Message vs. Money

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Nobody who has ever experienced the reality of poverty could say “it’s not the money, it’s the message”. When your flat has been broken into, and you cannot afford a locksmith, it is the money. When you are two pence short of a tin of baked beans, and your child is hungry, it is the money. When you find yourself contemplating shoplifting to get nappies, it is the money. If Mr Cameron’s only practical advice to women living in poverty, the sole carers of their children, is “get married, and we’ll give you £150”, he reveals himself to be completely ignorant of their true situation.

The Single Mother’s Manifesto by JK Rowling

David Morely Warwick Blog: The Single Mother’s Manifesto

 

I have The Power (of the Internet)!

After three weeks of problem solving and negotiating with internet service providers I can now say – I HAVE INTERNET!

I feel like I should stand outside (in the snow) with a sword over my head and shout “I have the power!”

Wish List: The Slave-Free City Summit

Did you know there was an entire conference devoted to finding ways to create cities and towns that are entirely slave-free? It’s true! It’s called the Slave Free City Summit and I’m waiting waiting waiting to find out when and where the 2017 summit is going to happen because I really want to go!

Here’s the 2016 promo ad on vimeo:

Respect and The 2016 Election

The election is over and I am sitting here in stunned silence, mulling over the same questions so many others are asking: Why? How? What do we do now? I have no concrete answers. Instead, I have decided to share the following responses and observations in the hopes that it will encourage communication and positive discussion.

Respect is Important

Long before the election started, I made the conscious decision to stop posting political memes and liberal-rants on Facebook. Instead, I started posting the memes to my Human Rights and Political Pinterest boards. Liberal commentary is placed here on my blog and in answers to questions posted to Quora.

Why? In a word: Respect.

Like most middle age adults with a Facebook account, my friends list contains a wide and varied array of personalities. I have known entirely to many people, and survived far to many life-experiences, to restrict my community to a single political mindset. People come into your life and stay for a while. Life changes occur and some people fade away while others remain in contact through phone, mail or social media platforms like Facebook. In my case, many of the neighborhood kids from my childhood  have grown up to become right wing, conservative, Trump-supporting adults.

I started to realize that my liberal leaning memes and occasional rants were showing up on other people’s timelines in a manner that was analogous to forcing my own strong and entirely unasked for opinions into the face of every person on my list. It felt invasive and disrespectful. That feeling that someone really and truly does not respect you or your opinions is a powerful and negative force and it was turning a useful tool for communicating with other people into a relationship breaking wedge.  This was entirely counter to my reasons for using Facebook, so I decided to make a change.

Dangerous Dodge Ball

Facebook also illustrated the fact that memes and internet posting do nothing to change opinions or modify behaviors. Instead, the standard response seemed to be heightened emotion and stubborn digging-in-the-heels demands that one side admit that the other side was wrong.

It felt like a high stakes and highly competitive game of virtual dodge ball. Conservatives vs liberals! The levels of emotion (desperation, fear) and verbal viciousness escalated with every throw. This was not a positive contribution to the discussion or a productive movement toward any political effort or objective.

When I stopped posting memes and rants, I made the personal decision to remove myself from Facebook debates while continuing to participate in discussions on other forums (e.g.: WordPress and Quora). This required making the conscious effort to restrict my own participation to those moments when I really felt commentary was warranted and/or necessary, which proved to be relatively rare – an interesting fact worth examining in more depth at another time.

Instead, I took the opportunity to watch. What I observed on both Facebook and Quora were reactions similar to those detailed in Arlie Russell Hochschild‘s Strangers in Their Own Land. For example:

When we sat down a week later to sweet teas at a local Starbucks, I asked Madonna what she loved about Limbaugh. “His criticism of ‘femi-nazis,’ you know, feminists, women who want to be equal to men.” I absorbed that for a moment. Then she asked what I thought, and after I answered, she remarked, “But you’re nice . . .” From there, we went through Limbaugh’s epithets (“commie libs,” “environmental wackos”). Finally, we came to Madonna’s basic feeling that Limbaugh was defending her against insults she felt liberals were lobbing at her: “Oh, liberals think that Bible-believing Southerners are ignorant, backward, rednecks, losers. They think we’re racist, sexist, homophobic, and maybe fat.” Her grandfather had struggled as a desperately poor Arkansas sharecropper. She was a gifted singer, beloved by a large congregation, a graduate of a two-year Bible college, and a caring mother of two. In this moment, I began to recognize the power of blue-state catcalls taunting red state residents. Limbaugh was a firewall against liberal insults thrown at her and her ancestors, she felt. Was the right-wing media making them up to stoke hatred, I wondered, or were there enough blue-state insults to go around? The next time I saw Madonna, she was interested to know if it had been hard for me to hear what she’d said. I told her it wasn’t. “I do that too sometimes,” she said, “try to get myself out of the way to see what another person feels.”

Vindication and ‘Stupid Jokes’

After the election, right-wing Facebook posts appeared which specifically expressed anger over the left-wing portrayal of conservatives as uneducated or lacking intelligence. The fact that Trump won has been held up as proof that conservatives are actually very intelligent.

This is not the only highly emotional and very personal anger being expressed, but it’s an excellent example of the negative affects of politically divided communities throwing insults at one another for an extended period of time.

Among middle and lower class whites education level and perceived intelligence are long-standing targets. Put bluntly, the left tends to portray the right as being inherently and hopelessly stupid and ignorant. It’s a sore spot with many conservatives on an individual and personal level. When liberals talk about the lack of education among conservatives what people on the other side of the political wall hear is “you (personally) are laughably dumb.”

Regardless of your political affiliation, please take the time to fully understand this:

There is a difference between intelligent and educated.

The existence, or lack thereof, of an education is neither proof nor measurement of an individual’s intellectual potential or capabilities.

A degree is proof that an individual has established, and achieved, a goal. Nothing more, nothing less.

People Being People

For every vote cast during this election there is a long list of unique and personal reasons why that vote was cast. It is not reasonable to suggest that Trump won because (and only because) a large number of people were feeling vindictive about enduring many years of ‘stupid jokes’ thrown by members of the political left.

HOWEVER, it has become clear to me that there are a good number of people who are feeling vindicated. In their opinion, electing Trump has effectively thrown those very insults back into the face of every person who ever uttered them. That’s powerful emotion – and there is no doubt in my mind that it played a crucial role in the decision making process.

While it is perfectly valid to argue that an individual’s hurt feelings over childish insults is not a logical or valid reason for selecting a president, it is equally valid to note that, in some cases, the insults were unnecessary and inappropriate. Human beings are always emotional and (sadly) frequently irrational creatures. Emotional reactions lead to actions.

It is an important reality to consider.

History is Today – As Seem From Tomorrow

The 2016 election was the moment in recent history (there have been many moments prior to this) when the political divide and mud slinging intersected with our country’s  history of slavery, brutality, racism, white supremacy, sexism, homophobia, religious supremacy and other similarly nasty things. No matter how much anyone wanted to believe these things had been eliminated, they never actually went away. All of it was still there, lying just below the surface of our everyday lives.

The ugly beast used the election as an opportunity to raise it’s awful head and show us all just how BIG and POWERFUL it really was. Terrifying and eye opening, it left many people wondering whether or not elections have do-overs or political morning-after pills (actually, as it turns out, they do).

On “Woke” White People Advertising their Shock that Racism just won a Presidency by Courtney Parker West makes many excellent points on the topic of long-standing racism existing (thriving?), yet remaining unacknowledged by most white people in the United States. She does this far better than I ever could. Please read her article. Here’s a quote:

More white people than I can count, people who are quick to profess themselves as oh-so-woke, have expressed some real shock and dismay not only at the election results, but at the racism, sexism, xenophobia, and bigotry that paved the way to those results. And this is not just me surmising what has them all up in their feelings. This is me reading their words…

Respect and Fear – Actions and Emotions

Right now there are a lot of people who are afraid – myself included.

Trump’s campaign was entirely devoid of respect. When people say he ‘tells it like it is,’ they are referring to many months of one bigger-than-life white-male looking every non-straight, non-white, non-Christian community in the eye, lifting his middle finger and saying ‘fuck you!’

Trump’s campaign clearly and blatantly used racist slurs and sexist commentary. Trump bragged about participating in rape, made overt calls for violence against anyone who opposed him and gleefully utilized a litany of similar tactics that should have stood as a warning sign to everyone. Every. One.

Now that the election is over, it doesn’t matter who he chooses for his cabinet or what proposals he makes to congress, he has shown complete and absolute lack of respect for massive numbers of people. The trust of a significant portion of the US population was irrevocably lost before the election started. That kind of breach effectively eliminated the possibility of gaining trust at some point in the future.

Right now, the FEAR is everywhere. It’s tangible. It’s also exacerbated by an increase in hate crimes and threatening behavior on the part of individuals who heard Trump’s call for violence and liked it…LOVED IT….took it literally….and jumped on the opportunity to get out there and take action:

Ada Gonzalez was about to drop off her son, one of the few Hispanic students at his school, on Wednesday in Ventura, California, when she says she noticed a group of fifth graders chanting “Build a wall!” In Rochester, New York, pride flags were burned outside homes. Elsewhere, a teacher reported that a 10-year-old girl had to be picked up from school after a boy grabbed her vagina, saying if a president can do it, he can, too.

After Trump’s Election, Americans React With Tweets–And Donations, Forbes

“We have seen Klan literature drops, we have seen that suicide hotlines are ringing off the hook, and we are hearing of very extensive bullying in and around schools,” a senior fellow at the Southern Poverty Law Center said.

Rash of Hate Crimes’ Reported Day After Trump’s Election, NBC Chicago

The incidents, some that bring up memories of the Jim Crow era, continued into Friday. In Philadelphia, the University of Pennsylvania issued a statement saying it was working to find the source of racist messages sent to black freshmen, and in Syracuse, N.Y., a group of pickup trucks – one draped with the Confederate flag – drove through an anti-Trump rally. In Columbus, Ohio, a man banged on the car window while a Muslim woman was driving, her children and elderly parents with her, and told her, “C–t, you don’t belong in this country,” according to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, based in Washington.

All those were added to the list of incidents that included black children being told to get to the back of a bus and Latino children being taunted about the wall that Trump promised to build between Mexico and the United States.

Post-election spate of hate crimes worse than post-9/11, experts say, USA Today

Reports of racist graffiti, hate crimes post-election, CNN

Significant numbers of non-white, non-straight, non-Christian and most non-male citizens (and many more communities along with them) are preparing for the worst – as in they-are-coming-for-you-and-your-children WORST-CASE SCENARIO.

While some members of the conservative right may feel vindicated by this election, many more members of the liberal left feel threatened. Both sides are feeling disrespected.

If there is one thing that I have learned from this election, it is this: never underestimate the power and importance of respect.

The Difference Between Obama and Trump

Here is the difference between Obama and Trump…

2008 Election

After the 2008 election, people all over the United States were LITERALLY dancing in the streets.

The AP Archives

In Harlem, thousands of people, black and white, took to the streets, some dancing, others crying tears of joy…

In Miami, honking horns and fireworks greeted news of Obama’s victory. In Seattle, people poured out of bars, restaurants and houses in the streets near historic Pike Place Market…

But the biggest celebration was in Chicago, Obama’s hometown, where several hundred thousand people jammed the streets as the president-elect addressed the nation from Grant Park.

The downtown park — where police fought anti-war protesters during the turbulent 1968 Democratic National Convention — was transformed by white tents and a stage lined with American flags and hung with red, white and blue bunting.

Tear of Joy, dancing in streets over Obama win, NBC News

2016 Election

After the 2016 election, people are violently confronting one another in the street, hate crimes are on the rise and people are expressing increasing levels of fear.

Day 1 in Trump’s America, Twitter

Pulling from news reports, social media, and direct submissions at the Southern Poverty Law Center’s website, the SPLC had counted 201 incidents of election-related harassment and intimidation across the country as of Friday, November 11 at 5pm. These range from anti-Black to anti-woman to anti-LGBT incidents. There were many examples of vandalism and epithets directed at individuals. Often times, types of harassment overlapped and many incidents, though not all, involved direct references to the Trump campaign. Every incident could not be immediately independently verified.

Over 200 Incidents of Hateful Harassment and Intimidation Since Election Day, SPLC

A black woman from Rehoboth Beach, Delaware, also tells how she was threatened with a gun when pumping gas. Four white men pulled up and started talking about how they wouldn’t have to deal with black people much longer, she wrote on Facebook. “How scared are you, you black b****h?” she said one of the men shouted at her.

Racist attacks sparked by Donald Trump’s US election win, International Business Times

Posts show Illinois college students wearing blackface and posing in front a confederate flag while one man showed his vandalized car with a racial slur painted across the windshield. In classrooms, white students, some as young as kindergarten age, have been reportedly chanting “cotton picker” and “heil Hitler” at black students while Muslim women have shown concern for wearing a hijab in public.

‘Day 1 in Trump’s America’ Highlights Racist Acts, Violent Threats, Rolling Stone

 

Election Response: Here’s Why We Grieve

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We’re not angry that our candidate lost. We’re angry because our candidate’s losing means this country will be less safe, less kind, and less available to a huge segment of its population, and that’s just the truth.

Those who have always felt vulnerable are now left more so. Those whose voices have been silenced will be further quieted. Those who always felt marginalized will be pushed further to the periphery. Those who feared they were seen as inferior now have confirmation in actual percentages.

Those things have essentially been campaign promises of Donald Trump, and so many of our fellow citizens have said this is what they want too.

Here’s Why We Grieve Today, Stuff That Needs To Be Said (blog), by John Pavlovitz

James Monroe and the American People

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Image Source: Wordery.com

JAMES MONROE FIRST INAUGURAL ADDRESS TUESDAY, MARCH 4, 1817

The American people have encountered together great dangers and sustained severe trials with success. They constitute one great family with a common interest.

United States Presidents’ Inaugural Speeches by United States. Presidents.

 

What To Do When You Are Facing Homelessness

This is a followup to my post How To Help Someone Facing Homelessness.

The events that ultimately result in homelessness are wide and varied. There are literally thousands (millions?) of stories behind the financial emergencies that ultimately result in homelessness.

However, when facing the reality of homelessness, focusing on the reasons behind the current crisis is a luxury you do not have. Here are a list of actions to take and facts to consider. (Note: This information is specific to the United States of America.)

All Homeless, Regardless of Age

  • Contact every trustworthy human being you know. Ask for suggestions and help.If there is an option other than the sleeping on the street, take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced you have.
  • Contact every non-profit, government agency and similar resource you have. If they have help to offer (including advice) take it. Do not stop until you have exhausted every last resourced available.
  • Keep your mind fierce. You are human and worthy of respect. Remain focused on moving through this crisis and into something better. People will try to tear you down mentally and emotionally because they can. Predators will try to convince you that you are worthless and should just give up. Don’t let them succeed.
  • Be polite and practice gratitude for all help received. This for your own mental health. While it is extremely important to remain on good terms with trustworthy people who provide assistance, it is equally important to maintain a positive perspective. A meal at a soup kitchen isn’t fun, but it’s keeping you alive and well-enough fed to avoid a mindset of desperation. Desperate people make bad decisions. remain grateful, recognize the necessity in what little you receive and force yourself to believe that things will get better.
  • The party isn’t worth it. I don’t care who is going to be there or how tired you are of talking to people, politely asking for help and getting verbally kicked-in-the-teeth for trying. Do not go to any parties or bars.  If you are under-aged or if anyone there has illegal drugs and the police show up, you will find yourself on a fast train to prison. When you are homeless, association and prejudice are the law of the land. Without money, you can’t pay for a lawyer – and people who hate the homeless (of which there are many) know this. Avoid those circumstances like the plague.
  • Remember your place. Frankly, it’s unfair and frequently degrading, but it’s reality. Review the expectations of Deserving VS Undeserving Poor and learn to play the game. Simply going out for a beer, and being seen by the decision-maker of XYZ non-profit, can result in being denied for all sorts of necessary services. Being impolite to the wrong representative can trigger a cascade of nasty phone calls that will stretch out your homelessness and/or make your life significantly worse. There are many truly good people who are really and honestly trying to help people facing financial emergencies, poverty and homelessness. Sadly, there are also plenty of spiteful-gossips (and a few predators) employed by those same agencies. When you are homeless, you do not have the luxury of responding to nasty people in the manner in which they deserve.
  • Trust no one: This applies to everyone but anyone under 21 must be doubly careful. There are nasty adults who will offer desperate children ‘help’ – and the result is far worse than sleeping on the streets. Be careful. Be very VERY careful.

Ages 0 to 12

  • Ask your friends for help. Can you stay at their place for a while?
  • Talk to your teachers and counselors at school. Ask for resources and suggestions for places to stay.
  • Talk to coaches or youth workers at local community centers and organizations like the Boys and Girls Club, the YMCA, the YWCA and your place of worship.
  • Contact other family members and/or every trustworthy adult you can locate and ask for help. If you are going to be placed in foster care, then making contact with trustworthy family will significantly help your situation.
  • If you are avoiding DHS and trying to stay out of foster care, then find other kids and team up. A child on the street alone is an easy target. Being properly housed and protected by trustworthy adults is better, but (when that’s not possible) there’s some safety in numbers.
  • Contact government agencies. DHS (a state managed program falling under HHS) is not the only government agency offering assistance, Family and Youth Services Bureau has additional resources.
  • Locate a youth shelter and get connected to their services. (Hopefully they will have enough room for you to stay there instead of on the street). Sadly, there are far to few of these shelters available and many do not advertise. The local adult shelter will (should) know where these shelters can be found.
  • Contact the adult shelters and talk to the people who work there. They will not even consider providing services or allowing you to sleep at the shelter (don’t be surprised) but they will have connections to the organizations that provide assistance to homeless children.

Ages 13 to 15

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 12 applies to you.
  • Find a job. You are now legally able to work a W-2 (legal, above-board) job. Do everything you can to get one.
  • Get your GED. Dealing with homelessness and high school is both stressful and risky. With a GED you are legally eligible for a full-time job, which makes getting a permanent apartment (owned and paid for by you) significantly more possible. Missing out on high school can be a disappointment, but survival takes precedence. Completing a GED as soon as humanly possible directly (significantly) improves your chances of survival.

Ages 16 to 17

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 15 applies to you.
  • Get a drivers license and a car. Surviving homelessness is significantly easier when you have a car. Getting and keeping a job is also significantly easier when you have a car.
  • Join Job Corps. Job Corps provides assistance, jobs and training. If you qualify, take advantage of the program.
  • Research technical training programs. Don’t give up on the possibility of college, just plan to complete technical school first. This is long-term planning. being trained and certified as an automobile mechanic translates into immediate and reasonably well paying work. A bachelors degree in art does not.
  • Look for grants and scholarships. Talk to government agencies and social workers (and everyone else you can think of) and ask for help locating funds to pay for technical school.
  • Look for a women’s shelter. If you are 16, female and running from an abusive situation, a woman’s shelters will (should) provide assistance.
  • Contact an abuse hotline. If you are running from an abusive situation (regardless of gender) there are services available.

Ages 18 to 21

  • Everything listed in Ages 0 to 17 applies to you.
  • Keep looking for youth shelters. Adult shelters will not admit people under the age of 21. Some will not admit people under the age of 22.
  • Apply for assistance. You are an adult, so applying for assistance through government agencies is a possibility. Start filling out forms and keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).

Ages 22 and older

  • Look for an adult shelter. Adult shelters will now admit you – and youth shelters will (literally) refuse to unlock the door if you come knocking. Contact an adult shelter and talk to the people who work there. If the shelter is safer than the street, try to get admitted.
  • Get a car. Having a car greatly improves your ability to survive homelessness and get a job. If at all possible, get yourself a working and reliable vehicle.
  • Get your GED. If you don’t have a high school diploma or a GED, then make it your top priority. Not having one will make life very difficult.
  • Apply for assistance. Start locating agencies and filling out forms. Keep it up until you’ve applied for everything (EVERYTHING!).
  • Apply for the military. The military offers many benefits that are extremely helpful to people trying to get out of poverty. If you qualify and have a personality that is suited to the military, then it is an excellent choice. However, the military has a very specific and extreme culture. Not everyone is suited to the environment and early discharge does not look good on your record. If you realize the military is not a particularly good fit after joining, then do absolutely everything in your power to keep your nose clean. A dishonorable discharge is a HUGE BLACK MARK on your record. Employers rank this right up with a felony on your criminal record. Follow orders, remain polite and respectful and do not attend parties where drugs may be involved. Just be careful, finish your time, get an honorable discharge and move on with your life.
  • Get a job. Everyone you encounter will give you this advice. It’s going to become annoying very quickly. Bite back your pride, proceed with the job search and target the highest paying work you have the qualifications and skills to perform.
  • Apply for work through targeted work programs like those offered by the Goodwill, the Salvation Army, and non-profit Restaurants.
  • Apply for Senior Assistance. Be honest about your age. If you are old enough to qualify for programs targeting seniors (housing, employment, medical, etc), then take full advantage.