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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

exploring “efficacy”

In a recent trip to Long Beach’s Gatsby Books, I picked up a couple dozen political books. Many were written by authors I’d never before encountered, which didn’t deter me from picking up their works.

I’ve read a few of the books I picked up that day, and I’m glad to have found each of them. That being said, I feel a special gratitude for the Gatsby-acquired book I’m currently reading: doctor Paul Farmer’s Pathologies of Power: Health, Human Rights, and the New War on the Poor.

I’d never heard of Farmer (“Presley Professor of Medical Anthropology at Harvard Medical School”) before I happen to pick up this book on the strength of its title. I’m grateful the title caught me; Amartya Sen’s introduction coupled with the first few pages of Farmer’s words had me totally, absolutely hooked.

Having grown up devastatingly poor, I understood the impact of powerlessness–of poverty–on life outcomes. As I wrote in “Bernie, Because I Was Poor,”  Read more…

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collective success

I recently had a few conversations that left me reeling. They reflected visions of success that, I realized, I rejected completely and absolutely. Viscerally.

This left me with the questions: Why did I reject that vision of success? And given that I rejected it wholesale, what was my own vision of success?

The answer is tied, in part, to the 150 or so books I’ve read since August of last year. Somehow, I couldn’t find the answer to these questions in pages. I had to find it in conversation.

We live in a world of finite resources. Some people are granted access to those resources; others are deprived of them. Generally, those who have access have military or other kinds of power legitimating that access. In short, they retain access by force. Read more…

our own legacies of love

I met my now-husband, Anthony, shortly before I graduated law school and moved to Japan in 2004. We hit it off, and kept in touch for the four years I didn’t live in Los Angeles County.

sai nose

Sai

When I decided to move back to Los Angeles County in 2008, I ended up in Long Beach. This wasn’t because I was especially drawn to Long Beach. I landed here because there were more apartments friendly to larger dogs, like my buddy Sai.

Anthony was thrilled to discover I’d moved to Long Beach. He’d gone to high school here and offered to show me around. He did just that, taking me on a night tour of downtown Long Beach and the shoreline.

I remember standing on a bluff with him that night. Together, we looked out at the twinkling lights of manmade drilling islands. I thought that the twinkling lights were beautiful, and felt so glad I’d made Long Beach my home.

Almost a decade later, I remain glad I made Long Beach my home. That early 2008 evening with Anthony happened because of his familiarity with this town. We now have a lovely family, and–no matter where we may someday move–Long Beach will always be the place where we began.

Those manmade islands, on the other hand, are no longer beautiful to me.

In a 2015 article entitled “What the Frack is Happening Under Long Beach?“, OC Weekly describes the genesis of those twinkling islands: Read more…

two for two

Decades ago,
my siblings and I
did what we called
“two for two”

In theory,
we would exchange
two minutes of backrub given
for two received

I didn’t understand it then,
but this positive physical contact
may well have saved
our lives

(Loving touch
Is THAT important)

As the eldest,
I would typically exchange
two minutes given
for ten seconds
returned

So, now,
as my “little” brother
plays checkers with my
older son, who inherited his name
from my brother,
I trace my fingers
over my brother’s back
and think:

Years later,
I would wager
I still owe him
thousands of minutes

… and I am happy to,
for the moment, have the chance
to bridge the deficit

Categories: Family, Health Tags: , , , ,

Lessons in injustice, lessons in love

My mom and I share(d) a birthday.

This year, for the first time in many years, I didn’t write about it on my blog.

“It feels weird,” I told my husband at the end of the day. “But it’s not about how much I love and miss my mom. It’s about my changing relationship with my blog.”

Anthony ruffled my hair and said he understood.

This morning, as I sit cross-legged in the dark and listen to my boys snore, I am inexpressibly grateful for my mom.

From the time I was very young, my mom taught me about injustice. She pointed it out to me when it appeared in my life, and she explained it to me when I discovered signs of it in the great big world outside.

She showed me how injustice is systemic without ever using the word “systemic.”

She spoke occasionally with despair, but more often with hope: Nothing I saw was forever. Nothing I experienced could not be changed.

When my older son asks me about death, and homelessness, and Ferguson, I answer. I try to answer in ways that won’t overwhelm him or make terrible obstacles seem insurmountable.

As my mom once did for me, I want him to see injustice … and to know it is not inevitable. That his actions can chip away at it in small but meaningful ways.

Some of those I love think I am wounding him by sharing hard truths, but I know better.

By sharing them with love and hope, I also share with Li’l D my mom.

young mom

Mom at Li’l D’s age

Mom’s body died when Li’l D was only five months old, but her spirit lives on in me and my siblings.

It also lives on in our kids, who know–thanks to her–not only that injustice exists, but that it can be diminished by our fierce and loving acts.

This 11/5/16 post transferred from L2SP 9/15/17.

Categories: Love, Parenting Tags: , , , , ,

power to change everything

One year ago, I couldn’t have told you how World War II began. Sure, I’d studied it in high school history classes, but that was more than twenty years ago.

Having immersed myself in history and politics for the last year, I understand more now. Most significantly, I understand how economic distress fueled Hitler’s rise.

Germans were not a uniquely evil people. They were a distressed people, susceptible–in those specific circumstances–to finding both the wrong villains and extraordinarily wrong solutions.

On Sunday, I wrote about how neoliberalism created the conditions for the weekend’s tragedy in Charlottesville.

Yesterday, a dear friend replied that she’d seen the pictures. The racists she’d seen pictured weren’t economically oppressed, but well dressed and clean shaven. They were privileged.

I’d reply today the same as I replied yesterday. That is to say, I’d reply by noting I’m no fan of privilege theory, which conceals (grave systemic failures) much more than it reveals (anything actionable).

But I wondered: How could I express the pain of enduring economic squeeze to those who haven’t yet felt it? Read more…

The meth apartment

A meth lab burned down near my sister’s house a couple of days ago. Two people died and dozens more were displaced.

Many terrible things have happened in my sister’s neighborhood, so that she’s understandably distraught. Her friends are urging her to move, which she very much wants to.

I’m sad for her, and I’m sad beyond her.

About a year ago, I came to the shocking conclusion that history is actually important. I saw that my failure to follow history or politics had left me with a lot of illusions–delusions?–about what my country has been, is, and is en route to be.

I’ve gone through four of the five stages of grief: Read more…

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