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

Posts tagged ‘communism’

What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

What part of freedom do you not understand?

So shouted Rush Limbaugh repeatedly into my ear one morning after I’d accidentally fallen asleep…leaving the radio on–a dangerous thing to do these days.

And it started me thinking.  Rush Limbaugh believes (or wants us to believe) that he’s advocating for freedom?  Whose freedom?  His own, I suppose.

Freedom is a concept I’ve always been attracted to.  Since childhood, I’ve always longed to be free, free from my highly dysfunctional family, the gangs of kids who attacked me on my way to and from school, my painful childhood, the poor city I grew up in, the working-class, blue collar prison that says, “You must be a working class hero.  Work shall set you free.  Just work.  Work, work, work.”

Then one day, you’ll wake up and realize that even though you’ve worked hard your entire life you still have nothing.  Nothing.  No matter how frugal you are, no matter how many necessities and desires you do without, no matter how hard you struggle and deprive yourself, you still can’t get any money saved up.  Any money you deposit in your bank account (if you can afford a bank account, that is) is just money you are keeping for withdrawal at the end of the month when you pay your bills.  There’s no vacation this year.  Nor the next.  Nor the next.  Not ever.  Until the day comes when you’re finally allowed to rest peacefully, and that will be a permanent vacation.  They say there’s no rest for the wicked.  But these days, I think that the opposite is true.  There is no rest for those of us who have good intentions, who want the world to be a better place, who are just trying to survive and live peaceably in this troubled world.  This is a world that supports and condones and rewards the wicked, the violent, and the mean-spirited, while it penalizes those of us who want things to be better.  Because, as we all know, making the world a better place means “socialism.”

And we can’t have that.

So let’s just get rid of those pesky public libraries, public schools, fire departments, police departments, hospitals, clinics, parks, and anything else we can think of that constitutes “socialism.”  I’m watching, sadly, libraries and public schools close down in my city.  Do you see this happening in your neighborhood?  I guess that would depend on whether you live in an affluent suburb or a poor, inner-city area.  You can guess which of the two would best describe my neighborhood.

We don’t need to pay taxes or to do anything collectively.  The heck with other people.  We’re all rugged individualists now.  So, everybody, just take a good look at yourself in the mirror and thank yourself.  Thank yourself for being you, and tell yourself you love you.  Feel good about yourself, take really good care of your health, and be the best you can be.  Because remember, in the USA, you are all you have.  If you lose your house, your car, your job, your mind, your spirit, your self esteem, (whatever!), you’d better just be ready to help yourself, pick yourself up by your bootstraps.  Don’t you dare ask anyone else for help.  Don’t even think about it.  We’re not all in this together.  We’re all in this alone, but together reluctantly.  The idea is to be alone, be very alone.  Suck it up and pick it up with those fraying bootstraps you inherited from your parents.  Since you won’t be able to collect social security when you grow older, I’m sure your parents will be ready and willing to provide for you in your old age too–unless they die by then.

Well, who needs a place to live and three meals a day anyway?  Did you know that eating is overrated?  There’s actually an obesity problem in this country.  People are just eating way too much.  So stop feeling sorry for yourself, and just be grateful that you won’t have an obesity problem because you can’t afford to eat enough to get fat.  Besides, if you read about Nazi Germany you’ll discover that many people went without eating, even suffered from malnutrition during Hitler’s reign.  Yet everything seems to be okay in Germany now.  So stop complaining.  Stop whining.  What’s a little poverty?  Builds character!

But I digress.

What I really wanted to post about on this blog was freedom.  The Rush Limbaugh, Bill O’Reilly, Republic-con, Tea Party versions–as well as some other notions of freedom–truly are intriguing.

For example,

Some people want to be free to speak their minds, even if what they have to say is in disagreement with those who possess great amounts of money and power.  They want to have the freedom to express ideas and opinions that other people just don’t like.

Other people want to have the freedom to oversee that speech, to prevent those people from saying things they think are offensive or harmful to others, or to themselves perhaps.  They want to control what is said or not said, to screen speech in all its forms–television, radio, film, poetry or novels.  To decide whose music is played on the radio, which actors will be cast on TV or film productions, which directors, producers, news anchors or writers will be allowed to participate in the process of disseminating information.  They see themselves as keeping the world in order and preventing chaos.  After all, allowing other people to be free to just say whatever they want can be dangerous, right?  Of course, these people who decide what speech is okay and what is not okay are human beings who can make mistakes or who can be corrupted by bribery or manipulation.  But what can you do?  Someone has to watch people and make sure they’re not saying things other people don’t want to hear, right?

Some people want to be free to walk down the street or drive their cars or hop on a bus or a plane or a train and travel.  They want the freedom to travel, to move around, to live or to visit anywhere they’d like.  (Of course, these same people will want to speak their minds anywhere they go too.   They just want it all, don’t they?)

Other people are concerned that strangers walking or driving down their streets might do them harm and would like to have the freedom to stop them.  They’d like the police to stop innocent, law-abiding citizens and just search them, search their cars, search their possessions, check their identity cards.  Are they US citizens?  What if they’re here illegally?  What if they intend to cause trouble in our neighborhood?  Who are these people?  I don’t recognize them.  Maybe they’re good people.  Maybe they’re not such good people.  I don’t know.  But if we stop them when we notice they seem different in some way, perhaps dressed differently, in possession of a different skin color from the type we normally see in this part of town, or maybe they speak funny, if we stop them and search through all their belongings we can determine whether they mean us any harm.  Or not.  (This is, of course, a violation of the 4th Amendment law that used to be in force here in the US.  The 4th Amendment was a law that stated that people could not be searched and that their belongings could not be searched or seized, unless it was known beyond a doubt that they were guilty of something.  A police officer would need to be ready to swear before a judge that he/she knew this person was guilty of something before the officer could search or seize the person or person’s property.  Of course, that law no longer exists in the US and for “good” reason.  We are in so much danger!  There are just so many people attempting to exercise freedoms.  These people need to be stopped, controlled, screened.  The authorities want to have the freedom to do exactly that.  But if they have the freedom to limit other people’s freedom…then other people lose some of their freedom… Oh dear, this does get confusing.

Corporations want to have the freedom to maximize their profits, even if that means laying off American workers and outsourcing labor to third-world countries, exploiting their employees and shortening their lifespans by practically working them to death, paying them tiny wages yet raising the prices of the goods produced and further cheating their customers by overcharging them for goods and services they’ve produced cheaply.  Corporations want to be able to dump toxic waste into our environment and to save money by not implementing safety measures that would protect our environment (as well as protect their workers) from harm.

Corporations want a free marketplace but only for themselves.  You as an individual are not free to stand on a public sidewalk and sell your handmade candles.  You’ll get a ticket, perhaps even arrested, for trying.  Yet a large corporation can dump toxins into our environment.  Are the CEOs arrested?  Jailed?  Do we see articles in the paper (or on the Internet) about CEOs going to prison for cheating consumers, their employees and the environment?

Yet we, the people, want to have the freedom to earn a decent livelihood, to provide for our families, heck, to have families of our own.  We’d like to live full lives and not have our lives cut short because our bosses overwork, underpay and uninsure us.  We’d like to pay the price that products are worth, no more (and certainly not ten times more.)  We’d like to buy products that last, not that are made to break.  We’d like the trees and the birds and, yes, the bees to still be around for our grandchildren.  We’d like for them to have the freedom to walk down a street, breathe fresh air and hear birds sing.  But what we want to be free to do impedes what large corporations want the freedom to do.  And, remember, they’re people too.  Under the law, at least.

Hmm… how do we resolve such conflict?  Seems that what some people want to be free to do conflicts with what others want the freedom to do…

I guess that’s the part of freedom that I don’t understand, Mr. Limbaugh.  Why am I not free to go on national radio and express my opinions about how I think things should be?  Why do you have that right and I do not?  Can you explain that, fat boy?  Because, believe me, I have a lot to say and I’m very articulate.  I may not be as fat as you, Limby, but my lungs haven’t been completely destroyed from breathing in the pollution, asbestos, lead and whatever else infests the poor buildings I’ve had to live in over the past few years, thanks to Republican policy.  I can speak.  And even if you and your cronies try to shut me up, I’ll always be here speaking–in the form and shape of someone else perhaps, but I’ll be here.  Ideas are bulletproof, Limbaugh.  Disenfranchise and discredit me, make it impossible for me to earn a living, or shoot me, if you will, but someone else will come along, someone louder and stronger than I am.  The more you try to shut us up and shut us down, the greater our numbers will grow, the stronger and louder we’ll sound.

You assassinated Kennedy, King, and I believe many other civil rights activists whose deaths were ruled as suicides.  But you can’t assassinate all of us.  And every time you kill one of our heroes, our anger silently grows.  And our mistrust of your system increases.  More and more of us are seeing the truth.  This is not a democracy.

Go ahead, destroy more of our heroes.  It only makes more of us wake up to see you for what you really are.   We’re starting to see your weaknesses too.  You’re bullies–like the kids in the schoolyard who tried to make the rest of us afraid of them except now we’ve grown. Now we realize that it is you who are afraid.  You want us to be fearful all the time because that is how you feel deep, down inside.  And the only way you can stop us from ganging up on you and stopping you is by convincing us that you are invincible and we should be afraid of you.  Well, guess what?  The emperor’s naked.  You are a tiny minority of wealthy, fat, spoiled, lethargic, white males.  We the people do most of the work, so we are strong.  We are powerful.  You need us to get the work done.  You need us to buy your poorly made products.   You need us to be afraid, so afraid of losing our jobs, of not having enough money, of not being able to survive in this world, that we’ll just go along with all your demands, that we’ll just do whatever you tell us to do.

Well, I for one am saying enough.  You can kill me, you can refuse to hire me, and I’ll become homeless and languish on the street or in some homeless shelter.  Maybe I’ll get raped and murdered in the street.  Maybe no one will remember me or want to know me.  Maybe I’ll be shunned and mocked by society, a “crazy” political activist, a “crazy” conspiracy theorist.  Maybe I’ll die painfully and very much alone.  But you still don’t have me.  I’ll never be one of you.  You’re not going to convince me to go along with your plans.

I refuse to work for the collections agencies or the homeland security offices.  I refuse to go along with corrupt corporate policy.  I’ll do my best to survive in spite of my refusal to go along with your wicked plans for this country.  But if I don’t survive, if I die of starvation or being beaten by your police officers for expressing an opinion you don’t like, then so be it.  I will speak to the Higher Power, the force of good which some people refer to as God.  I am accountable to my own conscience, to my own sense of self-respect.  I am not accountable to you.

Thanks really.  Thanks for destroying my country.  Thanks for destroying my life.  Because before I began suffering like this I didn’t know I had this strength within me.  I didn’t know my character was this strong.  As a child, I read a lot about the Holocaust.  The Nazi’s stranglehold over people’s minds really fascinated me.  I wondered, if I were a German alive during the Nazi occupation would I have gone along with Hitler?  Would I too have become a Nazi?  To have allowed myself to be filled with such murderous hate?

I am relieved to know that, as much as I struggle now, I have, at least, not become one of you.  I am not a courageous person.  I don’t think of myself as very strong.  But I am true to myself.  My inner spirit shall not be broken.  You can damage my mind, place me in solitary confinement, torture me at Guantanamo–God knows, you can do that!  You can beat my body and mind into submission.  But my spirit will remain alive.  You may not see it because you are not very intelligent in that way.  You lack a spiritual and moral compass.  You think that is your strength, but it is actually your weakness.  The money and power you wield (and that you value so much) will not last.  Hitler was defeated.  You will die too, one day.  But my spirit remains eternal because it doesn’t end with me.  The spirit of freedom, true freedom, love, kindness and respect for our fellow human beings; the spirit behind the desire for “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness,” (as inalienable rights, not just for me or for you but for everyone, everywhere!) will never die in spite of your futile attempts to assassinate it by exterminating a mere human being who is only a channel, temporarily carrying that spirit until someone else’s turn comes along.

And I guess that’s why you’re fighting so hard now, to take away our civil liberties, to shut us up, to kill or imprison our heroes, because you know that you’re going to lose, eventually, to death–the master of us all.  Your attacks on “we the people,” are just attempts at postponing the inevitable.  And when you die, you’ll be replaced with new, young leaders who will not (if they want to survive) support your diabolical, malicious policies.  How do I know this?  Because your system is not sustainable.  Even evil-hearted men and women cannot support such an unsustainable system forever.  Eventually, you will destroy and demoralize this country completely and people will be unable to live in this society.  Their only choices will be to leave or to create substantial change.  Change will have to happen.  It is inevitable (sort of like death and taxes–the Tea Partiers not withstanding.)  You will die, as we all will, and you will be replaced.  And the new leaders who replace you, if they choose to continue your unsustainable policies, will destroy the entire world and then nothing will be left.  Either way, you and your corrupt policies will die.

But the force of good will continue to thrive somewhere else.  In another country, another land, or perhaps another spiritual realm, it will continue because the force of goodwill reigns eternal.  Opposing forces are just like waves in the ocean, sent to make the water move and grow.  But it’s the water, not the waves, that makes the ocean.

When Poor People Cheat

Why do poor people cheat?  It’s an age-old question.  Yet we hear about it all the time:

The homeless guy who spends the dollar you gave him on a beer.  The welfare mom who works (secretly) as a babysitter on the side and makes an extra $20 (or more!)  yet doesn’t report it to the welfare office.  The man who is physically fit and able-bodied yet is begging for spare change on the street.  Doesn’t he know that there are lots of great jobs out there?  Why doesn’t he just go out and get one?  Or what about the woman who “chooses” to live in a shelter even though she has a nice house somewhere because she likes hanging out with all the fun, homeless folks at the shelter?  “All my friends are here!” she says happily.

Oh, if only rich people could be so happy.

With all the horror stories you may have heard of poor people cheating on us and our system by collecting public assistance then working on the side and not reporting it, or  worse, begging for money then mismanaging it by spending it on things we don’t think they should—like beer, for example—you might be sitting back in your comfortable chair, sipping your own beer, watching your flat screen TV and wondering…

Why do poor people cheat?

Is it out of jealousy?  Are they purposely earning an extra $50 per week (or more!) by begging for money or working “under the table” so that we end up supporting them with our taxes because they want to prevent us from having the extra cash we need to buy that brand new car, iPhone, or flat-screen plasma TV?

Maybe they’re jealous of us because while we’re driving around in our car, they’re standing on the street waiting for a bus in the rain.  Or maybe they’re jealous because while we’re in our house asking these important questions, they’re renting out a tiny room and sharing a house or apartment with a bunch of strangers, waiting for the kitchen space to become available so they can eat.  And while we’re eating healthy, nutritious food of our own choosing, they’re eating stale, moldy food they’d gotten from a food shelf or processed food that lacks both flavor and nutrition they bought cheaply at the dollar store.

Or maybe they’re mad at us because when we get sick we can afford to see specialists, have testing done, get treatment, surgery, or whatever we need in order to heal the illness or injury, while they go to free health clinics where they wait for hours, then are seen by a nurse for five minutes, told they’re not really sick, that they should just go home and get some rest and maybe just take a pill if they’re still uncomfortable.   (Ironically, many of them don’t have a comfortable home to go to, and they can’t rest because they have to work so much just to afford what little they have.)  Sometimes there’s no free clinic available to them or the free clinic is unable to provide the treatment they need so some of them get worse.  Some become permanently disabled by maladies not treated on time.  Some might even die without treatment they need.  One friend-of-a-friend has diabetes and can’t afford the insulin.  She may very well die one of these days.  Or end up in the hospital and then with bills she can’t afford to pay which will cause her to end up homeless.  Sure, she may qualify for Medicaid but that’ll make her homeless too because the government might take her house.  (People who collect Medicaid aren’t allowed to own homes in the U.S.)

Is that why they’re jealous of us?

Maybe they’re jealous because we spend a lot of our money on beer and drugs and some of us party way too much, but no one seems to notice how we mismanage our money.  Because we have so much money, everyone just assumes we manage it well.  Even when we waste a million dollars a year on stuff we don’t need, society doesn’t notice.  Besides, we don’t “mooch” off the government because we don’t need to, right?

But wait–maybe that’s why they resent us.  We do ask for assistance from the U.S. government whenever our businesses fail or our homes are damaged from natural or other disasters.  We also get tax breaks and tax cuts that poor people can’t get.  In fact, no one even suggests that poor people be able to write off the cost of their bus fare to and from work, for example, but a millionaire can write off the cost of his company car on his tax form.  And no one questions that.  Tax breaks for the poor would only cost this country a fraction of what the tax breaks given to the rich are costing—yet no one ever talks about this.  Because no one is even thinking about the fact that the rich get assistance from the U.S. government all the time and often waste that extra money on drugs, parties, more big houses, more big cars, etc., and no one notices their waste.

We notice it as a waste of money when a poor person spends a few dollars on a beer but we don’t notice when a millionaire wastes thousands of dollars on cocaine, homes not lived in, cars not driven, clothes never worn–or only worn once then thrown out, or the myriad of material things not needed but just purchased to pass the time away or perhaps just to show everyone how rich someone is.

We notice it when a poor person “cheats” by collecting a few hundred dollars a month from welfare then makes a few dollars more by working “under the table” but we don’t notice when a millionaire takes thousands of dollars per month in tax breaks he or she doesn’t need (which costs our country a lot more) then wastes it by spending it on cocaine, trips around the world, buying another bowling alley, tennis court or another building—not because he needs it but just to make himself look more rich to the outside world.  Nor do we feel “ripped off” by a millionaire manufacturer who over charges us by sometimes several hundred percent of the manufacturing cost when their products are made by children in third world countries who work for pennies a day, all day.

And really, isn’t it a form of stealing to pay your employees half (or less) than what they’re worth?  So that they can’t afford to buy their own homes or cars, to get married and have children of their own–even while they are, in good faith, working hard for you?

Isn’t it a form of stealing to manufacture a product and charge your customers 100 times (or more!) for what it cost to manufacture that product–especially when you are already an overpaid multimillionaire yourself?

Hmm…  Why do poor people cheat?  And what should we do to stop them?  Should we raise their taxes?  Lower the minimum wage even more so that they have to work twice as many hours per week?  Eliminate more jobs by downsizing and outsourcing to third world countries?  Prevent them from getting an education by making college costs outrageously expensive so that they lose all hope of ever advancing and creating a better future for themselves?  Prevent them from getting health care when they get sick so that they get sicker and just spread disease as their health deteriorates to the point where they become permanently disabled and unable to work anymore?

No, that’s already been done.  Yet the poor continue to ask for our help.  Some of them are continuing to get married and have children too, and they’re expecting us to help them do that.  Many of these poor children are disabled by the age of five and already collecting social security checks as a result of the rampant pollution in poor neighborhoods as well as the malnutrition they suffer from years of eating processed or stale food their parents can barely afford to serve them.  Yet the poor want to continue to live their lives at our expense!  So what can we do to stop poor people from cheating?

I suppose the question is timeless, from the days when a homeless man named Jesus walked the earth in sandals preaching that we should not be attached to money and material things, that those “who have not sinned should cast the first stone,” that the “meek shall inherit the earth,” and that it is harder for a rich man to go to heaven than it is to “stick a camel through the eye of a needle,” to our current era when we spend thousands of dollars on things we don’t need, complain our houses and cars aren’t big enough yet worry about giving a dollar to a homeless person.

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