Things Running Around In My Head

Young woman playing with a dog in front of a rural rundown home.
Rural poverty is a problem America should address, but we choose not to.

Lots of stuff going on right now, so much so that I find it hard to focus on one thing to write about. So I’ll do the Odd and Sods-ish thing and talk about several things.

First off, a poll about mass shootings raised two thoughts in my head.

On the first point, many issues and problems in our society are actually choices. Ezra Klein of The New York Times often points this out, using child poverty as an example. I think in this case we are held hostage by a powerful lobby and an actual, real threat of violence. But something has to be done and more and more people feel that way, to the point where I do not think politicians can afford to not do something.

The second point…”just” is doing a lot of heavy lifting in the “just 24%.” It is quite disturbing that one in four Americans believe that we must accept slaughter as “part of a free society.” As of the 2020 census, there were 257,279,447 adults in the United States. Extrapolating the poll, 24% means 61,747,067 adult Americans believe that mass shootings are a price of freedom. That is a lot of people who hold an absolutely awful opinion and a sign of a deep sickness in our society.

Meanwhile, this a reminder that the Warriors Against the Censorious Left are often very up in arms about college students protesting appearances by fascists but not so much about censorship from the right. These people range from your general Fox News panel guest to The Very Reasoned and Sensible Centrist Minds of the Discourse.

The sounds of crickets from the likes of Bari Weiss, Conor Friesdorf, and Thomas Chatterton Williams about far-right censorship are rather deafening. It should not be surprising; these are the people who were hyper-focused on the so-called censorious left during the summer of 2020. Yes, that summer. When, you know, we had a global embarrassment in the White House (who was not a leftie, but was a right-winger) and a pandemic that was killing thousands of Americans a week (although many of these same people are anxious to tell you that more than 1.1 million Americans losing their lives just isn’t all that big of a deal). Not a great look!

On a bit different note, the Aaron who tweeted this is Aaron Kleinman, director of research at The States Project and co-creator of Give Smart. If you want to make sure your political donation gets the most mileage possible, they are worth checking out.

Finally, I wanted to write a bit about something I see one Saturday a month in my little town when the organization CommonFood Centre County holds a food pantry. The line for this pantry extends down the street and stretches for several blocks each month. The town, Port Matilda, Pa., where my wife and I live is only around 600 people, and the food pantry is at one of the two churches in town. The western end of my home county, where my town is located has a fairly high rate of poverty. In my own town, 20% of the population lives below the poverty line.

Rural poverty seems to get short shrift as far as the attention that is paid to America’s inequality issues, but it is actually worse than in urban areas. In rural areas, 15.4% live below the poverty line, compared to 11.9% in urban areas (source). Myself, I have seen both versions. I grew up next to a low-income urban housing project in York, Pa., and today I see the rural version in my town. While I was not necessarily “poor” growing up, we were working-class and money was often a worry, and I saw enough poverty right up my childhood street. Today, I see it in walks around my town.

I cannot be one of those people who sneer and snarl about “bad choices” and personal responsibility when it comes to people in poverty, and I do not understand the resentment against low-income people I see directed upon them by people of comfortable means. It just does not make any sense.

This just is not something that should be in America. If indeed we really are the greatest nation on Earth. Again, the choices we make.

The last word goes to The Hold Steady, whose ninth album The Price of Progress has been on repeat in my ears for much of the month. I’ve heard them described as a punky version of Bruce Springsteen, but I think that’s not entirely accurate. Singer/guitarist Craig Finn’s songs are short stories like Bruce’s in that they can be both tragic and rather funny, but the music accompanying them is diverse and in this most recent effort, often goes in some fun directions. This song, “Sideways Skull” is about a band that is a little washed up and not accepting that.

One thought on “Things Running Around In My Head

  1. Wht shows the stupidity of the rural poor is that they continue to vote thuglicans so the taxes they pay, out of their nonexistent, paycheck don’t go to help those “others” in the urban areas.
    I have sympathy for people but after they (politically) repeatedly shoot themselves in the foot and demand that “justice” requires all others to do the same I start to give them short shift.

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