Poor People Must Die…
Or other nonsense thinking that shouldn’t be said out loud, but just might be this election season.
Nonsense or hateful.
I’m still deciding which words fits best.
I’d like to tell you a story about a little girl who grew up in San Diego back in the 1970s. When she was little, her mom suffered a quick decline into mental illness. On the surface, Mama Bubbles was sweet and sane, but behind closed doors she was often suicidal and depended on her daughter, Lil Bubbles, for a lot.
A lot of years were spent living on and off public assistance. We’d (yes, this story is about me) have wonderful months without worrying about money and then we’d have terrible months when we’d ‘make do’ with whatever food we had in the house for a few days, always the last days of the month. Even now, I hate spaghetti and cabbage.
Since we lived in California, I never went without health insurance when we were having ‘tough, pull yourself up by your bootstrap times’ but I always thought it was so interesting that while it was okay for poor children to see a doctor, it wasn’t okay for sick children who, because of circumstance, were born outside of the country. Who knew that ‘sick’ knows nationalities.
I think that for many reasons, my mom chose to live the way she did because she grew up with wealth. It always felt like she was trying so hard to make her way in life without her family, and instead, the state became our family for a big part of my childhood.
Once a year we had to do something called ‘recertification’ – which is really just a fancy word for ‘grovel at the feet of case workers making very little money’. I used to hate these meetings because they would always ask the same questions: Why do you have a car (to take my grandmother to the doctor each week and, if you’re from California, you know you can’t exist without a car) and why do you look so nice if you’re poor (because all poor people should be dirty).
I left out the question marks in those questions because at the time, they felt like accusations. Even before I learned about racial and gender equality issues, I knew that they were saying we should have been dirty and kept our eyes down in order to qualify for food stamps or medi-cal.
And I hated them.
My mother, to her great credit, never caved. She was mentally ill and incapable of working outside of the home because of panic attacks that would cause her to hyperventilate. She kept me and my sister in a perfectly kept apartment, she made sure we went to school, she fed us, took us on getaways so we would never think our block was the only existence life could give us and she told us we could do better.
It’s been 24 years since I lived in that apartment, and 24 years since I have taken anything from the government other than the taxes I always seem to overpay. It’s almost become my life’s mission to never ask anyone for anything. That’s part of poverty. You become so hateful of having to ask that you often overlook even what is given freely.
That’s okay, though, because I want him to be my president even less than he wants my vote.
As a single parent I have a lot to think about on a daily basis – being concerned that someone who hates me might be shaping policy in a few weeks shouldn’t be one of them, but it is.
If you’re a minority, or you earn less than a million dollars, or you’ve ever had a moment where your bootstraps needed to be replaced and you’ve asked for any kind of help, or you simply believe that people have a right to love who they choose, or you’ve been legitimately raped…
Ask yourself if your little fingers can, in good conscience, vote for a party that really, openly hates you.
If your answer is still ‘yes’, then maybe you should ask yourself why. If you have no answer then we might just want to say you’ve got big problems – and it’s not fair you’d consider making those problems mine.