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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

from where my husband stands

wedding bwA couple of months ago,
I wrote of my husband
that the best thing
I ever did
“was marry
that
sweet
man”

(This continues
to be
the
case)

A few days ago,
he said something
that helped me
understand so much more
than all the books
in the world
could

I can’t remember
his words, or even
the exact context, but
what he said made
clean-water-clear
why I was
so angry
and he was so …
not

A Black man 
grown up in Compton,
he never had illusions
that colonialism or
empire were dead,
or that they were
(ever)
only extended by
the evil hearts
of evil people

He saw
people as they were
and loved them for
who and where
they were,
trusting they were
doing the best they could
with where they
were coming from

I didn’t have that

I “escaped” poverty
and abuse and a
million poverty-
invited horrors
I’ll never forget
no matter what
my salary
reaches;

Having “escaped,”
I saw bad guys
(molesters; wife-
beaters)
and good guys
(everyone
else)

Having “escaped,”
I surrounded myself
with good guys
and, voila!

All was well

Except,
of course,
it wasn’t

And I was
affronted,
shocked, 
horrified 
to learn as
I read (on
the U.S.’s
genocidal global
politics) that
they we were
far less good
(as measured
by outcome, not
squishy, vague,
offered-as-exculpatory
“well-meaning”)
than I’d seen

The feeling
I experienced:
betrayal, at a
whole world
(and worldview)
destroyed

But that’s
not the point here:
I get what happened,
and whether anyone
else does or does
not get it isn’t
that
important

The main thing here
is this:

Seeing the world, now,
closer to how it really is,
I can see from where my
husband has always stood,
and I think …

I’m almost there:

Seeing
people as they are
and loving them for
who and where
they are,
trusting they are
doing the best they can
with where they
are coming from

wrong! :)

I used to hate
learning I was wrong.
It meant I wasn’t perfect,
which sucked
(I thought).

Since reading
The Other America,
I’ve been journeying toward
a different view

The Other America explained that
many middle- and upper-class Americans
can’t conceive
of the vastness of suffering
borne of American poverty
because, quite simply,
poverty and its
horrifying
consequences
are invisible
to them

(they know
no poor people,
and certainly not
many)

That made me wonder:

What’s
invisible
to me?

Since I started
asking the question,
I’ve come to love learning
I was wrong.

(I almost always am,
as it happens!)

‘Cause,
as sung
in a Disney musical,
that means I
can finally
change

and maybe,
just maybe,
do better
(, wiser,
kinder)
tomorrow
because of what
I learned
to see
today

Categories: Books, history, Learning Tags: , ,

books & (bigger) dreams

Almost a year ago, I realized I was virtually alone.

I’d surrounded myself with people who understood I’d endured just about every kind of violence possible, and that I’d witnessed it even when I hadn’t experienced it directly. They celebrated the fact I’d “won” while calling the rest history. They apparently failed to understand what devastating long-term consequences are wrought even when one “wins.”

They had no concept how many tens of millions of people suffer my “history” now, nor–it seemed–any interest in exploring how their comfort helps keep other people subjugated. I was a meanie, for acting horrified; they, meaning well, were mere victims of a mean person who didn’t understand how much well-meaning means.

(Not a damn thing, I understand even better now. Not one damn thing.)

Surrounded by “friends” who didn’t really understand me, or care much how the limited suffering they’d endure under Trump is but a fraction of what others have endured daily for decades, I found real friends: books.

In Glenn Greenwald, I saw recognition of the U.S.’s two-tier justice system (one for the super-rich, and one for the rest) that ensured my family and I would never achieve recourse as poor people in America. The system wasn’t built that way.

With Peter Schweitzer I discovered that elected Democrats and Republicans long ago ditched pretenses of acting on the peoples’ behalf. They said they did, and that was enough to content most people who voted.

Naomi Klein, even more importantly, demonstrated the incredibly stark divide between what America preaches and what it practices. For many decades, the U.S.’s elected officials have claimed one thing to its people while doing quite another abroad. Klein’s The Shock Doctrine was the decoder ring that unveiled the purpose behind the pretense.

I read Chomsky and Postman and hooks. Each taught me a little more about the world that actually is, enabling me to see past my reality-illusions into what actually is.

Chalmers Johnson remains one of my favorites. Months ago, I picked up his Dismantling the Empire on a quickie trip to a bookstore. In a few short pages, he revealed almost as much as Klein did in many more pages.

I read so, so much Neil Postman. He died years before I began reading him, but wrote in such a way that reading him feels like a present-day conversation. He, more than anyone, eased the loneliness of (somehow) being stranded among billions.

Matt Taibbi really brought me despair. Before I read his books, I had the illusion the financial crisis of ’07/’08 was maybe just a really unfortunate accident. He showed that simply wasn’t so, which brought me closer to the truth … even if I kinda disliked him for it. A lot.

Bryan Stevenson showed me the joy of working for little changes–and celebrating them–even when enormous changes are needed. Arundhati Roy taught me the value of a newly hard-boiled egg (priceless), even as George Monbiot showed me how to discard “inevitable” in favor of imagining what’s actually just.

Sheldon S. Wolin showed me how deeply democracy was being subverted a decade ago, back when I cared only about my next paycheck. Renegade economist Kate Raworth pointed to a better world, inviting everyone to envision–and create–a global economy based on what we know of economics today, not what a handful of closet bigots decided to pass as indisputable truth close to a century ago.

A year ago, I realized most of my … friends … couldn’t help get me where I needed to go. They could only barely see the world that is, favoring instead the world they wish was.

But my books? They have broadened the world for me, page by page, showing that I need not be constrained by the limited imaginations of those around me physically … when bigger dreams are being dreamed around the world, for me, for you, and for all our children.

no. matter. what.

I have three full-blood siblings. Each of those three siblings are soulful, compassionate people; together, they have been my lifeline for most of four decades.

My siblings all had one elementary school teacher who never taught me in a classroom. Far from condemning my single mother, as most adults around my siblings and I did, this teacher praised her: “Any one of your children is kinder and more compassionate than any other student I’ve ever had. That all three of them are like that tells me it’s not an accident, but a reflection of you.”

I was never his student, but he and I became friendly in the years after my siblings left his classroom. He went on to teach teachers. He told me he used me and my siblings as shining examples of what you can become when you care for other people.

(When I had a chance to help one of his people a few years ago, I leaped! How seldom do any of us have a chance to explicitly show kindness to the people who have saved us?!)

Sometimes, I talk to people and wonder how they have so little faith in the folks around them. “How do you believe people are innately assholes, and only ever pretend to be otherwise?” I ask myself, puzzling over this until something or another reminds me: They did not have my siblings!

As my mom lost herself to untreated mental illness, I had my siblings. As our mom died of cancer, I had my siblings. After she died and I argued heatedly about how we should dispose of her house, I had my siblings.

(I was so angry about how we disposed of Mom’s house, I signed the papers upside-down to reflect my protest. Still, I signed because I understood my siblings were more important than a house, and I apologized later when I really understood it.)

And so, I have walked through every day of my life knowing I have three people who will support me even when they want to whack me upside the head (which is probably often). I have three people who know, absolutely, that my heart is full of love, even when the things I do or say don’t necessarily reveal that.

Most people don’t have that.

That is a sadness I can’t even fathom.

‘Cause, see, I have always had these three people–Rachael, David, and Madeline–who have had my back, so I can’t imagine life without them.

2013 siblings small

then and now

Most people have never even had one-third of that. Read more…

Thunder Thighs Forever

February 10, 2017 Comments off

For more than three decades, I shared a birthday with my mom.

In October 2010, I faced my first birthday without her. Cancer had claimed her body in March 2010.

mom me n d

(but not before she met my Li’l D, the first of her many beautiful grandchildren)

Writing about her sometimes challenged me, especially early in this blog’s days. How could I show all her love, humor, compassion, and ferocity, while still being true to the hardships I endured both growing up and saying goodbye to her?

I got as close as I’ve ever gotten in my 2014 birthday letter to her, my blog’s most popular post by far, “Dear Mom.” In a single paragraph, I was able to sum up my experience of being her daughter better than I had before or have since:

You always begged me not to write about you. You thought I’d write about how you beat my siblings and me, how you yelled at us, how you could barely feed us and only kept us in a home by selling other people’s trash. I do write about these things, because they’re part of you. But they’re a small part, so enormously insignificant compared to your laughter, your love, your lessons in forgiveness, our birthday trips to Farrell’s and Pietro’s. I wish I’d written more about you in your life, so you could have seen how greatly your loving acts overshadowed your lost and tired ones. I wish I could’ve started writing sooner, or that you could’ve lived longer to see your love through my eyes.

I was a little nervous when I wrote about my mom in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor: Poverty, Predation, and Understanding Love.” I posted it on Progressive Army, a site with readers knowing nothing about my mom but what I wrote there. Since they didn’t know my mom, I worried they’d take away from the piece a unidimensional understanding of a woman enormously complex and vivid.

My mom was and remains my foremost superhero. While the word “superhero” is thrown around a lot these days, I mean this fairly literally. One of my favorite things about my mom was her superhero alter-ego, the uniquely malodorous Thunder Thighs. Read more…

Me, speaking instead of writing

I recorded a video a couple of nights ago. I wasn’t planning on linking it here, but I just listened to it and changed my mind. It reveals so much about where I’ve been, where I want to go, and why I want to go there.

It did originate with politics, so you might want to skip it. Basically, some folks expressed concern with my supporting Brand New Congress, a 501(c)(4) nonprofit that could legally accept dark money. It’s so personal that sitting down and writing it out didn’t feel right. So … I recorded a (respectful!) video, and I’m glad I did.

Just be forewarned: my husband might work in show biz, but you’ll see none of that glitz watching the video here!

maslow

 

#IBelieveYou

Many times, I’ve explained how the Democrats lost me.

No times, until this week, did I explain how Bernie Sanders won me.

I committed here to writing about the love, ultimately pouring my heart into 1,500 words of “Bernie, Because I Was Poor.”

Writing about my love instead of my earlier rage felt joyous. Right.

Something unexpected and beautiful happened even after I posted. Someone tweeted three magic words that made me cry: I believe you.

For years, my slogan has been, “your belief is irrelevant.”

All the same, seeing those three words opened the floodgates for me. Those words of support weren’t only about me, but my mom, who spent her whole life yearning for people to believe and lift (instead of castigating) her.

I’ll include some more tweets behind a cut below. One was retweeted more than 80 times, which meant I saw the hashtag #IBelieveYou every few minutes throughout Saturday. Each time, I said quiet thanks.

In ways I’ll have to explain later, the piece only happened because I got out to vote for California delegates last weekend. Actually stepping out into my community and interacting with people here changed everything for me.

If you’re yearning to do something but don’t know what to do, you might consider attending an Our First Stand: Save Health Care rally tomorrow. People will gather across the U.S. to demonstrate our commitment to health care as a human right.

IBELIEVE-300x169.png

By showing up, you have the power to help save lives … all while setting aside worrying in favor of acting, from love.

It may not be everything, but it’s a fine start.

More #IBelieveYou tweets below the cut

Read more…

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