Thursday, March 9, 2017

I Am So Tired of Lux-Shaming™

Famous Utah coward Jason Chaffetz went on CNN’s “New Day” to discuss the cost of healthcare, and he hit a homerun in fucktrumpetry when he stated, “Americans have choices…so maybe rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on that, maybe they should invest in their own health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.”
This isn’t an original line; it’s a remix of other callous statements lobbed at poor people and/or people who are worried that they cannot afford a basic need. I’ve heard lawmakers and pundits shouldn’t be able to buy quality steaks or seafood with their food assistance programs, that they should stop complaining, because they have refrigerators, that they can afford to get a tattoo, so they shouldn’t be whining about money for their kids diapers….All of these arguments have to do with pointing out a “luxurious” thing that a poor person has to attack their judgement in prioritizing. I’ve heard this argument since I was a kid, so I am certain it goes a long way back.
It disheartened me to hear some of my erstwhile progressive friends somewhat agree with Chaffetz’s sentiment. One friend even point out that when one of their physical therapist friends does house visits, some of the patients have giant fuck-off super plasma TVs that serve as a support wall for the house and shoot lasers and do your taxes for you and what-have-you. Also there was a question of elective surgery that is covered under most insurance agencies. Should Medicaid, for which we ALL pay with our taxes, be used for something that is not immediately necessary but may alleviate pain?
All of these dispersions fall under the umbrella of lux-shaming™, where people point out the “nice” things someone in dire straits has to have reason to show disdain for them or show that they are “faking” their poverty in order to gain some sort of material benefit like booze/drugs, or food and housing. Seeing that even in Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge did some lux-shaming™ when the question of charity was brought up, I wager this has been happening forever.
I have a confession to make: Though I have said it before, I wasn’t born poor. We didn’t become poor until I was teetering between 4 and 5. I just remember very little from age 0 to 4/5. We didn’t really become poor until my mother was diagnosed Multiple Sclerosis. I’m not sure of all the details, but we moved from a suburb of a city in a duplex house to a rural village in the middle of nowhere, due to cost of living. The property in the “village” was inherited land and summer houses from my grandmother’s deceased husband, so no rent! We were on welfare and/or disability the entire time, during the Reagan years, where he would designate my disabled mother a “welfare queen”. That said we were able to maintain a few nice things like a decent couch, an AWESOME vinyl record collection, and a nice stereo system to listen to those records, among other things. We didn’t buy any of these things with benefit checks. We just had them from before the medical diagnosis that cost my mother her job and extensive medical bills that cost us our home in a relatively nice city. Having our power shut off for days on end was still a regular occurrence since we could not afford the utility bill sometimes. No power meant no water, since we had an electric pump in a well. However, should we have hawked all of our electronics and furniture in order to avoid the disdainful gaze of “hard working” taxpayers? Keep note: take a look at our pay statements; even those benefit checks are taxed, so we were some of those taxpayers. Don’t worry, though. We lost all of that when we couldn’t even afford taxes on the land and the county took the property, so then we were “proper” poor.
When we moved to Baltimore, we were doing better, until my mother was laid off, and again, we were struggling. It was hard to get any social benefit since my mother had to prove that she was disabled, because apparently, the state doesn’t believe that disabled people are able to work at a sit-down job. We became homeless at the beginning of my senior year, and again, we lost pretty much everything. Again. We DID pack what we could into boxes and suitcases and were able to put it…actually, I don’t know. Friend’s houses? Storage? It was kind of a blur. I was couch surfing, and my mother went to various shelters, but through all that, I was able to keep my Walkman, four cassettes, and the “good” clothes that I could salvage before the landlords threw it out on the street. This was a time when I needed to apply to college, as well, so I needed to use what little money I had from a part time job as a stock boy to get some sort of suit for visiting schools. Every once in a while, I’d get myself a music tape or buy myself a nice meal, because I wanted to smile a LITTLE bit. But perhaps I should have just taken my suitcase of clothes I could salvage into a dumpster so that I would be the homeless pauper that lux-shamers™ expect me to be. But then they would point to my Walkman and 5-6 cassettes I had that cost $8-$10 each as proof that I COULD have afforded a decent meal every day, so I probably should have sold all of that, which I eventually did…but just the shitty albums. Even when we FINALLY got into Section 8 housing, we were still well below the poverty line, but we maintained, but perhaps we should not have gotten things like a really cheap computer to help me with my homework and help my mother try to get an accounting business off the ground, so that we wouldn’t be so poor anymore.
The problem with lux-shaming™ is that it is oblivious to actual details. So if you are tempted to do it, remember that you do not know a person’s situation. What if a person living in poverty now was rich a year earlier? What if they did what they could to keep as much as they could, but they lost their home? Were they in an abusive relationship and had to leave as soon as possible for fear of their lives? Did they suddenly fall ill or have a serious accident that deluged them with medical bills that eventually bankrupted them? Did they acquire their iPhone free with a 1-2 year contract, as nearly everyone with a cell phone nowadays does? Should the phone be simpler, and not a smart phone in that case? Should they not have ANY access to the Internet, even though access to the Internet has shown to help people in poverty gain jobs and education? Did the person with the giant laser beam TV get it open–box or extreme markdown, or even as a gift from someone?
And as for elective surgery, I get that surgery is expensive. Knee surgery or hip replacement or carpel tunnel surgery cost is through the roof. My insurance would pay for all of that. Medicaid pays for these, which means we all pay for these. Why is it frustrating that impoverished people can get the same surgery as a middle-income or well-to-do person with private insurance? These types of surgery are to alleviate pain. So should poor people just live in abject pain to match their abject economic situation? The people receiving the surgery are not responsible for the pricing, though. They have no hand in that. The ire should be aimed at the companies who hike the prices of medical supplies and prescriptions. They are devouring your “hard-earned” dollars that you then must give up to taxes.
The bottom line is that pointing out all of these material things that poor people have that you don’t think they SHOULD have since they are so poor is not about questioning their responsibility and priorities. It is much easier to see them as moochers who “took advantage of the system” than as people who, through little fault of their own, fell on hard times and need a little bit of help to get better. Claiming that people on food stamps should not be allowed to have organic food or lobster or steaks, that they shouldn’t be allowed to have elective surgery for pain, that they should be more responsible with their money instead of getting a smart phone or decent clothes or an entertainment system shows that this is not any concern for the plight of poor people. It is about seeing that poor people suffer for being poor. That is lux-shaming™. Fuck that noise.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Are We Really Surprised Ben Carson Said Some Offensive Dumb Shit

Ben Carson won Clarence Thomas Cooniest Coon Who’s Ever Cooned Award® yesterday. It was an award held tight by Clarence Thomas himself, and he clung tightly to it like an Orange Lantern or a Gollum willing to throw himself into a molten river of white supremacy to protect the Ring that would Shuck and Jive Them All™.
With one statement in a sea of bullshit (with commentary in brackets], Dr. Ben Carson took the Coon Throne, though:
“That’s what America is about, a land of dreams and opportunity [OK, standard GOP “America’s a unicorn” rhetoric]. There were other immigrants [“Land of Immigrants”? Surprisingly progressive. Go on…] who came here in the bottom of slave ships [What.], worked even longer, even harder for less [What?!]. But they too had a dream that one day their sons, daughters [no.], grandsons, granddaughters [No!], great-grandsons, great-granddaughters [NOOOO!], might pursue prosperity and happiness in this land [YOU COON ASS MOTHERFUCKER!!!!].”
The speech is infuriating. The whitewashing of the capture, transportation, torture, and forced labor of people from hundreds of regions of Western and Central Africa is disgusting. It also negates the Dutch, Spanish, Portuguese, and British roles in stoking divisions INSIDE Africa to start wars between cities and villages and convincing the winners to hand over their POWs. It negates the colonists’ tendencies to take themselves a “colony wife”, voluntary or not, and leave them and whatever children they had after they were called back to their home countries. It negates the outright genocidal nature of the trans-Atlantic slave trade, and diminishes the murderous acts of people like King Leopold II, who murdered 9 million Congolese.
I am not surprised that Carson would be so damn obtuse. He also said that the Egyptian tombs were “grain silos”. He thinks that prison is proof that people “turn” gay. He doesn’t know how thermodynamics work. I knew all of this dumbfuckery before he was appointed Secretary of Black Stuff by 45. Ben Carson is a dumb motherfucker. If you need some babies unstuck, he’s your man. But don’t trust him in a room with as much as a teddy bear with a loose button eye. He will choke and die.
What is really pissing me off is that I TOLD ALL OF YOU THAT REPUBLICANS WOULD WHITEWASH SLAVERY AND YOU DIDN’T LISTEN! Since I was in college, I’d been warning about slavery being whitewashed to be “involuntary immigration”, and since I had this blog, I warned that it would happen! Some textbooks have already whitewashed the Transatlantic Slave Trade to just “triangular trade”. What did you think was next? And what better way to deliver the whitewash that through the mouth of the winner of the Clarence Thomas Cooniest Coon Who’s Ever Cooned Award®? This way, they can marry their "America is a flawless country with no skeletons" rhetoric with their "see? We have one, so we can't be racist" mannerisms. 

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

On Getting Conwayed by DeVostractions

It sure was fun to drag that picture of Kelly Anne Conway in the Oval Office with her shoes off and feet on the couch playing on her phone, all in front of 64 leaders of Historically Black Colleges and Universities. I don’t think there is a better depiction of America than a sea of hard working, underserved people of color, yet the focus of the attention is on an oblivious white person. The only way it could be more American is if she accused one of them of committing a crime.
Detractors say this is much ado about nothing, and it is. However, those same detractors refuse to acknowledge the raging angrections™ they got when a picture of Barack Obama was released when he had his feet on the desk, or when he decided to take off his suit jacket, or when he took off his tie. Every president in the last 40 years has a picture of himself doing something casual in the Oval office, from kicking back to playing with a football to playing with kids and/or pets. Yet it’s not okay for the black president to do what people do in offices.
I hate to be the “ALL OF THIS IS A DISTRACTION FROM” guy, but while Conway was doing her best to show you how critical optics can be, Betsy DeVos put out a statement regarding the HBCU leader visit. She praised their hard work and called HBCUs the “real pioneers of school choice”. THAT deserved a drag more than the picture of Couchgate. We have a head of the Department of Education who thinks that black people got up one day and said, “Hey, let’s build some schools! It’ll be fun! Yay, choices!” What shit education did she receive that she would think that? HBCUs came about because NO SCHOOL WOULD ACCEPT BLACK PEOPLE. We had no choice BUT to make out own way. Segregation is not “school choice”. The dumbfuckery of such a notion leaves a foul taste in my mouth. DeVos then backpedaled by pointing out that she has a poor black friend, and then talking about Mary McLeod-Bethune founded Bethune-Cookman University because of “school choice”, so she learned nothing after the Internet dragged the shit out of her dumbass initial statement.
Again, I hate to be the “ALL OF THIS IS A DISTRACTION FROM” guy, but while Conway and DeVos were doing incredibly dumb white people stuff, 45 signed an executive order that would take public HBCUs out of the jurisdiction of the Department of Education and directly under the White House Domestic Policy. Does this mean they’ll get the funding they’ve been asking for since my Morgan days? No. Does it increase money for Pell Grants and Federal Direct Student Loans, which were lifelines to me and many poor black kids who wanted to go to college but just did not have the money to do so? No. It actually doesn’t do much more than give HBCU leaders greater access to the Office of the President…so 45 just signed an executive order to give him more black friends.
This order doesn’t do much that an Obama-era order in 2009 did beyond calling for an increase in the private sector to have a role in HBCUs. There is no telling what this order will affect, but if it is giving no funding to the schools and it is not making it more accessible economically to the students, then I am observing skeptically. This looks like a publicized overture to make him look like he’s “reaching out” to the black community with little substance, complete with two clueless blondes. This is the plot to 15% of PornHub searches.
If 45 REALLY wants to reach out to and mend the divide between him and people of color, he should start by acknowledging he did wrong. He can apologize to the Central Park Five for his statements about them before and after their exoneration, he can admit that his company did wrong in the 1980s when they blocked black tenants from living in his properties. He can apologize to Barack Obama for hounding him about his birth certificate years after the non-issue was put to rest, and stop blaming Hillary Clinton for the whole thing. He can hold a 60 minute conversation with a room full of black people and NOT make any mention of crime, poverty, Chicago, or the word “urban”. If he does all of these things, I’ll take this overture to HBCUs seriously and without skepticism. As of now, it looks like a guy who fucked up and forgot his girlfriend’s birthday, and instead of apologizing, he just ordered last minute roses and chocolates and thought it would smooth things over.

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