What’s clear to me is that to a rich man, all poor people look the same….
When did we get so scared?
And more importantly, are we even afraid of the right things?
Because fear breeds ignorance as much as ignorance breeds fear. It can scramble brains so much that synapses stop firing….and what you’re left with is two half drunk partisan dimwits, both unburdened by pesky facts, trading insults on somebody else’s Facebook post. The very definition of depressing.
What’s clear to me is that to a rich man, all poor people look the same.
That’s clear to me even though I’m not always, or even often, the smartest person in the room. I’m Lake Woebegone average, but I can see, I can read, and I can listen. Ain’t that all it takes?
May I wander a bit? Because what I’m getting at requires verbal wandering.
I’m a descendant of 1840s famine Irish. I’ve lost track of how many “great’s” come before the “grandfather”…but there is a direct, traceable lineage back…..from counties Mayo and Sligo. The Flannery’s and the Loftus’s were starving, so they had to get out. To stay meant eternal rest.
It gets a bit murky here…..some arriving in New York harbor, and others possibly slipping over the border from Canada in a slightly less legal fashion. Freedom from want is way more powerful than any wall. Dig under. Climb over. Or blow a hole through. Whatever works. As Springsteen sang, “God, hunger is a powerful thing.”
They were met not with open arms, but with open hostility. The normal kind. The kind those that look different and act different and speak different are often met with. “No dogs nor Irish need apply”. Of course the fact that those doing the judging were themselves immigrants was ironic, but as a nation we don’t often do irony well.
We made our way to anthracite country, because as it turned out that there were some jobs that the Irish were welcome to. We might die from black lung or a cave-in or self inflicted liver disease trying to forget the first two, but we weren’t gonna starve to death. Assimilation would come not from knocking on doors, but from kicking them down. So be it. It did come, and our story is not much different from other ethnic groups. Only the places and names change…but the narrative remains as straight as Route 66.
So now we were “Americans” somehow….maybe helped along by blood spilled on both sides of Civil War battlefields. Dying has always been great ethnic PR, unless you happen to Indian of course.
And now, just like the rest, we went from being judged to being judges.We might be the bottom of the totem poll….but look at this sorry lot crossing over. They seem willing to cut the totem poll down!
And so it went. And so it goes. America is a strange place. The rest of the world finds it…crawls all over the place killing the original population, develops amnesia, and somehow thinks they sprouted here whole….like a European potato plant.
We learn our lessons. Then we forget our lessons. Then we fail our lessons. Then we teach our children.
And we go from laughing nervously about George Wallace to possibly electing Donald Trump president.
Meet the new boss. Same as the old boss.
As long as there is somebody to blame, then it can’t be our fault. That’s the logic of a 4th grader, coincidentally the language level of a Trump stump speech.
It sucks to be poor anywhere. It especially sucks to be poor in America, a place that claims to value work but actually values wealth. Two distinct things those. It’s also a place that likes its rich people to be white. Actually, it likes its poor people to be white too….because they are the only ones who will still vote for the rich white ones.
To be black or brown is to be an outsider. To be poor and black or brown is to be invisible…until they need your votes, or you start getting all uppity and demanding and saying your lives matter. All Lives are supposed to matter of course, but the cops only seem to be shooting the unarmed black ones….so…what’s a poor boy to do? Words matter too….or at least they used to until Trump claimed to have “the best ones”….and half the nation seemingly agreed with him.
Fear is that moment you snap the light on….and things you can’t quite make out scurry across the floor out of sight. It’s what your mind conjures up….that’s where the maximum badness resides. Reality has become what charlatans tell you it is….so if they say our nation is under siege by random people dressing as clowns, then we are. And if they tell you that all these unarmed black men getting shot by cops were really threatening thugs with hidden guns buried in their waistbands, then so goes the world. Fight the power and all that, but don’t make a big fucking deal out of it and block traffic.
I have no more right to judge an inner city black male being harassed by cops than I do a Syrian refugee fleeing relentless terror, Because I am not a black male, nor am I a Syrian refugee. Are you?
What I am is part of a clan that came to this country for the same reasons….because we were promised better days….a place where a man could hold his own in a fair fight. A place where when you turned on the light, the floor didn’t move.
In a bit..