Those People

Today I pull another feather out of the featherbed as I look at what it means when Conservatives talk about “Those People.”  Whenever I get into a conversation with Conservatives about programs that help the indigent, I get responses that begin with the phrase “Those People.”  Whatever the situation, they seem to have some idea of what “those people” are and are adept at reducing anyone in need to this straw man.  Who are “those people?”  What does it mean to be one of “those people?”

 

I start with the homeless “those people.”  To a conservative, a homeless person is a man over 30 who is a drunk derelict drug addict who would prefer to be homeless.  When you give aid to “those people,” they simply go spend whatever they get on drugs or alcohol.  They prefer to live on the streets.  They are too lazy to hold down a job.  We simply encourage their nasty habits when we give them assistance.  We encourage others to become like them (say what?).  Taxpayers work hard for their money and it shouldn’t go to people who are too lazy to contribute.  It doesn’t help that the Salvation Army ad in the paper asking for help for the homeless over the holidays shows a picture of a derelict old man with no teeth.  That is the face of the homeless to many of our fellow citizens.  When you talk to them about homeless children, there are harsh words for their parents, but no concern for the children.  When you talk about mothers who have lost their homes, there are harsh words about the mothers.  “Those people” are living the lives they deserve.  This is a lie.  There are millions of people who have been hard working producers and taxpayers their whole lives who are one bad break away from joining the ranks of the homeless.  And to me, it is never a child’s fault that he is homeless.  There are the homeless veterans, their spirits broken because they served their country.  There are the mentally ill homeless, forced into the streets because we have chosen to drastically cut services to help them.  The ranks of potential homeless include you and me and our parents and our children and our brothers and our sisters.

The next set of “those people” are those who are still in their homes but unemployed.  This set of “those people” are too lazy to go out and find a job.  They are getting rich panhandling and living off the taxpayer dole.  Conservatives seem to have this set of faceless examples of cases they heard about who simply prefer to panhandle and take entitlements to the discipline of working every day.  They tell me about somebody who knew somebody who had a cousin who met somebody who was living in posh conditions off the money they get from us and panhandling.  I ask them how somebody is getting rich off of what we provide in transfer payments.  I am told that these people work the system and are able to live high on the hog.  (Of course, there is a category of people I call the Professional Poor who do work the system, and know how to work others to get by without working, a loophole we should close.)  I ask them if they know how much a person or family can get in assistance and if they have tried to live on that amount.  Of course, they say no, but they know it happens.  In fact, I have tried living on the amount people get in food stamps (an experiment because I wanted to know for sure), and it is no easy road.  Even when you add up food stamps, unemployment and all other assistance it is really hard.  When I point out that when a mother gets a job she loses much of the help and has to pay for child care, they are unconcerned.  She should be working and she shouldn’t have those children.  Conservatives tell me that “those women” just have lots of babies so they can get more welfare money.  They would rather lie around all day having sex than work.  Note that these are the same people who would deny a woman an abortion because she can’t afford another baby.  “Those people” should get a job and if they can’t find one they should create one.  Again, the ranks of the potential unemployed include you and me and our parents and our brothers and sisters and children.

An offshoot of “those people” is the elderly in poverty.  “Those people” enjoyed the high life all their working days and are now indigent because they failed to plan.  They suck up our social security and medicare money and are living off of us who are now working because they were so set on meeting immediate wants that they failed to save for their retirement.  Never mind that the crash of 2008 wiped out a lot of people’s savings.  Never mind that many companies have reneged on their pensions.  Never mind that many never made enough to live on, send their children to college and still put away for today.  Never mind that some never qualified for social security.  Never mind that the cost of living skyrocketed faster than they could save.  It is their fault and “those people” are living as they deserve.  The ranks of potential poverty-stricken elderly could include almost anybody’s parents, and they are often one corporate decision to default on pension checks from being totally wiped out.

“Those people” include illegal immigrants who worked hard for many years and never had a safety net.  “Those people” never bothered to get an education.  “Those people” this and “Those people” that.  The words “those people” separate the human faces of misery from the person doing the talking.  But it has been my experience in working with “those people” that they are you and me with one extra piece of bad timing or bad luck happening to them.  (When conservatives fall into the ranks of “those people,” somehow they are different and “those people” are taking money away from helping them.)

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is a group of “those people” who live high off of the hard work of taxpayers.  Conservatives sleep well denying them assistance because “those people” are not you and me.  They are a different people, almost a foreign people, perhaps even less than human. That is a lie.  In fact, “those people” are you and me in very hard circumstances.  If you would wish for help yourself or would wish for it for your children, you should be happy to provide it to “those people.”  After all, one of these days that “those people” label could refer to you or your children.

Go into their Wheelhouse – Scripture Tossing

The Tea Party followers and many other Conservatives insist that this is a country founded on Christianity.  While many of us realize how revisionist that claim is, it does not serve us to argue with them.  Unfortunately, the founders of this country are not here to defend themselves when they are misquoted and misinterpreted.  Even the sainted Ronald Reagan would be appalled at how his words and actions are twisted and/or ignored to define modern day conservatism.  So let’s not argue with them about whether this is meant to be a Christian nation.  Let’s have the discussion about whether their ideas on being a Christian conform to what that religion actually says.  Let’s play a game with them.  I call it Scripture Tossing.

I have always believed that it is a good idea to know what other people are talking about so my own opinions could be at least well informed.  I find you don’t have to agree with a book to read it and know about it.  This got me into trouble when I was in Junior High, because I read Karl Marx.  When my teacher started ragging on what Karl Marx had to say, I said to her, “But he doesn’t say that.”  She said “Yes, he does.”  I said, “Have you read it?”  She hadn’t.  I, being the know it all that I am, said, “How can you talk about what he says if you haven’t even read it?”  Which entitled me to a trip to the Principal’s office.  My point here is, you don’t have to agree with Christians to read their book.  In fact, if you do, you are better armed to discuss what they claim to believe as opposed to the venom they spew.  So here is some material from their textbook in case you get a chance to have an intelligent discussion.  They will, of course, try to come back at you with verses of their own, so it would help to know the whole thing.  This is just for starters, what I consider to be tokenss in a game called “Scripture Tossing.”

So, Mr. Conservative, while I don’t agree with you about this being founded as to be Christian, for argument’s sake, let’s accept that premise and talk about what it means to be a Christian nation.

First and foremost, you would have to agree that, as God, Jesus had to be an integrated personality, right?

Right.

And as such, his actions and words would match his beliefs and concerns.  Right?

Right. (If they don’t say “right” here, you are arguing with an idjut and the conversation should end.)

So do you see the Bible as a book to be taken literally or figuratively?  (They will almost always say literally, this establishes ground rules in case they start “interpreting” the words for their cause.)

So in NO PLACE in the Gospels does he mention abortion or homosexuality.

Those are both sins.  God says so.

Show me one place where Jesus addresses them.  (They can’t.  He didn’t.  They will bring up Leviticus.)

Oh, yeah, the same place where there is a ban on Christmas Ham and crab dip.  Or Easter ham if you do turkey for Christmas.  Am I right?  (Leviticus 11 7-8)

Yeah, but that was made OK by Peter’s vision.

Did it say exactly what parts of Leviticus were still in affect or merely say specifically it was ok to eat anything you want? (Specifically, Acts 10:15 says, “The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”” NIV.  This could include anything including believing homosexuals.  The exact word is “anything,” not “ham.”)  Reading the entire section, you see that associating with gentiles was now made ok.  So it wasn’t just food being addressed here.  Take out the old testament and the letters of Paul (clearly he had a hard time of letting go of many of his prejudices) and there is NOTHING that makes homosexuality a sin.

Anyway, if Jesus was so hard over on homosexuality, wouldn’t he have said so?  I mean, he sure spoke out on things he cared about.  Here is what he DID care about.  The poor (one verse won’t suffice here, it is all over the Gospels.  Start with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16:19-31)).  The sick (ditto – 28 such stories).  Children (Matthew 19:14 Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.””) NIV.  Caring for strangers even of different ethnic background (The story of the Good Samaritan, Luke 10:25-37).

But homosexuality was not known at that time. (Hey, I don’t even have to tell you that it existed in Greece, the predominant culture among the elite at that time.)

I do know that Jesus said the number one command was to love one another (John 15:17, Matt22:37-40).  He also said, “Judge not, that ye be not judged.  For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again. And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother’s eye”. (Matthew 7:1-5 KJV)

The last paragraph is the reason we cannot be a Christian nation and still have DOMA or DADT, deny rights to immigrants, legal or otherwise, or claim that poor people deserve to be poor or any of that other hogwash.  It is the reason we can’t justify withholding assistance because people are different from us.

Finally, for those who know for a certainty they are speaking God’s words and following God’s will comes this message: “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’  “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink,  I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’  “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’” (Matthew 25:31-45 NIV)

Surely, those who have denied extensions of unemployment benefits or voted against SCHIP or not moved to help people stay in their homes are not acting by the above.  The idea of homeless children is unspeakable if you believe what Jesus taught.  The Arizona Papers laws go against Christian principles, as do any laws to deny employment or citizenship for those born here.  Bigotry is not acceptable.  If this is a Christian nation, homelessness and hunger cannot be tolerated.  Neither can corporate greed.  Universal health insurance is a must. Wars to benefit corporations?  Not a chance!  If, in fact, the literal Bible is the textbook, their entire movement is out of alignment.

While I do not call myself a Christian, per se (long story mostly because the word Christian has been so badly polluted and my cosmology is not acceptable to them), I do believe these teachings are wise and moral.  I also find almost everything Jesus said to align with the Progressive agenda.  I do not know how you can be a real Christian and not be a progressive.

Poem To the Blessed Mother

Poem to the Blessed Mother

The Blessed Mother walks the streets of the inner city
Spirit now, her body lacks substance
She moves invisibly, soundlessly
Unlike the caterwauling of the drunks leaving the bar
Shouting; screeching of tires
And the occasional siren

The Blessed Mother sees a barred doorway of a shop closed for the evening
In this doorway is a mother lying in front of her children
Hiding her young ones from the ravenous predators
Who would do them harm
The mother’s eyes are watchful and fearful
The Blessed Mother longs to gather these in her arms
As a hen gathers her chicks under her wings
But as Spirit She has no arms to gather them
Blessed Mother, make me your arms

The Blessed Mother hears a young girl
Sobbing into her pillow in the dark
The cuts and bruises on her face will heal
The hurt in her heart may not
The Blessed Mother longs to sit down and talk to the girl
To let her pour a torrent of aching words
To let her know her pain matters
And that someone loves her.
But the Blessed Mother has no way to show she is listening
Blessed Mother, make me your ears

The Blessed Mother hears from many houses
The grumbling of empty stomachs
She hears the tears of those meals were small
Or nonexistent.  She longs
To carry meals to them, to feed them with her own hands
But as Spirit she has no hands
And cannot carry food
Blessed mother, make me your hands

The Blessed Mother hears the cries of the veteran
Reliving battles, with all the fear and death and stink
Reliving the tension of being on alert
Reliving every buddy lost
Filled with guilt of coming home alive
Envying those who did not
Angry that, having served long and well
His country, having used him up, has thrown the veteran
Aside as last week’s trash
Pretending those who came home broken do not exist
The Blessed Mother would like to cry out to an ungrateful nation
To shame them for demanding that soldiers give their all
And giving nothing in return
But as Spirit, she has no voice
To cry out for those who sacrificed
At the behest of the wealthy leaders for whom war is a game
Blessed Mother, make me your voice

The Blessed Mother sees the pain
Of those who were created different
Their orientation, their color, their person, their gender
Suffering because God’s plan for their lives
Did not match the plan of the few who call themselves chosen
The ones who claim to follow her son
But ignore every word he says
Or twist it to the kind of hate
Her son did not know
The Blessed Mother would like to give them love
But has no way to show it
To care for those society distains
Blessed Mother, make me your heart

The Blessed Mother longs to work in this world
To bring love, peace and justice where it is not
Blessed Mother, live through me

Migrant Children

Many years ago, our family was visiting the missions of California.  We were traveling from Mission San Antonio de Padua (or San Miguel, I forget which) to Mission Nuestra Senora de la Soledad.  Since it was well off the highway we were traveling back roads.  We were driving by huge corporate farms.  As we drove by, we passed many people out picking the crops by hand.  Many of the laborers appeared to be children.  Then we drove past the migrant camp where they stayed.  Not only was the camp almost uninhabitable, there were no adults in sight.  It appeared that small children were watching small children.

When I got back home, I asked our parish priest, who had spent time tending to migrant workers, about what I had seen.  What he told me has haunted me ever since.

I was correct that there were no adults at the camp, if it was a day good for picking.  Even if it had been raining, there would have been only the very old in the camp.  Most of the shelters are portable, like tents and adapted trucks.  And yes, I had seen children in the fields beside their parents.

He said that when children turn seven or eight, they go out to pick.  The babies are left with six and seven year olds in charge.  The babies are tended by their siblings all day.  They learn their language from six and seven year olds who never learned any language properly. (In other words, they don’t speak English well enough to get by and they don’t speak good Spanish either.)  Of course, schooling is nonexistent.  If a toddler gets hurt, it is up to his/her young sibling to figure out what to do, because the parents can’t afford to come in from the fields.  There is not good water in the camp for anybody, and there is almost never enough to eat or wear.

Out in the fields, the water sources are far apart and there are few if any toilet facilities.  The work is backbreaking, and goes on from first light to last light.  The pay, of course, is worse than substandard.

At that time, one of my favorite songs became Woodie Guthrie’s Deportee:

Is this the best way we can grow our big orchards?
Is this the best way we can grow our good fruit?
To fall like dry leaves and to rot on the topsoil
And be called by no name except
Deportees?

Deportee by Woodie Guthrie

Later I moved home to Colorado and worked with homeless children, which I covered in another diary.  In both cases, this nation closed its eyes to vulnerable children in this country.  I don’t particularly care whether it is the fault of the parents, although much of me blames the corporate farms for the migrant worker situation.  I do care that the children did not ask for these circumstances, and the only thing they did to be in this plight was be born into the wrong demographic.

While I agree that there are other urgent and important issues to handle during this administration, is there some way we can find occasion to find a solution to these children?