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

Posts tagged ‘homelessness’

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?

 

 

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…

God bless America!… Well, someone should… If not God, then whom?

Whew, that last blog was a mangled mess of verbiage: words tossed together and plopped haphazardly onto a blog like some sort of twisted verbal salad, or like the mishmash on your daddy’s supper plate. “It’s all goin’ in the same stomach,” he used to say as you watched in awe…

Eating that mess is one thing. But having to read it? Well, sorry. Might just go ahead and delete it till I have time to rewrite the darn thing.

I promise you, I wasn’t drunk when I wrote it, nor was I insane. I was, however, mad. Mad as heck…  But that’s a given. Just look at this blog’s title.  But ya’ know…

“…the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow, roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars, and in the middle you see the blue centerlight pop, and everyone goes, “Awww!”    –Jack Kerouac (No one would write anything like that today and become successful, and that’s fodder for a future blog. He died in 1969, just as freedom as we knew it was on its slow, demoralized way out.)

Anyhow, the previous blog entry does need some serious editing, and perhaps one day I’ll get to it. But, as you’ve probably noticed, the time to edit just isn’t there.  (The time to do just about anything that we aren’t paid for isn’t there for most of us overworked and underpaid Americans these days, is it? Leisure time is virtually nonexistent for most of us these days. And frankly, I think that’s a part of the plan–no leisure time to think, to blog, to write, to ponder the mysteries of the universe or just to hone our typing skills. Certainly, there’s little time for political action, involvement or protest. Everything we do spend time on needs to bring us back some money, or else it just isn’t worth anything, as far as our falling society is concerned (and as far as our landlords, mortgage bankers, bosses, social service workers,  bill collectors, politicians and next-door neighbors are concerned.)

Perhaps what we need is a blessing. Which brings me to this latest blog entry. Is there a God? And would He, could He, please bless us, America? If there were a God, a Higher Power, a force of all that is good, a universal Creator, would he, could he (or she?!) bless the USA?

Uh, no. Apparently not.  And the answer, my friends, comes from a surprising source: Bobcat Goldthwait. A friend of mine once said that she never met a comedian who was not some sort of genius. Goldthwait seems to prove the point.  This oddball comedian  has come out of the closet, as it were, to reveal the  genius behind the weirdness. Who knew?

To wit:

“My name is Frank, but that’s not important. The important question is, ‘Who  are you?’ America has become a cruel and vicious place. We reward the shallowest, dumbest, the meanest and the loudest. We no longer have any common sense of decency, no sense of shame. There’s no right and wrong. The worst qualities in people are looked up to and celebrated. Lying and spreading fear are fine, as long as you make money doing it. We’ve become a nation of slogan-saying, vile-spewing hate mongers. We’ve lost our kindness. We’ve lost our soul.

What have we become? We take the weakest in our society and we hold them up to be ridiculed, laughed at for our sport and entertainment, laughed at to the point where they would literally rather kill themselves than live with us anymore…”

And with that said, Frank goes on a killing spree, slaughtering all the rude, discourteous, ugly Americans he can find.  Oh yeah. He’s a nice guy who does something that’s very much not nice, i.e., killing people who aren’t nice. So his dissatisfaction with the way things are corrupts him. He becomes, in a sense, meaner than the mean people he destroys. But perhaps he’s not really killing them for being mean. Perhaps it’s the stupidity, the dumbed-downedness that really irritates him. In that sense, he is triumphant. He succeeds in killing off some of the dumbest and most irritating people in our society–reality show stars, spoiled, rich brats, etc.

I admit, I didn’t enjoy the violence or the blood and gore but I think it was fitting nevertheless.

In fact, it is ingenious:  a movie about the decline of American culture that uses violence, blood and gore to make its statement, thus reeling in the ugly Americans who thrive on such titillation who will want to see this film but who probably won’t recognize themselves in it.

Actor Joel Murray nailed the role of the soft-spoken, polite, mild-mannered everyman, Frank, so well that I nearly cried when he beseeched his neighbor to please move his car. (The neighbor  repeatedly blocks Frank’s car.) Far from apologetic, the neighbor replies using what has become commonplace American “logic” these days:  “it’s your own fault if you’re a victim of my selfishness and greed.”

“You blocked yourself in, bro'” he says to Frank. Meanwhile, the neighbor’s wife is overheard in the background saying, “Tell him to park his car away from us.”

Frank is already late for work. He likes to park his car in front of his apartment. Finally, the neighbor reluctantly walks toward his car with the intention of moving it but he takes his time, looking over his car to see if there are any scratches on it before moving it out of Frank’s way. He’s also careful to reprimand Frank with, “Dude, you need to leave yourself more room.”  An American flag proudly displays in the man’s front window, just above the a/c and a bumper sticker remembering 911 is on the back of his car. He’s patriotic, proud of his country and the mean-spirited selfishness and greed that have become so much a part of it.

There is, however, some brilliant, thought-provoking dialogue here (Bobcat Goldthwait wrote this?), and that makes me think this movie could never possibly become a hit in the US, though it may develop a loyal cult following. As the film itself suggests, Americans don’t like intellectual discourse. They/We prefer cheap titillation. Instant gratification. Or whatever brings in a buck. Violence, explicit sex, blood and gore, yes. But thought-provoking dialogue? Where’s the remote? Next!

“It’s not nice to laugh at someone who’s not all there. It’s the same type of freak show distraction that comes along every time a mighty empire starts collapsing. I’m done, really. Everything is so cruel now. I just want it all to stop…”

“Nobody talks about anything anymore. They just regurgitate everything they see on TV or hear on the radio, or watch on the web. When was the last time you had a real conversation with someone without somebody texting or looking at a screen or monitor over your head? You know, a conversation about something that wasn’t celebrities, gossips, sports or pop politics? Somethin’ important or somethin’ personal?…”

“Oh I get it, and I am offended, not because I got a problem with bitter, predictable, whiny, millionaire disc jockeys complaining about celebrities or how tough their life is, while I live in an apartment with paper-thin walls next to a couple of Neanderthals who, instead of a baby, decided to give birth to some kind of nocturnal civil defense air raid siren that goes off every f—‘in night like it’s Pearl Harbor. I’m not offended that they act like it’s my responsibility to protect their rights to pick on the weak like pack animals or that we’re supposed to support their freedom of speech when they don’t give a f— about yours or mine.”

Frank is speaking to his coworker who completely misses the intriguing points just raised. Fancying himself as the intellectual know-it-all, the coworker responds to Frank: “So you’re against freedom of speech now? It’s in the Bill of Rights, man.”

Frank patiently takes a moment to restrain himself then begins with:

“I would defend their freedom of speech, if I thought it was in jeopardy. I would defend their freedom of speech to tell uninspired, bigoted, blow job, gay-bashing, racist and rape jokes all under the guise of being edgy, but that’s not the edge. That’s what sells. They couldn’t possibly pander any harder or be more commercially mainstream because this is the ‘Oh no, you didn’t say that!’ generation where a shocking comment has more wit than the truth.

No one has any shame anymore, and we’re supposed to celebrate it. I saw a woman throw a used tampon at another woman last night on network television—a network that bills itself as ‘today’s woman’s channel.’ Kids beat each other blind and post it on youtube. I mean, do you remember when eating rats and maggots on Survivor was shocking? It all seems so quaint now. I’m sure the girls from Two Girls, One cup are gonna have their own dating show on VH1 any day now. I mean, why have a civilization anymore if we are no longer interested in being civilized?”

Oh yes, indeed. Why have a civilization anymore when we are no longer interested (or perhaps capable of) being civilized?

Indeed. Indeed. I would say the only dispute I’d have with the film’s statement would surround the scene in which Frank loses his job. A receptionist of his employer accuses Frank of possible sexual harassment.  (He’d bought her flowers then sent them to her house. She hadn’t given him her address.) I appreciate the moral statement behind the scene. Yes, we as a society are too paranoid. Yes, we need to be more friendly, more loving and forgiving toward one another. Yes, we need to be free to connect with each other again and not be so afraid of others who are trying to connect with us.

Yes, yes, yes!

However…

Sexual harassment is a reality that many women experience. (I wish more men had empathy for women!) I can point to specific situations in my own life when certain men have made the workplace uncomfortable for those of us they found attractive but were unwilling to reciprocate. Basically, if you’re not interested in sleeping with them, some of those guys get vindictive. They’re bullies essentially, and they expect to get what they want. Or else. It’s one more glass ceiling women hit in the workplace. Sleep with that guy! Or at least respond favorably to his advances. Or else.

But as usual, I have my own take on everything I see. Yep, this is why I have no money. I think for myself. I express my own personal opinions. I think outside the box. And, sadly, I live in the USSA, er, the USSR, uh, I mean, the USA. And American society doesn’t like that sort of thing, especially when the thinking comes from us ladies.

No, no, no!

Are you with me, women? If you’re a woman and others think you’re “pretty” or (heavens to Betsy!) “sexy,” some men expect you to be available to them. If you don’t play the role of sex object (using your bod, ala Anna Nicole); if you insist on keeping those clothes on and developing your intellect and/or talent rather than keeping the focus on your, uh, endowments, then you’ll hit that glass ceiling so fast you won’t even know it hit you. (And ouch! That really hurts!) This is especially true if you try to get men to see you as a person and show no interest whatsoever in ever, EVER sleeping with or being fondled by them.

Point is, the receptionist at Frank’s place of work had reason to be a bit standoffish and concerned. Women do deal with stalkers, unfortunately, and violence against women is a reality and a part of our society’s problem.

But the ruthless reaction of Frank’s boss doesn’t make sense. No one talks anything over. There’s no diplomacy nor due process for Frank. He is accused of something and then he’s out–just like that. His coworkers seem happy that he’s being taken away. Dog-eat-doggedness and unhealthy competition is common in most offices these days. Americans have learned to compete with each other, to fight with each other, to fear each other, while at the same time displaying that flag and that ‘Remember 911’ bumper sticker as though the meanness we show each other is somehow negated by those superficial attempts at being a whole, cohesive society of people who truly love and support one another.

Well, I didn’t intend on writing a movie review, but here it is. Great film (except for the violence, though I understand why it is there. Americans won’t go to see it unless there’s plenty of violence.) Well-written. Great dialogue. Intriguing. Glad I got to see it. Maybe you will too?

And here’s hoping Goldthwait will continue to be successful in this country, in spite of his pesky habit of thinking. Perhaps he needs therapy? Ah, but don’t we all…

“god bless america” (lowercase?) was written and directed by Bobcat Goldthwait and presented by Darko Entertainment in association with Jerkschool Productions.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/05/16/bobcat-goldthwait-god-bless-america-movie_n_1519387.html


Aside

Why occupy?

Here’s an UNEDITED comment I just posted on Facebook (of all places) in response to critics of the occupy movement. Again, I don’t have time to edit, so it is what it is….on my way to work again… (at my low-paying, stressful, dead-end job for which I am way overqualified, mind you…)  But I”m so lucky to have a job in this economy. Woo-hoo!

XXX contends that public camping is not a protected right by the US Constitution. S/he refers to a US Supreme court decision. The decision of the court reflects an interpretation only (and interpretations can be wrong) of the US Constitution and, I believe, it is misguided

Second, if you read the Constitution, it does state that the rights not specifically spelled out by the Constitution automatically revert back to the people. Since the Constitution does not specifically state that people cannot camp out in public places then it is up to us, the people, to decide whether or not we should have that right.

And we’ve decided.

Third, the colonists camped out on land that was owned by the Native Americans (Indians), so they couldn’t possibly advocate laws forbidding camping out in public spaces. (Otherwise, what they were doing in coming to this land and taking it over would have been illegal.  Wait a minute…it was illegal…)

Fourth, many Americans are losing their jobs and homes and are having no choice but to camp out somewhere as homeless shelters are overwhelmed with the increasing need (and are often dangerous and unpleasant places to stay anyhow.) Those of us who are suffering greatly in this economy need to confront those in power with our poverty. “Look at what you’ve done to us,” is what we are saying to them when we camp out in front of their luxury office buildings and add some discomfort to their luxurious lifestyles.

Living in their gated communities in affluent areas and traveling in their limos and private planes, it is easy for them to ignore us. (They’ve been ignoring us for decades. Read Barbara Ehrenreich’s “Nickeled and Dimed.” It was written over ten years ago!)

But when we’re camped out in front of their well-manicured faces, they can’t ignore us! That’s why the occupies are so important. We need to take back public spaces.

Ironically, we Americans have become a lot like the Indians or the illegal immigrants we claim so much disdain for in our own country and in direct result of this very system we have set up. We are now suffering, in part, due to our own unjust laws and policies. We need to take responsibility for our mistakes now and be the change we seek in the world.

Occupy is our big chance to do just that!

Fifth, the great thing about Occupy encampments is that they give us that chance to learn to live together, to share and cooperate with each other again. Camping out together, we have the opportunity to formulate a new system that truly is democratic. It’s not easy and there have been lots of problems and conflicts at the Occupy in my own city (as I’ve written about in previous blog entries), but those conflicts exist because we have all been influenced by this corporate-controlled society. We’ve been conditioned to think dog-eat-dog and fight with each other. The Occupy movement is our chance to work on ourselves and create a new way of living and looking at the world and each other.

My question to the anti-occupiers is this: why are you so against the encampments? Is it because it forces you to confront what you’d prefer to ignore, i.e., the suffering of others and the real truth about the US–that we are NOT democratic, NOT free, and most certainly NOT the land of opportunity?

there’s no incentive to work! why people stay on welfare (or remain homeless) for years and years… (hint: it’s not ’cause they like being poor)

The real reason is this:

Well, actually, it’s not so simple.  I can’t reduce this concept to a sound byte.  Sorry, TV watchers.  But this is a complex idea and will need to be explained in two blog-writing sessions.  I have to go to “work” myself this morning, so I’ll just begin this blog here then continue it later on tonight or tomorrow…

I’ve had yet just another fellow American tell me that safety nets, such as welfare, encourage laziness, that there’s no incentive to work when someone is given everything he/she needs by the government.

Ehem.

This was a very nice person, so I was able to explain my point of view, though not very well, I think, because it is complex.  How do I explain a concept that a semester of college work could perhaps barely explain?  (Yes, I do think there should be Poverty Studies courses in college.  The neo-cons are against this sort of thing.  They dislike the liberal arts in general–contains the word “liberal” after all.)  But the liberal arts teach us to think about each other, about why we’re all really here on this earth, about morality, about ethics, social responsibility and social injustice.  Right now, especially right now, we need to be thinking about those things.  For all their talk about “Christian values,” the neo-cons are anti-morality.  Their only concern is themselves, their money, their material things, and, yes, their taxes.  They don’t like taxes!

Personally, I don’t like poverty and despair.  I don’t like human suffering.  That to me is a much more serious problem than paying taxes.

But there ya’ go.  I’m not a neo-con, neo-liberal, Republic-con, or whatever they call themselves these days.

(Disclaimer:  if you’re  a Republican, rest assured that I don’t want to hate you.  In fact, I’m trying real hard not to hate you.  I know that only a few of you are addicted to money, greed, selfishness and mean-spirited, rugged individualism.  Most of you just don’t have an understanding of what is really happening in this country.  You’ve been misinformed or uninformed.  Without an understanding of how governments and societies are formed and have been formed throughout history, how can you learn of what is happening in today’s world?  So you turn on that TV set–some call it an “idiot box”–and just hope for the best.  Sadly, you make the mistake of turning on Fox News.  Naively, you trust the misinformation you’re given as “fair and balanced.”  And, being uneducated in history, sociology, and human psychology, how would you know enough to do any different?)

So there.

When people say that poor people are lazy and don’t want to work, that safety nets just enable them to not work what they are really saying is that poor people are inferior to rich people and that poor people should not have the right to pursue their own happiness but that only rich people should have that right.

Case in point:

Why is no one attacking rich people for being lazy and not wanting to work?  There are many people who were born into wealthy families who do not have to work. Yes, that’s right, they have nothing to do, nothing that they have to do.  They don’t have to work because their families are so rich that they can literally live off of their parents’ money and never, ever work a day in their lives.  Some of them become very apathetic and bored.  They begin spending their money on drugs and alcohol in a desperate attempt to alleviate the tedium by creating some obstacles for themselves.  (Poor people drink to forget about the obstacles.  The mega-rich drink to create them.  Go figure.)

Yet we don’t attack the lazy and irresponsible rich.  Why?  Because they worked for it, you say?  No, I’m talking about people who were born with  money, who never worked for it.  (I need to repeat myself here and will continue to repeat myself over and over again on these blogs because, sadly, one must repeat one’s self in order to get heard amongst the chaos and shouting in this attention-deficit-disordered, fast-paced age.  So I’ll try to make this simple and repeat myself enough times so that, I hope, some people will “get it.”

Point is this:  if we value  hard work so much (and I’m curious about that too) why do we not attack wealthy people who are lazy and don’t want to work?

(Sadly, I must work and not at what I love to do or am good at. Perhaps one day I’ll earn a living from writing these blogs or from writing in general.  However, now I must go to work at a dead-end, low-paying job that will cause me to become homeless again soon because that is the only kind of work I’ve been able to obtain in this Land of Opportunity, the USSA.)  So I’ll continue this thought later…

Okay, I’m just going to add this thought before I go.  Here’s what I would do if I were collecting welfare and food stamps, if I didn’t have to “work” at a regular job.  I’d spend my days working on my writing, writing more blogs, practicing my guitar, making my videos.  Yep, I’d be working at the things I do best.  Maybe I’d be able to make a positive contribution to society.  Maybe I’d be the next Michael Moore and make films that enlighten, educate, that make other people think differently about their society.  Oh, I guess that explains why some wealthy, powerful people don’t want people like me to really “work.”  They want us to work at low-paying, dead-end jobs that support corporate America.  They just don’t want us to work at anything that will better ourselves and our community.  And often those are the jobs for which we don’t get paid in money.  No one pays me to write these blogs, to make my videos, to produce my music.  No one pays me.  Not a penny.  I don’t even get donations.  Perhaps I should solicit for them.  But right now I want to be able to speak my mind while I still have the right to do so.  Soon the government will send in agents to arrest people like me, to shut us down for good.  I already have reason to believe that I’m on some sort of terrorist-wanted list.

But that’s the way it goes…

And I will continue this later…

Petition to tax the rich…

A grassroots organization called MoveOn(dot)org asked people to write their own petitions they’d like to see sent to politicians.  Here is my own:

Petition:
We need to put a cap on extreme wealth in this country.  Extreme wealth leads to extreme poverty.  An analysis of the richest people in the world reveals that most come from wealthy families to begin with (they did not go from “rags to riches”) and most hail from countries that have a large division between the rich and the poor.  In fact, the richest man in the world (according to Forbes Magazine) hails from Mexico, a country that claims over a 50% poverty rate.  So we need to curtail the widening gap between the rich and the poor in the U.S. now!  With 1/8th of Americans collecting food stamps, we cannot afford to allow the poor to continue to grow poorer while the rich grow richer.  This rapid increase in poverty is causing too many problems in our society.

We keep hearing that there isn’t enough money to provide social security for the elderly (who already struggle financially with the few benefits they currently receive), health care for the uninsured, financial aid for needy students, unemployment benefits for the unemployed, etc., and we’re seeing libraries, schools, police and fire departments, etc., shutting down!  What’s worse is that we have hunger and homelessness and people who are dying prematurely because they can’t afford the health care they need.  We believe it is irresponsible of our current government to not provide health care for everyone as this can lead to the spread of disease.  This is not the Middle Ages.  We do not want a plague to result from millions of uninsured Americans unable to receive medical care.  This is unacceptable.

Despite the fact that the rich are getting richer–or perhaps because of that fact–we are unable to take care of our own people yet we are constantly called upon to help other people–the victims in Japan or in Haiti, for example, while we did not help our own people who suffered from Hurricane Katrina.  This is an outrage that we the American people refuse to allow to continue.

Therefore, we demand that the rich begin paying taxes at much higher levels, as they once were taxed back in the 1950s, a time when our country was much more prosperous and when even the poor and newly-arrived immigrants held some hope of achieving success someday.

We insist that the U.S.A. return to the wealthy, prosperous, democratic, land of opportunity that it once was.

We need to stop the attacks on the poor and the middle class, coinciding with the attacks on our freedom and democracy.  The way to do this is to limit extreme wealth.  Money is power, so when we allow a minority of people to accumulate extreme wealth, we allow them to buy our politicians, our media, our schools, the companies we work for, the land we live on, and, essentially, our entire lives.  In fact, the wealthy elite have taken over our entire country.

Therefore, given that:
most wealth in the U.S. is inherited wealth–not wealth that was earned through the hard work and diligence of one person–but wealth that was built upon the foundation of one’s parents’ wealth and prosperity, and

that back in 1950, when our middle class was more prosperous, those who earned over $200,000 per year paid 91% of their earnings in taxes, and

that Reaganomics (“trickle-down economics”) has led the U.S. to now have the greatest division between the rich and the poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world, and

that this has resulted in our loss of civil liberties and democracy and all of the early warning signs of fascism fulfilled, and

that this has led us to become the nation that now imprisons more of its own people than any other nation in the world (and most of those imprisoned are the poor), and

that the U.S. government has determined that $7.25 per hour (and 40 hours of work per week, adding up to $290 per week and a whopping $15,080 per year!) is all a single person needs to be living above the poverty line in the U.S.,

we need to tax the rich at the equivalent of 1950s tax rates.

Income levels were different back in 1950 when those who earned over $200,000 paid 91% in taxes.  $200,000 is a very different figure today in 2011, so we propose the following which we believe to be fair (keeping in mind that, again, according to the U.S. government’s own standards, a person earning over $16,000 per year is living  above the poverty line and, therefore, not poor).

And so, we, the non-wealthy majority of Americans, propose:

that those who earn $1 million or more be taxed at the rate of only 60% (leaving them an income of $400,000 per year.  This is much, much more than what the average American earns in a year and about 25 times over the poverty line.  This is also a lower tax rate than they paid back in 1950);

that those who earn $2 million per year begin paying 70% of their taxes (leaving them with $600,000);

those who earn $5 million begin paying 80% in taxes (leaving them an earnings of $1 million per year);

those who earn $15 million begin paying 85% (leaving them with $2.25 million per year);

those who earn $50 million or more begin paying 90% (leaving them with $5 million per year);

those who earn $100 million begin paying 91% (leaving them with $8.1 million);

those who earn $1 billion begin paying 95% (leaving them with with $50 million per year in earnings.)

Since it is the wealthy elite themselves who frequently insist that the U.S. is the land of opportunity where anyone can strike it rich and move up the ladder, we understand that the rich will find a way to continue moving up that ladder despite these higher taxes.  In fact, raising taxes on the rich will provide the rich with the incentive to work harder to work up that ladder!  We don’t want them to become lazy; we want them to understand the value of hard work.

The wealthy elite have made it clear over and over again that they are capable of picking themselves up by their bootstraps and can overcome any obstacle to obtain wealth.  This is their chance to prove that point.

The wealthy elite believe that those of us who are homeless or living in poverty are capable of working our way out of poverty and picking ourselves up by our bootstraps, but we need the wealthy elite to show us how it is done.  Here is their opportunity to work their way out of mere wealth and back up to the extreme, mega-wealth they achieved as a result of Reagan&Bushanomics.

This is a challenge to the wealthy in the U.S.!  We know you can do it!  You can pay 95% of your income in taxes and still pick yourselves up by those bootstraps and accumulate even more wealth.  We have faith in you.  We know you can still earn millions–even billions–of unneeded dollars each year in spite of our raising taxes on you.  We know you’re up for the challenge.

We also know how much you want to give back to society and to pull us out of this recession.  This tax increase is very modest compared to the levels of 1950.  It enables the very rich to remain very rich but limits the amount of wealth they can keep out of circulation.  When the wealthy hoard the wealth, they keep money in bank accounts or investments.  The money doesn’t circulate, doesn’t give back to our communities.  However, when the poor and middle class earn money, they tend to spend it on necessities, so their money circulates and feeds our economy.

I requested this petition be sent to Obama, Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders in Congress (don’t know if it was.)

Having kids is so much fun: women are getting pregnant so they can collect welfare!

Letter I sent to radio host George Knapp of Coast to Coast AM:

Dear Mr. Knapp:

Last night a caller named Scott from Iowa called to complain that he believes that people (particularly immigrants) are working 40 hours per week then collecting a welfare check. He added that his neighbor is “partying” all the time and that whenever she gets close to getting a job she “turns around and gets pregnant.”

The ignorance behind that man’s statement really sickens me.  As someone who grew up with a lot of disadvantages and obstacles that I’ve fought (unsuccessfully) to overcome my entire life, I am saddened that so many Americans think like Scott.  Scott, do you know what it’s like to be poor and to have people judge you, look down on you, treat you like dirt?  Yet when you try to get a job you can’t find one or you just get low-paying, dead-end jobs that provide no benefits and you’re worse off than you were when you were on welfare because then, at least, you got your health care paid for?  Do you know what it’s like to work and work and work, and still not have enough money to pay your bills because your wages are just too small?  Scott, do you know what it’s like to not get hired or promoted because you’re female or black? Or because you’re over 30?  Or worse, over 40?  There’s a such thing as social injustice, unfairness, discrimination and inequality.  That is why, statistically, women and people of color make up most of the poor people in the world.  (No, Scott, it’s not because women and people of color are inferior to you.  There are very few people in this world who are inferior to you, Scott.)

Mr. Knapp, I truly appreciate your thoughtful response to Scott.  The amount of money people obtain from welfare (and other social programs) is indeed very small.  Also there are a lot of limitations and restrictions placed on people who collect public assistance.  These regulations prevent some people from bettering themselves & getting off welfare.  The regulations also prevent other people from getting proper assistance when they need it.  Ironically, the mean-spirited assumption that poor people are taking advantage of the system is what prevents services to the poor from being adequately funded, so that poor people don’t really get the assistance they need.  And THAT, my friend, is the true reason why people stay on welfare for years and years.  Want to get them off welfare?  Then provide people with real assistance that empowers them and elevates their spirits rather than this half-assed assistance that demeans and degrades them so that they no longer have a self-esteem or enough time and energy (after jumping through all the hoops they must jump through in order to get assistance) to obtain a decent job.

Everyone wants to feel that his/her unique talents and skills are valued by society.  It’s embarrassing to apply for assistance–makes you feel like a victim.  By contrast, it builds one’s self-esteem to feel that one can contribute & that one’s talents are appreciated. It’s humiliating when you find that no one wants you. You apply for jobs you’re perfectly qualified for but are told you’re just not right for their work environment.  And working at a job that doesn’t pay an adequate wage doesn’t help anything.  You just fall further and further behind on your bills. It’s impossible to catch up while working at jobs that don’t pay a living wage.  Yet because you’re working you don’t qualify for assistance and aren’t considered disadvantaged, so, again, you’re just stuck.  (And, of course, everyone attacks you for not paying your bills!)

I myself suffer from chronic back pain that is turning into a permanent disability as a result of years of working hard and not having the money to get my back pain treated properly.  If I end up on disability or being hospitalized that will cost this country a lot more money in the long run than it would have cost to have just provided me with the health care I needed in the first place.  Also forcing employers to provide decent work conditions and decent pay (so that we can improve the quality of our lives) helps prevent employees from developing chronic health problems.

Scott, you’ll be happy to know that it’s not easy to get assistance of any kind in the US (unless you’re a large corporation).  I personally don’t qualify for assistance even though I’m unemployed.  The jobs I’ve had have been part-time and with no benefits, so I can’t get unemployment.  I’m not an alcoholic, drug addict, mental patient, disabled, nor do I have a criminal record, so I don’t qualify for most types of assistance.  I inquired about a job-training program recently and was told I’d be disqualified if I mentioned my college degree, so I have to pretend I don’t have one in order to qualify.  (Presumably, I shouldn’t be unemployed with a college degree?)  I have a college degree and lots of skills but can’t find a decent job.  I can’t teach because I’m required to go back to college to get a license and can’t afford to do that.  The jobs I’ve been getting the past few years haven’t been paying the bills, and my debts are increasing.  As I mentioned, my family’s dysfunctional and poor, so I can’t get help from them.  So…homelessness, here I come!

Yet I am unable to talk to anyone about my dilemma because most people I meet think I shouldn’t have any trouble at all finding a job.  Like you, Scott, they just don’t believe me.  After all, I’m intelligent, highly skilled and educated, right?  However, I’m told I’m “overqualified” for the low-paying service and entry-level jobs I apply for and not experienced enough for jobs that require my education and skills.  (Most of this is due to age and gender discrimination, but there’s nothing I can do about that.)  Fact is, there are just too many people competing for the few jobs out there.  Employers are taking advantage of that and choosing to pay their employees tiny wages.

There is also tremendous discrimination.  Not just against women and people of color but against those of us not between the ages of 18-28 who are looking for work.  Many employers blatantly advertise they’re hiring “recent college grads.”

And laws are increasingly working against people.  For example, if you fall on hard times and can’t afford to pay your bills on time, bill collectors can charge hefty fees on the balance–making it impossible for you ever to pay those bills!  I was unemployed and owed the state $325 for overpayment of my unemployment benefits but couldn’t afford to pay it–as I was unemployed, remember?–so I didn’t have any money in the bank.  I mean, really, hello!  So the state charged over $1000 in fees on the balance and continues to charge interest on the amount I owe.  This has made it impossible for me to ever pay the balance. If I had trouble saving up $325, obviously, I can’t save up $1500.  It’s not that I don’t want to pay the bill.  I just can’t pay it.  When I apply for jobs and only get hired (after months of searching) for $8 per hour jobs, I can’t even afford to pay my rent much less get caught up on my bills.  My debts just keep increasing because the amount I’m bringing in is just too small.  Honestly, it’s not rocket science, Scott.  Do the frickin’ math!

I also owe money in student loans.  A law passed at the end of the 90s (SallieMae, a for-profit corporation, lobbied for it) penalizes students REGARDLESS OF THEIR INCOME for not paying off their loans.  Yet most financial aid students are required to take out loans as a part of their “financial aid” package.  It’s ridiculous because my BA doesn’t qualify me for anything, and I can’t go back to school to get an MA or a BA in something else because I don’t qualify for financial aid until I pay off my loans!  I owe almost 70k, so there’s no way I’ll pay off those loans–unless I get a job that pays 100k per year pretty soon.  So I’m stuck.

But it’s not just me.  There are thousands of us.  We’re intelligent, motivated, hardworking.  But we’re not being allowed to contribute to society.  Do you understand, Scott?  Our spirits, hearts and minds are being broken by this self-centered, selfish, mean-spirited greed that has taken over the country.

Meanwhile, it was announced on the news that the US is falling behind other countries because fewer Americans are now going to college.  Well, why not stop punishing those of us who do go to college by forcing us to take out mortgage-sized loans?  I personally, warn as many people as I can—not to go to college, unless your family’s rich and can afford to pay for it.

I was homeless just a few years ago.  It was a painful experience.  Anyone who says homeless people “choose” to be homeless is misinformed, to say the least.  Homeless people may turn down offers for “help,” but it’s not because they “choose” to be homeless.  It’s just that most offers of “help” have too many strings attached to them and do not address the needs of the homeless.  A woman who worked at a shelter for the mentally ill told me, “Some of them won’t stay in the shelter and refuse to take their medication.”  My response to that is, yes, they refuse to take their medication because the medication isn’t helping them.  But our society refuses to seek alternative treatments for the mentally ill, so we keep forcing medication on people even when it’s not helping then we wonder why some people are afraid to seek help.

I began making a documentary film about homelessness–while I was still homeless, believe it or not!  That is just an example of how proactive I am as a person.  It’s called “Rocky Mountain Homelessness.”  I’ve also written a book, “Diary of a Mad Bag Lady” about my experience and keep a blog at theMadBagLady.wordpress.com.  But rather than providing me with the catharsis I expected, making the film and writing about my experience has just made me angrier and more disillusioned.  I am appalled everyday by the Scotts I meet–the ignorance, the lack of empathy and compassion on the part of the average American.

We’re told the US government can’t afford to provide us with universal health care or free college tuition for low-income people yet billionaires get their tax breaks extended and corporations get tax cuts for outsourcing jobs to third world countries.  Yet Scott (and many others) thinks that welfare “cheats” are the problem.  The division between the rich and the poor in this country is rapidly increasing to a shocking degree, and we are moving toward becoming a third world country–but let’s just blame the poor for how bad things are… It’s really disgusting.

I’ve been struggling for several years now, and the only way I’ve been able to constructively deal with my pain has been to turn it into art (writing and filmmaking).  However, no one seems to be listening.  Americans are incredibly hostile toward the poor–even now while so many people are losing their jobs and homes.  Many people don’t realize that people like me who don’t get the assistance we need will just deteriorate.  We can’t pick ourselves up by our bootstraps because we don’t have the bootstraps to pick ourselves up with.  Do you understand, Scott?  Or am I speaking the language of rocket science.

My back condition has gotten a lot worse over the years and it worries me.  My mental health has also been affected by the things I’ve had to endure due to poverty.  And it’s amazing how many friends you lose when you lose your financial stability.  Americans really place a high value on money and material things, and many people just don’t want to know you at all if you don’t have any.  I’m finding I’m “unemployable” despite all my skills.  I can’t acquire new skills, as I have no money to go back to school, so I’m just stuck, trapped.  But there are thousands of people out there just like me.  And that should scare the heck out of most Americans.

Because, contrary to what current, corporate, media propaganda will claim, poverty is not caused by a character flaw–quite the opposite.  Poverty can create character flaws—or worse.  Poverty can lead to a ton of social problems, including crime, domestic violence, child abuse, drug & alcohol addiction, mental illness, etc.  That is why most intelligent, educated leaders of democratic societies attempt to eliminate poverty.  We’re going to see serious social problems increase because we refuse to address the needs of our poor.

Oh, and by the way, if you haven’t given up on reading this lengthy e-mail by now, the thousands of us who owe money for our student loans can’t collect social security when we retire.  That’s part of what Sallie Mae lobbied for in the 90s.  So I have no safety net–no social security, no unemployment, no welfare, nothing.  Thanks, America!  A few years from now, we’re going to see thousands of elderly people with no safety nets–no social security benefits!  What are we going to do about that?  Exterminate people when they grow too old to work?

Most other wealthy, industrialized nations provide better safety nets for their people than the US.  We have the greatest division between the rich and poor of any other wealthy, industrialized nation in the world. (Some statistics say Mexico and Russia are worse than us in that regard, so if you consider them wealthy, industrialized nations, then perhaps we rank third.)  Nearly 25% of African Americans live in poverty in the US–and that’s according to the US government’s statistics that are notoriously inaccurate. The US govt hasn’t properly updated its facts on poverty for about 40 years (one reason the minimum wage is so low.)  So the real percentage is probably closer to 50%.

Here’s another thing I’d like to say to Scott: women do not “get pregnant” on their own.  And here’s another news flash, Scott: giving birth to and raising a child is a lot of work–some would say it is more than a full-time job.  So suggesting your neighbor gets pregnant so that she doesn’t have to work doesn’t make sense—unless, of course, you devalue women’s work.  But that wouldn’t be true of you, would it, Scott?

Again, I apologize for the long e-mail, and I realize you may not read it as a result.  But all of this (and so much more) needs to be said.  No one is saying it!  The corporate media has Americans brainwashed into believing poverty is a choice and that it is somehow “fun.”

In fact, poverty leads to a lot of social problems and the reluctance of Americans to take care of their poor is the primary reason why this country is falling apart. Sadly, I’m falling along with it.  Unlike most of those suffering, however, I will not go quietly.
http://www.theMadBagLady.wordpress.com

Scott:  “I don’t want to stomp on a lot of people’s toes when I mention this, and it goes back on the nation’s deficit.  It’s, well, it’s the abuse of the welfare system.  We got immigrants that’s comin’ in (sic).  We give ‘em welfare, give ‘em housing—the whole nine yards.  They go in, they pull down a forty an hour…uh…a forty hour day checks (sic)…or a week checks (sic)…  And, uh, we’re still given ‘em the welfare money. I’ve got a neighbor here that, uh, she’s a career woman on welfare.  Soon as she, uh, gets close to havin’ to possibly go out and get a job she turns around and gets pregnant.  And I know this ain’t right, and I know it’s on a lot of people’s minds, but when you go to turn ‘em in for like, in her scenario, she’s always partying and getting’ drunk and so forth, seems like nothing’s getting’ done.   But I know it’s been ran (sic) across several people’s minds and, uh, I’m just wonderin’ if I was the only one that, uh, felt that way, that I think our government should go back and pull these records and start cleaning house…”

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