Sunday, September 25, 2016

Just Love Those Facebook Memes

Another oversimplified Facebook Meme that blames the victim.

…So there’s this little liberal do-gooder girl who wants to save homeless people.

She is offered $50 by a homeowner to do his garden chores. He says she could then help the homeless guy/woman on the corner by giving the $50 to the homeless guy/woman.

The little girl suddenly realizes something and says to the homeowner “The homeless guy/woman could just do the gardening and get the $50 for doing the work him/herself.

The homeowner smiles and says to the little girl, “Welcome to the Republican Party.”

These cute stories are meant to simplify a complex problem and villainize the poor and indigent without actually offering any viable solutions: let the homeless losers work for their dinner.

If only it were that simple. I worked for a homeless shelter and know something about the complexity of the problem of homelessness and the difficulty people have trying to get their lives back on track. Those who do must overcome formidable obstacles with a determination most Facebook posters can’t fathom.

What details are left out of this cute little story?

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman is a Vietnam Veteran who’s either lost a job or could no longer hold a job? (…/specific…/homeless-veterans)

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman had a catastrophic accident or illness and lost everything because of medical bills? (

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman was prescribed pain killers and now has an addiction and engages in criminal activity to feed his addiction?

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman has been incarcerated and no one will hire him because of the application question “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” (

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman suffers from schizophrenia or manic depressive disorder and is unable to procure medication or medical care?

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman was a victim of Ronald Reagan, a Republican who was instrumental in shutting down mental hospitals all over the country and putting hundreds of thousands of mental patients out on the street? (…/consequences-…/2058)

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman has a medical condition that is debilitating?

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman does not have the computer skills necessary to fill out endless on-line job applications?

Or could it be that he/she does not even possess decent clothing to go on a job interview?

Could it be that the homeless guy/woman has no permanent address or phone number which an employer requires of all job applicants? Because he/she lives in a shelter at night but must vacate the premises with all his worldly possessions during the day.

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman actually has a part-time job and is required to pay a fee to the homeless shelter in exchange for room and board?

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman has an alcohol or drug addiction so is not eligible to remain in a shelter and cannot get into rehab without a social work referral?

Could it be that this homeless guy/woman had job training and has applied for 50 jobs and been turned down 50 times?

Could it be that this homeless person is a woman who’s been abused by a husband or boyfriend and had nowhere to go except to a shelter.

And back to the wonderful homeowner: will this middle-class Republican really hire a dirty, smelly, ragged-looking homeless person with alcohol on his/her breath?

And if this amazing homeowner would actually hire the homeless guy/woman, would he be willing to provide guidance and patiently show the homeless guy/woman what the garden job entailed and how to do it?

So the homeless guy/woman gets $50 for working for a day doing garden chores. Then what? The wonderful, generous Republican homeowner feels justified for helping a fellow human being who goes back to the street corner no better off that he/she was before.

Is this wonderfully generous home owner going to give him a permanent job? or job training? or education? or pay for his/her drug treatment? or pay his/her medical insurance? $50 doesn’t go far. Maybe as far as the next bottle or needle.

Is this wonderful, kind law-abiding Republican homeowner going to deduct federal income tax, social security and medicare from the $50. And pay workman’s comp and unemployment tax?

How long does the homeless guy/woman have to work in the garden in order to save enough for two month’s rent and a security deposit on a small apartment?

And let’s say this homeless guy/woman has diabetes and it is under control because he has Medicaid benefits…and then he gets a part time job, but not a living-wage and without health insurance (because that is how employers get away with not giving benefits - the Republican way of doing business). But then he makes too much money to remain on Medicaid but not nearly enough to pay for health insurance, even under the Affordable Care Act…why should he take such a job, lose health care and put his health and life in jeopardy?

So put the homeless to work to earn their welfare check: Oh, No! You’ll be taking jobs away from city or state workers, or other more deserving folk who are looking for jobs. Making welfare recipients earn their welfare is tantamount to giving them money, because giving them jobs is still giving.

Welcome to the Republican Party indeed! Telling people to “get a job” is just a white, classist, privileged cop-out.

…So little girl, volunteer at a homeless shelter, run for office and support real, viable, person-centered programs to end homelessness. And let that homeowner pay a landscaper real wages to get his gardening done.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

What Started As A Travelogue...

As I write this on the morning of September 20th, we are on the last leg of our trip through the Texas panhandle, heading back to New Mexico, our home for less than a year so far. We left Cochiti Lake on August 30, with our ultimate destination being Provincetown, Massachusetts.

We spent a week in Connecticut visiting friends and family and tending to some business matters that we had left behind when we moved. Our Weimador Benni, got to spend time with his soulmate, a black Czechoslovakian Shepard named Katija back in Connecticut and it was quite delightful to see them reconnect and run through the woods playing the same games that they used to play.

The days in Provincetown were glorious. September weather on the Cape can be spectacular, barring a passing hurricane and the crowds have thinned out to where the beaches are nearly deserted and restaurants have open tables for dinner. Maybe the best part is that there are fewer rangers in the park so Benni got to swim in the ocean without being tethered to a leash and we got to soak up the sun on Boys’ Beach.

Eight solid days of driving through a large chunk of the United States - four days out, four days back.When we left New Mexico, one of the last things we did was to cover up our “gay” bumper stickers - the rainbow flag and the Equality symbol, a precaution we had never thought necessary before. But we would be driving through a country that now seems to have permission, not only to hate, but to express that hate openly and sometimes violently.

It is telling that my husband and I do not feel entirely comfortable in some of the flatter states. This is not a reflection on the relative safety of mountainous terrain versus flat lands but merely a way to avoid the red/blue labels that have become, I think, unjustly political, and uninformative.

It is just very sad that we feel uncomfortable at all - in parts of our own country - whether or not our discomfort is justified or whether we have reason to be apprehensive.

The eight days of driving through a slice of the USA is at least interesting, if not enlightening. States as diverse as New Mexico, Texas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Indiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts are all part of this seemingly Divided and dis-United States. (And so much of it sadly littered with the debris of our collective and individual pursuit of happiness.)

I try to look at the inhabitants of the countryside as people with families, jobs, friends, gardens, cars, chores, loves, feelings, arguments, mortgages, bills, memories, possessions, ice cream, vacations, illnesses, tragedies, education, tooth-aches, sex-lives, picnics to go to, secrets, pets, and values, among all the other things that involve being human.

And I try to fathom how, given our common experience we have become so divided.

But I am not able to find a clue, an event, a reason, a single shared life experience that has divided us into camps and made this the reality we live in.

It sometimes seems as if there are two different human races on this planet.

I am beginning to think that there TRULY is something in our genes, in our DNA that compels us to take sides, to see reality through very different lenses, to interpret the world as either an exciting experiment or as something carved in stone.

Do some of us value and hold dear to what we know to the point of being afraid of anything different or new, or shades of gray, or ambiguity of any kind, and feel so threatened by the other?

Is it some inborn trait that makes others of us thrive on possibilities, ideas, change, growth, distrust of the status-quo or to see the black-white dichotomy as too limited and feel threatened by constraint?

Perhaps there is a real dichotomy that is not based on gender or color or sexual orientation or national origin.

Perhaps our genetic makeup has somehow sorted us into two separate but (dis)similar species.

Photos in no particular order:


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