Tag Archives: poverty

Once more, after the breach

“I’m going to explain the Donald Trump phenomenon in three movies. And then some text.”   Source: How Half Of America Lost Its F**king Mind

Salty language in that article, but David Wong hits on a number of important themes that will need to be addressed after Nov. 7, regardless of who wins the election.

Actually, if Hillary wins, I think these become even more important.

You might assume that the Cracked article is just another rant at rednecks and “mouth-breathers” on the alt-right who wave around white supremacy code at Trump rallies….. but it isn’t. Wong grew up in rural America, and he knows that folks in the rural areas are caught in a devastating wave of poverty and unemployment.

Unless our local, state, and national leaders work to address the grinding poverty of rural America, the tsunami of hate and ugliness that drove so much of Trump’s voting block will crash on us all over again. The rural struggle is real, and we nee to be listening.

See, rural jobs used to be based around one big local business — a factory, a coal mine, etc. When it dies, the town dies. Where I grew up, it was an oil refinery closing that did us in. I was raised in the hollowed-out shell of what the town had once been. The roof of our high school leaked when it rained. Cities can make up for the loss of manufacturing jobs with service jobs — small towns cannot. That model doesn’t work below a certain population density.

If you don’t live in one of these small towns, you can’t understand the hopelessness. The vast majority of possible careers involve moving to the city, and around every city is now a hundred-foot wall called “Cost of Living.” …

In a city, you can plausibly aspire to start a band, or become an actor, or get a medical degree. You can actually have dreams. In a small town, there may be no venues for performing arts aside from country music bars and churches. There may only be two doctors in town — aspiring to that job means waiting for one of them to retire or die. You open the classifieds and all of the job listings will be for fast food or convenience stores. The “downtown” is just the corpses of mom and pop stores left shattered in Walmart’s blast crater, the “suburbs” are trailer parks. There are parts of these towns that look post-apocalyptic.

I’m telling you, the hopelessness eats you alive.

And if you dare complain, some liberal elite will pull out their iPad and type up a rant about your racist white privilege. Already, someone has replied to this with a comment saying, “You should try living in a ghetto as a minority!” Exactly. To them, it seems like the plight of poor minorities is only used as a club to bat away white cries for help. Meanwhile, the rate of rural white suicides and overdoses skyrockets. Shit, at least politicians act like they care about the inner cities.

I live in South Carolina, in the suburbs of a small city. Within 10 minutes, I can be driving a country road passing trailer parks, abandoned textile mills, and patch towns where no core business exists. People talk about trying to pull in industry to SC to provide jobs, and several governors have had success at this — BMW, Fuji, Boeing, Michelin, Bosch and many others drive a manufacturing economy that employs thousands and scrapes to find enough technically skilled workers to man their factory floors. You can build the shiny factories, but that doesn’t put those jobs in reach of someone living in a town of 1,000 people 70 minutes away.

America is doing a poor job of funding worker education, adult education and retraining, and relocation programs to help people get established in a new town where jobs exist.

This breach between rural and urban will continue to drive American politics until we can develop ways to address the deep, underlying problems. Unless we resign ourselves to going once more, into the breach of ugly political division.

Worth Reading This Week: Film, Helping the Poor, School Desegregation, and Racism (Oh my!)

Two reads and one listen that are more than worth your time.

I’ll open with what I think is the best of the three, though it will require a longer time investment.

Episodes 562 and 563 of This American Life delve into a topic people stopped talking about years ago: school integration.  “Separate but equal” schools were rejected as a solution by the Supreme Court 60 years ago, yet many inner-city minority students live in a world in which their schools are measurably inferior to the surrounding suburban schools where all the money resides.  As rich schools get richer, we must confront the increasing data that supports continued integration of schools across racial lines as a solution to the achievement gap.

Or to be really blunt about it: The Gospel might mean I should love my neighbor enough to send my kid to a worse school so that families with few other options for their kids can benefit from the effects of my (white) privilege.

Controversial enough for you?  Good. Give it a listen.
Also, if you aren’t shaking with anger and grief during the audio of the parent meeting in St. Louis in 2013, you have no soul.

This American Life: The Problem We All Live With (#562)

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Second, I commend this dense but readable essay that suggests Christians should stop fighting a PR war and focus attention on the daily, hard work of loving the people around us.  It’s not rocket science. But it takes work … when it’s a lot easier just to snap a selfie at a rally or #StandWith on Twitter or complain about how the Church isn’t helping the poor. (That last line is for you, John)

If you Love the Poor for the sake of the Favs and RTs, it will destroy you. Even doing it for the love of others can tear you apart, constantly peeling the onion of intersectionality until you’re a crying mess. Loving the Poor for the praise of Our Father In Heaven, as Jesus told us to do, might involve just as much crying, but it at least gives you something beyond yourself that you can hold on to when you have no idea whether or not you’re actually loving people or loving the thing you’re building for them or loving the way they make you feel.

Loving the Poor: Pics or It Didn’t Happen (from CAPC)

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Finally, this essay about how watching films changes us for the better because it trains our hearts to empathize is well worth a read. Again, a little denser than I’d like for a casual piece, but absolutely worth your time.  Brought back lots of great memories from the time I read James K. A. Smith’s excellent book Desiring the Kingdom.

Irrigating Deserts: How Film Transforms and Causes Us to Love Our Neighbors (From CAPC)

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OK, I lied. One more.

All the hoopla over Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman hasn’t produced in me any desire to read it. I’m familiar enough with the shape of the tale and the surrounding metanarrative of how a reclusive author at the end of her life suspiciously agreed to release a manuscript she never wanted published.

This is the first article I’ve read which makes me think perhaps GSAW is worth a read after all.

“I am Atticus”: Racism and Vision in Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman

Link: My Problem With Capitalism | adayinhiscourt

An outstanding post from my friend John today. Commended reading.

Those people for whom the system doesn’t work, be they those who are born without the prerequisite cognitive abilities needed to prosper or be they those who, because of life circumstances that they had absolutely zero control over, had serious obstacles placed in their life’s path, are why I’m troubled by the full-bore commitment to capitalism within certain segments of the Republican party. I don’t see how they have rightfully interacted with the fact that there are people living in our country for whom upward mobility is not attainable without help.

Even if I were to concede that it’s possible for a person to pull himself or herself up by the bootstraps, what about those individuals who don’t have any bootstraps with which to pull themselves up by? Look, my capitalist Republican friends, I agree with you that the best way to build wealth and security is through the free market. I agree that the future counterparts of my home improvement store co-workers will have a higher standard of living if free market principles are allowed to run their course. But what about today? What about those for whom the system doesn’t work? What about the children going to bed hungry tonight? How does capitalism feed and comfort them? How does capitalism acknowledge that we’re not created equal, and that some of us need help? How does capitalism help people for whom the bottom rung of the ladder of success is out of their reach to grasp that rung?

via My Problem With Capitalism | adayinhiscourt.

Link: why isn’t poverty getting more news coverage?

Ran across this article today in the Guardian. Recommend giving it a read. As America tries to drag itself out of recession, 15% of people here live under the poverty line. Why isn’t that a news story?

The Pew Research Cen­ter’s Project for Excel­lence in Jour­nal­ism found that out of 52 main­stream media out­lets analysed, cov­er­age of pover­ty amount­ed to less than 1% of avail­able news space from 2007 to 2012. It’s even more aston­ish­ing con­sid­er­ing that peri­od cov­ered a his­toric reces­sion.

One of the report’s con­clu­sions was that media orga­ni­za­tions chose not to cover pover­ty because it was poten­tial­ly uncom­fort­able to adver­tis­ers seek­ing to reach a wealthy con­sumer audi­ence. As Bar­bara Ehren­re­ich, who con­tributes arti­cles on social issues for Time Mag­a­zine, put it:

They don’t want real­ly depress­ing arti­cles about mis­ery and hard­ship near their ads.

guardian: About 15% of Americans live in poverty

In fact, the Long Haul is going to cost us something

Guess I’m on a roll.

Couple days ago, an article sparked me to write about the gaping hole in the pro-life movement. If you’re going to declare yourself an advocate for LIFE, then you’d better be prepared for what that’s going to cost you.

It’s not fashionable in America right now to speak of inconvenient truths.

Like the way the Gospel calls us to care for widows and orphans, and to take up for the oppressed, the immigrant, the poor, even the person who has no voice or advocate.

Instead, it’s cool to be all Tea Party and “responsible” and strip people of benefits just when they most need them. Welfare spending is at an all-time low, despite the Great Recession grinding family income down to barely livable levels. Bonus points if you’re attacking poor women on welfare, because those ladies exist to do nothing but birth babies and laugh in the face of taxpayers. (Please tell me you caught the sarcastic edge there.) (Actual demographics for TANF [formerly “welfare”] recipients these days.)

I’m getting distracted.

It’s really expensive to be poor.

1. I know a single mom who is stuck between having no money and losing what little financial assistance she can get if she’s lucky enough to find a job (which isn’t going to happen in this economy if all you have is a high school diploma). When a single parent goes to work, she receives fewer benefits – what little is available to families from the social welfare system. So if a full-time worker at a minimum-wage job (5 days a week, 52 weeks a year) earns barely $19,000 – how is a family supposed to make it out of poverty? How is mom supposed to juggle full-time work and a lack of child care?

2. We know some people who don’t have a car or any way to get one.  Remember that point about how expensive it is to be poor? (Did you read the article? At least go skim the first page…..I’ll wait)  If you don’t have money to afford to save money, and if you live here in Anderson where public transportation is a joke, how do you get around without a car?

3. I know a young lady who’s probably going to be homeless in a few weeks, barring some awesome miracles. She has no car, so she needs to live within a mile or so of where she works. It’s a minimum wage job and she’s not working a lot of hours, so there’s absolutely no money for rent. Got a suggestion for her?

4. Food stamps don’t provide enough food for a family. If you’re not giving food regularly to families you know who are in a tough financial position, they’re probably dealing with hunger or food insecurity (not knowing whether you’ll have enough food for the day/week/month).  I urge you to donate regularly to shelters, food pantries, and other food ministries like Anderson Interfaith Ministries.  And please don’t assume that it’s easy for people in need to get to a food pantry when it’s open. Or that families with food allergies can actually use the food available there, because often it’s boxed or canned and full of allergins.

4b. Better yet, plant a garden in your backyard and donate half of it to people who need it.  I’ll happily give you my address – we know folks who love fresh vegetables but struggle to afford them.  The Generous Garden Project offers tips & resources.

What’s missing in all of these stories?  Social capital. Resources. The network of people who help you make it when times get tough.

For the past year, my husband and I have had no choice but to rely on God’s good grace expressed through the love and wallets of His people to pay our bills each month while he’s been unemployed and in grad school. (The unemployment has lasted a lot longer than we’d expected / hoped.)

It’s not to diminish God’s provision at all to note that we usually get help from people who already know us, or by means of our education and professional experience (which led to first my job, now my husband’s, plus multiple freelancing opportunities throughout the past year).

The “system” has nothing to offer the person who’s cut off from a community who cares, who lacks the social network of aid.

The Chalmers Center, connected to Covenant College, does a lot of work with economic development and poverty both in the US and abroad. I heard one of their staff members speak last fall, Andy Jones. He defined poverty basically as being stripped of any meaningful relationships.

Put simply, when you’re poor, it’s not so much that you lack money. It’s that no one gives a damn. 

The Gospel calls us to change that, and it’s going to take much, much more than money. Giving money is easy. Coming alongside someone in the midst of their mess — thats going to really cost you something.

All of the situations listed above are real.  If you have a working, reliable car to donate, money for the family who needs a house and the money to afford living in it, a lead for an apartment on Clemson Blvd, or other resources for the people I’ve mentioned, leave a comment on this post or message me on Facebook.

If you want to give financial support to a ministry in our county that does incredible work for people in need, I recommend AIM, Safe Harbor, Under His Wings/Haven of Rest, and Calvary Home for Children.  They’re worth their weight in gold….more importantly, they really do need “gold” to get their work done.