sound. And now, it was killing him.

“Save me, someone, please. Oh, please, please help!” he thought he cried out. But actually he didn’t. At this point he’d gone delirious and the current was pulling him in.

It’s not as though he was alone, mind you. People heard his cries, watched his tears drop from his once rugged, impenetrable eyes then drop into the river that was killing him. “Oh! Another whiner!”they lamented. “Some people are so negative. All they do is complain. What did he do to get himself into that situation in the first place? I’m not stupid enough to go near the river.”

And the sounds of his crying irritated them so. And so they closed their windows, their doors, pulled down their shades, turned up the music to drown out the sound of his drowning and just tried to take their minds off of his incessant crying.

It was just so annoying to hear him complain about suffering!

But there was one man who approached this dying soul. Watching him drown, he dared not risk his own life to try to rescue him, especially since it was his own fault, after all, for approaching the water in the first place. But he wanted to show the world what a nice man he was, that he was a caring individual. He was the man who built this river, you see, and he wanted people to know that he never intended for anyone to drown in it. He resisted strongly any efforts to study the water’s current, insisting it was completely safe. It was safe. It was safe. It was safe. After all, it was his river, so of course it was perfect. No one could stop him from having his river. And if anyone dared go near his river and fell in… Well, some people just make bad choices.

Still, he didn’t want anyone to think he, the creator/owner of this river didn’t care. He gave to charity, after all. And so he offered the drowning victim a pair of shoes. “Here you are, sir. I’ll help you. A pair of shoes is all you need.”

And he dropped the pair of shoes by the side of the river not too far from the spot where the drowning man’s arms had reached out for help. But it was too late to donate shoes to a drowning man. The current was just too strong. No one could guess how fast it was moving. That would take some investigation, and, frankly, no one was up to that. People are busy these days, you see.

So needless to say, the current was very, very strong. Suddenly, it yanked at the drowning man’s feet and thrust him downward to the bottom of the river, silencing him forever. The man felt the rocks tear at his skin as he was pulled downward. He would no longer cry or struggle–even if he were able, for he no longer wanted to live. Now, he hoped for death. Would it please happen quickly? The pain was intense, swift, sudden. He would never ask for help again. But the pain has stopped.

He was dead.

Whew. What a relief to all around him. They need not hear his cries any longer. The neighbors could open their windows at last. And turn down that loud music! Now they could rest in peace. The philanthropist picked up the shoes when he saw the man disappear under the sea. He would donate them to another charity. Perhaps another victim would be more grateful. Next time he’ll focus on suffering children, as adults are a waste of time. They just don’t try hard enough to rescue themselves. And they never seem to appreciate what you do for them.

Meanwhile, the definition of “drown,” according to “The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language,” 4th edition, remains available (at least as of this writing) to the general public, for all to see. Thus far, no one from the US government, a.k.a. corporate America, has tried to censor, redact, or “drown” its definition. In fact, anyone may view it on display in practically all English dictionaries which may be accessed free of charge in public libraries (still available, even to poor people, and even in the USA.) Yes, the word “drown” is alive and well. It shall not be suppressed! (Perhaps because we need it so badly.)

drown — ” 1. to kill by submerging and suffocating in water or another liquid…

2. to drench thoroughly or cover with or as if with a liquid…

3. to deaden one’s awareness of…

4. to muffle or mask (a sound) by a louder sound…”

And so this poor man drowned, but it wasn’t the water that killed him…

The rich have the means to get mean and meaner… “the Rich are Getting Mean” revisited

I’d written in the past about a poor, struggling man I’d met in a city building. Both of us were there to resolve tickets we’d received by law enforcement, essentially, for being poor. What I mean is, it’s a crime in the US to be poor. Poor people seem to acquire all sorts of legal problems. In Southern California, for example, jaywalking is a serious crime. Mostly only poor people walk over there, of course. And if you can’t afford to pay the jaywalking ticket…well, you can end up in the slammer. Yep, people go to jail for crossing the street in California. I kid you not! A person’s entire life can be ruined by a single act of crossing a street when the walk signal (light flashes an image of a little androgynous human) stops flashing.

http://www.thestreetspirit.org/Dec2006/criminal.htm

But I told myself this blog would be extremely short. So here goes: My little experiment in writing more frequently but shortening the size of each entry…

This poor unfortunate man I’d met had serious health problems and was collecting disability. He was suffering quite a bit and struggling to pay his medical bills. “The rich are getting mean,” he lamented as we’d gotten into a discussion about the social injustice of our needing to constantly defend ourselves legally. (It’s as though we have to defend our very existence. Do the rich want us dead? Why do they hate us so much?) There’s always some ticket to pay, some ordinance or law to be violated, when you’re poor.  My car was ticketed and I had to go to court to defend myself for driving such an old, beat up used car. So I dropped my car off to a junkyard and proceeded to watch my life fall apart, as it was nearly impossible to find a decent job without a car. When I went to court, I had to show proof that I’d given up my car. I wanted to say, “I’m sorry I’d been driving such a stinky car and that it was polluting your fine California air. But I’d drive a much nicer and less stinky car if I could afford it. Really, I would.” But instead, I showed them the proof that I was carless and then began risking getting mugged by taking Southern California’s wonderful and exciting (nearly was assaulted several times!) “public” transportation system. Once I no longer had a car, I found that opportunities diminished for me in so many ways. People looked down on me because they saw me–horror of horrors!–walking in LA.  Basically, a lot of people didn’t want to be my friend. I couldn’t socialize with them anymore as I had no way of getting to the places where they went. (Unless, of course, a friend offered to give me a ride, but that would mean giving, helping, assisting another human being. But, of course, that would involve socialism and most of my friends were against socialism, so they wouldn’t dare help me in any way. I’m very grateful for that, though, because it gave me a chance to see what kind of people they really were. You don’t always get that chance when you have a lot of money and your life is going well.) And, as I said, job opportunities were very limited for me once I had no transportation. Most available jobs these days are not on the bus line and as public transportation increasing gets cut, that problem is increasing. (Hmm… so I wonder how it benefits society to force poor people to give up their cars when their cars don’t meet the strict environmental inspection standards set up by wealthy bureaucrats? But then I’m always wondering how it benefits society to allow the government and big banks to take away people’s homes just because people can’t afford to pay their bills. Yes, people should pay their bills but…do we really want to take away people’s homes and create a new population of homeless people?)

http://www.ted.com/talks/lang/fr/bryan_stevenson_we_need_to_talk_about_an_injustice.html

(Okay, I’ve tried to embed the above video of Bryan Stevenson’s talk, but, for some strange reason, it won’t embed on this site. Every time I type in the code, it disappears once I save this blog. Yep, I type it in, hit “save” then open up the blog and everything I typed is gone.  This happened with my previous blog entry also. As you can see, though, the other videos embedded just fine.  Not sure what’s going on here.  A virus on my computer perhaps? A glitch on WordPress? Perhaps it’s the NSA virus? Anyhow, it’s odd. But I’ve got the URL typed up there, so if you’d like to view this wonderful video about poverty and crime, please click on that link.)

But this doesn’t affect the rich or even much of the middle class, so why do I even bring this up?  Yes, the rich are getting  mean, but so, oddly enough, are the middle class. They may not be the so-called “one percent” but they sure do think they’re better when they live in their gated communities far, far away from the riff raff, i.e., the poor.

And yet, perhaps ironically, the word “mean” as a noun refers to money, property or wealth. Yes, the rich have the means to be mean.

( Above video is from youtube.com/user/KafkaWinstonWorld )

So here it is–my first blog of the year!  And an attempt to make it a short blog entry.  Okay, I didn’t do as well on that as I’d hoped, but I’m getting there…  😉

http://www.colbertnation.com/the-colbert-report-videos/149094/february-11-2008/philip-zimbardo

 

A Child of the Poor…

“Helpless and hungry, lowly he lies, wrapped in the chill of midwinter…

born into poverty’s embrace…

Who is this who lives with the lowly,                sharing their sorrows,                    knowing their hunger?

This is Christ,                       revealed to the world in the eyes of a child,                       a child of the poor…”

————————Scott Soper

I went to church last night, Christmas Eve, flipped through the hymnal and found this song. I memorized the key lyrics and the song’s composer ’cause it inspired yet another blog entry. It reminded me of what Christianity used to be, as I’d learned it anyhow, until recently. Christianity, as I understood it, was all about helping the poor and not striving for money or material things because those things are of this earth, physical, not spiritual, not eternal. As Christians, we are to strive to cultivate and enrich our spirit but certainly not our bank accounts. In fact, we should be ready to give away everything, including the shirt off of our backs, to help those in need. This, my friend, is the Christianity I grew up with.

Sayonara, peace and love. Christianity, like everything else in our society, has become mean.

(I’ve had trouble embedding the videos below,  so I’ll just include the links for your viewing pleasure…)

http://crooksandliars.com/2013/12/stephen-colberts-homeless-holidays

http://jezebel.com/colbert-sticks-it-to-the-homeless-with-homeless-for-th-1480425413

And look, another blogger beat me to this at:

http://imincorrigible.wordpress.com/2013/12/12/fox-news-knows-how-to-keep-the-spirit-of-christmas/

What happened? Seems Christianity itself has become, in a sense, the anti-Christ, the very thing that attacks everything this Christ stood for:  turning the other cheek, i.e., nonviolence, kindness, generosity, compassion, rejecting greed and materialism, embracing humility and poverty.

This new “Christianity” says that greed is good and that money and material things are given by God to His followers… Huh? Modern times!

Huh?

Read the Bible, people. The Christian Bible does not advocate the obtaining of money and material things. It does not. Does not. Does not.

Christ is born “a child of the poor.” He is born into poverty wrapped in nothing but the “midwinter chill.”

In fact, Jesus and his family–mother Mary, father Joseph–were homeless. There was no room at the inn, so they stayed in a stable where animals were kept. Hmm… Where were the trespassing laws to arrest these occupiers? How would you have treated this homeless family of three had you been alive to witness Jesus’s birth? Would you, like Bill O’Reilly and his anti-Christ wannabe/pseudo Christian friends, give help to the child but ignore the parents, treating them with scorn? Would you accuse Mary and Joseph of being lazy, irresponsible and not wanting to work? Why did they choose to have a child when they were so low on money? Shouldn’t they have put off marriage and children until their financial situation improved?

Yes, this child of the poor, this hungry, helpless, lowly, homeless child was none-other than Jesus Himself. The Messiah Himself, revealed to the world as a poor homeless child. I guess we’ll never know what great gifts an impoverished person might be able to offer if he were allowed to live up to his greatest potential. And I think this was Jesus’s biggest message of all.  And I believe this is why he was killed.  His very existence as a man who was not born into wealth, not the son of a king (by worldly standards) but who was being treated like a king and followed by a host of admirers, posed a huge threat to the wealthy and powerful who wanted the people to follow THEM, not this Jesus upstart.

“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth…”  Matthew 5:5

Hmm… What would Bill O’Reilly say? He’d probably say, “Get out of my stable, ya’ no-good crackheads. Get a job! You shouldn’t be havin’ kids if you can’t afford ’em!”  Then he’d call the police, have Mary and Joseph put in jail and Jesus placed in a foster home. In fact, Bill O’Reilly and his pals would be the first to demand Jesus be sentenced to death for his rebellious ways.

Do you think Jesus and his family were lazy drug addicts who lacked intelligence or practiced poor planning, etc.?   Some people ask, “What would Jesus do?” Now, I am asking you, my dear, darlin’ reader, what would you do if you encountered Jesus right here and now–long hair, sandals, poverty and all.

Because, as we all know, Jesus was poor.  Someone even wrote a song about it…

Even a bouncing ball needs a little help now and again…

Ever hold a ball in your hand then let it drop?  What does it do?

It bounces.

And bounces.

It continues to bounce for a little while.

But if you just let it go and don’t give it any more assistance, the bounces will gradually get smaller and smaller, and fewer and farther in between. Eventually, the ball will stop bouncing altogether. It might roll around the floor for a bit till it stops or hits a wall and is forced to stop. But it won’t bounce again until you pick it up and drop it again. (That’s if you don’t intervene and just let the ball bounce on its own, of course.)

But if you drop it then keep tapping it with your hand, you can keep it bouncing, maybe even get it to bounce higher, higher and higher! That ball reacts to your touch and depending on how hard you touch it, it could touch the ceiling, it could rise so high! If you hit it hard enough, your energy might propel it out the window.

Even inanimate objects require some attention.

Do you ever find yourself getting angry at that lazy, dependent ball that can’t bounce on its own, that keeps needing your help to bounce?

“Hey you, get your own bounce!”

Yep, inanimate objects are lazy. They don’t want to work and often refuse to move unless prodded by a human to move. That’s right, you’ve heard/read it here first. Inanimate objects are codependent socialists! Why, some of them are outright communists.  Think of the old-fashioned toilet that won’t flush itself, for example. The door that requires you to open and shut it. Or the road that doesn’t build itself, requiring a large group of human beings (collectivism!) to come together, cooperate and work as a team to build it. Yep, toilets, doors and roads are only some of the seemingly ordinary inanimate objects that support socialism. Don’t be fooled!

Sometimes even living creatures are commies. They may not talk about it, but it’s obvious from their behavior. What of the house plant that requires you to water it from time to time? Sure, if it were outdoors it might absorb water from the rain (still a form of mooching, if you ask me.) But there you are fostering dependency by keeping it in your house and taking responsibility for watering it. Why? If you were a truly self-sufficient American, truly devoted to ending communism and socialism around the world, truly patriotic and loyal to your country, you’d get rid of that houseplant (and any pets and children mooching off of you) immediately. Pick yourself up by your bootstraps and tell them to do the same! Show us how to do it by setting an example. As Chris Gardner wrote, “The calvary ain’t comin’!”  Nope, no one’s coming to help you. You’ve got to do it all yourself because that’s what life is all about–self reliance!

So I urge you now to not be a hypocrite. Stop supporting the nanny state, codependency, communism and socialism. Stop helping others and, yes, that includes the houseplant. Keep it outdoors, let it soak up the sunlight and mooch off the rain water. Heck, it should just go out and get a bloody job already! What? “They’re not hiring house plants,” you say? Nonsense. Plants give off oxygen, dumbass. And everyone needs oxygen. Put those plants to work. Lots of people will pay for air. If you bring it, they’ll come.

Whew. Sorry for the rant. But honestly, I’m just so tired of the hypocrisy. We owe it to ourselves as Americans to be as selfish, egotistical and unhelpful to others as possible (again, that includes inanimate objects, pets, children, lovers, etc.)

…Otherwise…

(We need another drum roll, please. Oh wait. Dear, sweet, gentle reader, you’ll have to beat on those drums yourself. I certainly won’t do it for you. Beat those drums silly ’cause we need a drumroll! Or you can just imagine it. Can you hear the drum rolling in your head?)

Because otherwise…

Otherwise, we’ll be advocating socialism. Or worse, communism. Or equally worse, collectivism. And we absolutely don’t want that! Look how well selfishness and greed have solved the problems of billions of people around the globe…people from places like…

like…

like…

Okay, I’ll think of a country in a moment, but they’re out there. The countries thriving and living strong due to selfishness and greed are out there, and, eventually, I’ll be able to name them. Aren’t you listening to conspiracy theorists these days? We’ve all got to turn into selfish so-and-so’s immediately before it’s too late. If someone (or some thing) in your life seems to need your help, don’t be fooled. Explain to them that their problems are all their own fault, that they need to clean up their attitude, and you are not going to lift a finger to help them by enabling their laziness. Listen, help someone and they won’t help themselves. Refuse to help someone and they’ll… well, maybe they’ll rob a store for the money or maybe they’ll break into a bank or check into a homeless shelter, or maybe they’ll die because they didn’t get the help they needed, or maybe they’ll sink into depression and start drinking, or maybe the stress will cause them to develop heart disease, multiple sclerosis or cancer, but at least you won’t be advocating ‘socialism’ by helping them because socialism is very, very dangerous. At least you won’t be assisting their laziness. Besides, in attempting to rob a bank, some poor slob might learn skills, including independence and initiative, that might make them more employable once they’re released from jail. (No, I’m not advocating criminal activity, robbery, or theft. I don’t work for corporate America or the government, so why would I advocate such behavior? I’m simply stating what employers, sadly, are seeking from potential employees.) Most employers today look for “money-motivated” types, so being able to risk all for money is in vogue. Socialism is, on the other hand, helping other people. That’s what the word means. Don’t let those dang “liberals” convince you otherwise. And if you do something stupid like help someone in need then find out they weren’t a very nice person in the first place, well…

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And my memory travels back to a distant time when I was younger and had more faith in people. Perhaps now I’ve become more cynical and impatient. (Ya’ think? Though even in those days I was told I didn’t trust people enough, just to give you an idea of how far down the rabbit hole of mistrust and misanthropy I am right now.) Anyhow, I had moved to a new city and was looking for a new street. I got off the subway and looked around, but this small, suburban street was nowhere to be found. I asked a passerby about this elusive street. Do you know where XXX Street is? And I remember her answer to this day, as it will never leave my mind. It was just so typically American.

“I don’t like to encourage dependency!” she gruffly announced. Then she shoved a map in my face and told me to find the street myself. I looked at the map, dumbfounded. I didn’t know the area at all. In fact, it was the first time in my entire life I’d even been in that city, much less that neighborhood. I spent a few minutes searching the map, but I didn’t even know where I was located on the map much less the street I was searching for, so I didn’t even know where to look. I was very confused. After a few minutes of watching me look over the map, the woman became exasperated. “Oh!” She abruptly grabbed the map away from me. (It was her map, after all, and these days you can’t be too careful. Lots of map-theives out there looking for a handout, looking for someone to “help” them, the lazy bums…)

She then motioned toward the street with her hand. She knew exactly where it was but hadn’t wanted to tell me until now. She just didn’t have the patience for someone as “dependent” and “needy” as I was anymore. So she told me to turn right, head down that major street then turn right again and I’d see the small street I was looking for. She acted as though I was the dumbest person on earth and that I had a lot of nerve asking her for help. Why couldn’t I just pick myself up by my bootstraps and find the street myself?

I followed her instructions and found the street I was looking for. At the time, I was very young, so I didn’t judge the woman too much. I was puzzled by her resistance to just quickly direct me to the street. Honestly, it would have only taken a minute for her to just motion with her hand and say, “It’s just over there.” I was literally only a five-minute walk away from that street. So what exactly was the problem?

It seemed she felt strongly that she had to make a point that everyone should be independent and take care of herself without asking other people for help or directions. She felt she was perpetuating some sort of cycle of dependency by helping me find a street!

And yet if she had taken a simple moment out of her time (less than three minutes, really) to just send me in the right direction, I would have continued on my way and not taken up more of her (or my own) time. She prolonged the time it took for me to find my street by insisting I find it myself when I could not. She had knowledge but wouldn’t share it. (Nothing for free here in the USSA!)

Her resistance to helping me slowed everything down, impeded progress for both her and me. It took me longer to get to my destination and made the trip frustrating. If I hadn’t been able to find the street, I might have given up and just turned around and gone home. Simply put, it would have been much more efficient if she’d just pointed me in the right direction in the first place instead of wasting everyone’s time by attempting to make senseless argument about independence. So we’re not allowed as humans to get lost and ask for directions? That makes us lazy and dependent?

Sheesh.

Look, when we need help, we need it right away at the time it is needed AND we need the appropriate type of help. When other people resist us, judge us, assume we’re to blame, etc., that just creates a distraction that slows us down, sometimes discourages us altogether. This, my friend, is the reason why some people stay poor, remain on welfare, remain homeless, etc. Helping people empowers them, gives them the safety net they need so they can take the risk to jump out into the world and pursue their dreams. Attacking them for needing help when they actually need it just frustrates people, makes them feel helpless and hopeless and, quite often, causes them to give up.

Yes, sometimes we need help. Quite often, we need help. Almost always we need help from other people. And when we don’t get help when we need it and we can’t solve our problems without help, we can deteriorate, sink into depression, get overwhelmed and overburdened, develop health problems, behavioral problems, etc. (Poor people don’t live as long as rich people for this reason.)

That is what happens to poor people, to people who collect welfare for long periods of time, to homeless people, etc. No one wants to be poor or homeless. No one. People get stuck–not because they’re “dependent on handouts.” They get stuck because they aren’t getting the help they need when they need it. American “handouts” are half-assed, incomplete forms of shoving a map in a lost person’s face and telling a person to find the street herself.

Who’s helping the poor here in the USA?  Who’s really helping the poor? No one. I’m telling you right now. NO ONE. When someone’s lost and you send them in the right direction, you’re not perpetuating dependency. You’re being a kind, decent human being. You’re allowing progress. Let that person continue on their journey while you continue on yours. When one needs help from the other, the other will be ready because we share this world. We have to share. Now, I’m not speaking to kindergarteners here, am I? We’re all adults, no? Didn’t your parents/teachers/surrounding adults teach you this when you were five? We have to share because as individuals we can’t do it all alone. It isn’t physically possible.

We’re all connected. We all depend on one another, always. That will never change. Should you choose to leave society and live alone on a deserted island, you’ll still be dependent on nature and the changes taking place within it. You’ll be interacting with storms, crops that refuse to grow, soil that needs to be left alone for a while, animals that are hungry and want your food–or perhaps you as their food. Sorry, but rugged selfishness doesn’t work. Never has. Never will. Being kind spreads more kindness. Someday, it will come back to you and you’ll find that someone somewhere is kind to you when you most needed it. It’s wonderful, really, to live in a world in which people are kind to each other. And we could have that world, even here in the USA.

BTW, a note about the above videos:

The first video was produced by a former lawyer and homeless woman who creates provocative and intriguing political commentary, and has continued to create these videos even while she was homeless. Amazing. Just because you aren’t making money doesn’t mean you aren’t contributing to society. This woman is a perfect example of that. Making videos takes a lot of work.

The second video impressed me because this priest exuded kindness and peace. What he said about us breaking down the walls between us was beautiful and poetic. He honestly means what he says. He honestly cares.

The last videos of the young college students made me cry. “I’ve got a pretty good life,” the young man begins (and the tears began to flow–from my eyes, of course, not his.) So often I lament the lack of empathy and compassion in our spiritually impoverished nation, then someone like this guy comes along who causes me to have faith in the human race again. (Well, for a moment…)

I wish we could support the above video makers. Turn off the TV set and watch videos like the above, movies made from the heart and soul by people who are passionate about something important. Frankly, I found the above videos more entertaining and enlightening than anything I could watch on TV. (But then again, I don’t watch TV anymore, so I guess I’m not all familiar with the *$%#* gobbledygook screening on the idiot box these days. “Junky off!” as my granddad used to say.)

So there.

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