by user Hootsbuddy
In order to start my association with this Wikia-wiki thingamajig I am asked to "write an opinion" on the spur of the moment. I don't do that very well. It either more brains than I have or a lot of brass on my face that I don't want. Instead I am submitting something that came to me following the Katrina disaster.
There are a great many lifestyles and choices in America. We can argue that they are all determined by income, but that is demonstrably untrue. It's not about income, it's about choices. And before you jump to the conclusion that I'm about to condemn those who "choose" to be poor, back off. I have a great respect and admiration for those who, whether by choice or circumstance, are living poor. They include old people who can no longer work, simple people who would rather live humbly and have more time in their life for travel and study, those who for religious reasons eschew wealth - I'm thinking of the Amish and Catholic Worker types. Remember the old saying about "all work and no play." That, too, is part of the American Dream.
And there is a vast population of people in our society whom we can call the working poor. They work, but remain poor. Why? Is it because they like being poor? Why, no. If you could choose to be good-looking or in good health or respected would you choose to be ugly or sick or hated? Of course not. But often we are not who or where we are because of choice. We are there because that is where we are and being someplace else is not part of our imagination.
How can the person born blind understand about colors? How can the person who is deaf know about musical harmony? And how can the infant born into what we condescendingly refer to as an "underclass" know that there could have been some alternative? At what point does the toddler begin to make "choices" about whether or not he wants to continue a lifestyle? What are the dynamics that produce an occasional boot-straps success despite a "poverty" mentality?
I do not have an answer to these questions, and I do not propose to find any.
What I do propose, however, is that whatever the reasons, however it happened, there are a lot of people in America who do not have what I describe as a "suburban mentality." For them life is just as challenging, just as exciting, just as painful, just as rewarding as it is for anyone else. They know that when they get up in the morning they have to eat, live, love, worry, rejoice and rest just like everyone else. The family structure may not be ideal, they have more problems as the result of that lifestyle than they would elsewhere, but elsewhere is not where they are.
They have not come to America, like immigrants, with a vision of success, working to buy into the American Dream. Nor have they jumped out of bed one morning and said "This is the pits! I can't stand living like this! No matter what it takes, I'm gonna work my ass off til I get the hell outta here!"
No, not everyone is mad as hell and not gonna take it any more. It not only takes hard work, creativity and sometimes a good break or two, it also takes role models, encouragement and a stubborn resolve on the part of the individual that is rare in the human population. Remember, we aren't talking about third-generation college grads whose parents, grandparents and extended family would look good in a magazine article.
We are talking about people who have grown up very differently. "Work" is not something you do because you like it. It is something you do because you need the money. If you learn to like it later, that's great - maybe even necessary. But as soon as you learn to like what you do, where is the motivation to do something else? If you are in tolerably good health, get a cold beer from time to time, enjoy your tobacco, play cards, and have good sex, why in the world would you want to change? I know a lot of so-called "successful" people who would toss it all in to have that much.
Transportation, for the simple lifestyle, is walking, public transportation, catching a ride with someone else or driving some old piece of a car that will have to be replaced pretty soon. (If someone "orders" an evacuation that order is as alien as it comes. It presumes a car, and the means to buy gas, and a destination, and the means to feed and shelter yourself in a place you have never even seen. It presumes you know the way, and I'm not speaking of maps.)
Health care is getting over being sick. If you can't get over it you take over the counter meds. If it gets worse you go to the emergency room and hope they can help. Dental work is about the same. Get over it. Take something for the pain. And if it gets too bad, find a dentist to pull the tooth. If they get bad enough, have them all pulled and find a cheap lab that will make you some more for two hundred dollars. Then you can smile like you used to., with teeth again.
I'm here to tell you that the people I have just described are not optional to our economy. Their lifestyle "choices" if you insist on calling it that, is as basic to the American economic infrastructure as coins and credit. Pay attention to this: Not everyone will make a good income. Somebody is going to work for low wages, the so-called "minimum wage." Somebody is going to work for even less. And those who do will not be drawn from the much exalted middle class, They will be drawn from the young, the inexperienced, the very old and those between jobs.
But I can tell you from experience that the best of them - the core of their respective professions - will be there, year after year, generation after generation, doing a good good job, putting in their days and weeks, teaching the more transitory around them how to do their work because those in a supervisory capacity are on their way elsewhere and have not been trained to be teachers. I have watched good poor people doing honorable work and doing it well for my entire career. When I think of what happened to those people because of the hurricane it makes me want to cry.
And this week I have watched those same people on television being blamed for circumstances over which neither they nor anyone else had any real control.
I have watched helplessly as many who call themselves leaders grope blindly for remedies.
I have read endless words of blame and recrimination. And I am calling for an end to meanness and counterproductive arguments. Now is not the time to be lecturing poor people about their bad "choices." No one need tell them about the consequences of lifestyle. They understand better than most the problems of hypertension, obesity, substance abuse, unplanned babies, short age spans for black men, under-umployment and unemployment, dependence on welfare, and everything else that goes with the picture. No need to beat anybody up any more.
The time has come for everyone to do or say something positive. Like we were taught as children, if you have nothing good to say, then please don't say anything at all. If you are sitting there reading from a monitor and think you have had a reality check, you are right. But your "reality check" is nothing compared to what happened this week to a lot of folks. Let's work to make it better, not worse.