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Posts Tagged ‘poverty’

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…

missed

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: , ,

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…

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