Read the whole thing and then come back. I’ll wait.
There’s a couple of things going on in here beyond just the “wow, are people fucking fucked” response you’re supposed to have. The first is this:
Marian Wright Edelman of the Children’s Defense Fund called the surging child poverty rate “a national disgrace.” Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., cited evidence that poverty shortens life spans, calling it “a death sentence for tens and tens of thousands of our people.”
Overall, though, the figures seemed to be greeted with resignation, and political leaders in Washington pressed ahead with efforts to cut federal spending. The Pew Research Center said its recent polling shows that a majority of Americans — for the first time in 15 years of being surveyed on the question — oppose more government spending to help the poor.
Why, though? Why do they feel this way? Why do they hate and fear the poor? What’s changed in the last 15 years? One thing consistently drives me goddamn bonkers about our press is this passive-voice nonsense where we pretend people just decide to have views based on nothing. We all know full well that the reason people oppose more government spending is that there is a constant stream of human dildos on their televisions telling them that the reason people are poor is that we’re doing too much to help the poor and we should stop it.
Some of this is elementary psych, of course. One way of coping with the devastating fear of something awful happening to you is hating everyone it does happen to, hating their weaknesses and failures, hating their examples of what can happen if you slip, even just a little. Obviously that’s one way you can react. But until 15 years ago we didn’t have a full-time media machine invested in telling people that that sick feeling in the pits of their stomachs meant you should throw rocks at the homeless folks causing it until they went away.
And until 15 years ago we kind of, sort of, almost maybe sometimes had politics that allowed for a voice sayingwhat the fuck is wrong with you, you selfish goddamn assholes. Give that poor kid an apple and some bus fare, you jerk.We didn’t always pretend it was admirable to sneer at panhandlers. We might have done it, but we wouldn’t have openly applauded people for doing so.
The second thing I want to point out is this:
About 75 miles away, in the Chicago suburb of Hoffman Estates, dozens of families lined up patiently outside the Willow Creek Care Center as truckloads of food for the poor were unloaded.
Among those waiting was Kris Fallon of nearby Palatine, mother of a teen and an infant, who hitched a ride with a friend.
She recounted how she and her husband — once earning nearly $100,000 a year between the two of them— lost their jobs, forcing them to move from their rented home into an apartment and give up their car.
“We fight a lot because of the situation,” she said. “We wonder where we are going to come up with money to pay rent, where we are going to get food, formula for the baby.”
She began to cry.
Hoffman Estates is a wealthy community. I bought some furniture off Craigslist from a dude there whose wife was redoing their kitchen, and when I walked in I wondered why on earth because the place was like a palace, and this wasn’t even the fanciest home on the block. So the other part of this story is that from Willow Creek (the area’s mega-church, by the by) you can throw a rock and hit the REASON everyone is so goddamn poor: Because a few other people are so goddamn rich.
That’s really what this storyisn’tabout, and should be. It’s about the abjectness of some but not the excess of others, and you can’t pretend the two aren’t related or you miss the real story. I want to give the AP props for doing this, putting a face to the poor and lost, and certainly it’s better than anybody else has done. It’s very easy for news organizations to give up on stories like this because hey, we know about poor people, and we know they don’t read the paper so fuck ’em.
But stories like this are too easily dismissed on the grounds that each individual should have made different choices. Here’s just a sample of the comments before I had to stop reading them and go hit my head on something hard for a while:
That husband looks like a real loser. Yeah, I’m sure he has his resume updated and is ready to hit the streets. If something like that walked into my office I’d have security escort him out. No wonder they’re out of work. It also looks like they didn’t let money stop them from having yet another child. I’m sure our tax dollars that are robbed from us everyday are paying for that kid’s diapers, food and care. The welfare office, WIC and free medical sees to that. I don’t think I feel that sorry for that couple.
Of course people like this miss the point, but it’s easy to. The point isn’t this guy, or that guy or all the guys in the story. The point is that cumulatively we are horrifically screwed, and until stories like this also address the why, make the connection between those who are poor and the policies that make and keep them so, we’re going to keep seeing pitiable examples that the intended audience steadfastly refuses to pity.