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

Posts tagged ‘poverty in the US’

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?

 

 

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

 

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?

I’m mad….

ß

as heck (a more lady-like four-letter-word),

and I can’t take it anymore!

I’ve had to store everything I own (that was near and dear to me) in a bag yet maintain my lady-like presence.

I’ve had the experience of applying for food stamps and being told they “weren’t sure” if I qualified when my income was only $5,000 per year.  And I had to give them a list of my monthly expenses. (Are you kidding me?  $5,000 per year isn’t enough to live on in ANY city, no matter what your expenses are–unless you’re a dependent child, I suppose…)

I’ve had to apply for jobs with a smile on my face, clean, well-manicured, well-dressed, seemingly happy and well-adjusted, responding to the interrogation (that is today’s job interview) as pleasantly and self-assuredly as I could while not knowing whether or not I’d have a bed to sleep on that night.

I’ve had to fill out twenty (yes, twenty!) pages of paperwork, including proof of my U.S. citizenship, questions as to whether I’d ever received government assistance, math, spelling, IQ, and personality tests, criminal background and drug check agreements and questions pertaining to my political beliefs–just to apply for a low-paying entry level job.  One such test asked me several times (and in several different ways) whether or not I used heroin, got into fist fights or got upset at work.  I answered “no” to all and thought I’d pass the test with flying colors.  Nope.  I failed.  Apparently, that company prefers to hire employees who use heroin, get into fist fights regularly and get upset while at work?  I was unable to question my “failure” on the test, however.  It was against their rules, the test results were final, and their corporate office was located in another state.

An employee of a homeless shelter accused me of “acting like you think you’re better than the other women here” because I bathed, kept my clothes clean, stayed away from drugs and alcohol and tried to keep an optimistic attitude (and actually smile) in spite of my circumstances.  (But then again, I did complain about the stale, moldy food we were served at the shelter, and the staff’s hiding donations that were supposed to go to us.  Guess that made me an ungrateful “tenant” too.)

I learned quickly not to smile.  I began to look and feel sad.  “You seem to be adjusting to this place,” I was then told.

Oh yeah, I adjusted alright.  And the mental and physical health problems I developed as a direct result from being homeless–and from the previous years I’d spent struggling financially until that fateful day finally arrived–will be with me for a lifetime.

Too bad I don’t have health insurance.

So why do you suppose some poor people are afraid to apply for assistance…?

Do ya’ think there might be something wrong with the way our system interacts with the poor?

Ya think?

The years go by and the debts grow bigger,

even though I’m doing more and more

with less and less…

Am I mad?  Hell, yeah!

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