Tweets by @AndyTehNerd
Attention all US citizens: I am a taxpayer too! I’m not taking “your” money by lawfully requesting government assistance. But since I’m nice, I’ll make you deal. I’ll stop taking “your” money when you stop funding wars with mine.
I’m not always going to “look poor”. If you see me drinking a beer at a local meetup, that’s because I was living on ramen noodles and bean burritos the rest of the week. If you see me driving my car to said event, that’s because I made room in my budget for rising gas costs by once again not purchasing any health insurance whatsoever for myself. If you see me wearing a new shirt, that’s because the pre-paid cell phone I carry with me is never used, ever. If you see me paying rent, that’s because I had to sacrifice paying day care costs, and thus custody of my only child.
That being said, read this:
- I am poor, I exist, and I’m right here. Hi! Many people who meet and get to know me without knowing my background are rather surprised to find this out. It matters to me on a very personal level when people do things like make nasty comments or assumptions about poor people, or assume that everyone in a given space is wealthy, thereby erasing the fact that I exist and am present. There are better reasons to not be classist (namely: it’s just plain wrong) than worrying about whether a poor person will hear you, but assuming that I’m not poor or that poor people are not present adds insult to injury and creates another communication barrier.
- I may not look like what you imagine poor people should look like- but neither do most poor people. I’m smart, well-spoken, and a careful dresser. I’m highly educated because of financial aid. I avoid doing certain things and remember to do others because I don’t want to “look poor” and be judged for that. Then again, the commonly held stereotypes of poor people- that we’re stupid, “trashy,” lazy, waiting for handouts instead of taking care of ourselves, and so on- are just that, stereotypes, not true assessments based in reality. Just because I don’t match the stereotype doesn’t even necessarily make me unusual, just one more of so many different faces of being economically underprivileged.
- I need and deserve as much space to talk about my experiences as you do to talk about yours. Talking about money- especially money one doesn’t have- is considered crass and impolite, but I can’t be fully myself without bringing that up. I know it makes people uncomfortable sometimes, but honestly, that’s not a good enough reason to expect me to keep quiet. As much as anyone else does, I deserve the right to talk openly about my background, my challenges, the reasons behind decisions I make- the realities of my life.
- Being poor has substantial, everyday, direct effects on my life, and if you spend time with me, you will have to deal with those effects. Nearly everything I do, every decision I make, is in some way affected by my financial status. If you’re close to me, you will watch me struggle with money and financial decisions on a daily basis. If you want to do something with me, it has to be something I can afford. If you give me advice or recommendations, you will have to take into account my budget, or else your attempt at help will just sound laughably insensitive. There’s no way around it.
- Being poor also has a large indirect impact on me in terms of how people think of me and the community I come from. Stereotypes of poor people abound. People frequently assume that my parents are unintelligent, ignorant, and bad parents. They treat me as an anomaly, an escapee from a uniformly horrible situation that they can pity and make fun of. People who know me treat me as an exception to a classist rule, not realizing that their upholding of that rule allows people who don’t know me to stereotype and mistreat me. That’s the world I live in.
- I don’t want your pity. For me, pity is one of the most hurtful sentiments I can experience. It assumes a really troublesome hierarchy; if you are able to pity me, you must be better than or above me in some way. Also, it’s completely useless, and doesn’t do anything to actually address or talk about the reality of my situation. It’s a copout, and it’s often a way to shut me up so that I stop “making people feel bad.”
- Yes, I know full well that there are many people in this world who are worse off than me, but that doesn’t invalidate my experiences. I’m aware that I am privileged in many ways, and that in a broad view, I’m better off financially than many, many people. Between privilege and luck, I’ve found myself in a position where I will likely no longer be poor once I’m a full-fledged independent adult, and I’ve been thinking a lot about how to handle that in an ethical way. But that admission doesn’t make the substantial disadvantages that I have experienced and continue to experience disappear. They are still real, painful, and very important to my life.
- Me saying that you are (economically) privileged doesn’t mean I’m calling you a bad person, that I want you to feel guilty, or that I don’t think you deserve to have a good life. I don’t go around wanting people to feel bad. In fact, I rarely bring up things like this- too rarely, probably- because I know that people will take it personally and get defensive. Being poor is so much a part of me that it’s very emotionally difficult to handle when people totally dismiss the idea that there are substantial, important differences between my experience and theirs. But I have a responsibility to challenge the ideas- often unspoken, but present everywhere- that wealthy people are morally and functionally superior to poor people, that poor people could be wealthy if they only worked hard, and that my background, my family, my current reality can be dismissed with choice insults and assumptions that I’ve brought this on myself. If that makes you feel bad about yourself and your behavior, well, it probably should.
- If you can’t deal reasonably and respectfully with me being poor, I’m not going to be able to keep you in my life. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: I can never forget that I’m poor, or behave like I’m not poor. It is with me every moment, in everything I do and every decision that I make. If you constantly lean on classist stereotypes, if you insult my background, if you patronize and pity me, if you yell at me for “making you feel bad,” if you won’t let me talk about my financial struggles or get too uncomfortable to let me continue, if you forget every time that I can’t afford to do the things you want to do or don’t share your experiences and perspective- well, I’m sorry, but you’re not worth being around. I have no interest in spending time with someone who will not give me the space to be myself, or who cares more about their own zone of privileged comfort than respecting another human being.
—Kurt Vonnegut, Slaughterhouse-Five
Cross-posted from No Lords, No Masters.
Last night, my Bencakes and I decided to turn the CNN Republican Presidential Debates into a drinking game. He suggested “Big Government”, but as I didn’t want to die of alcohol poisoning halfway through, I suggested we drink to thinking of the children.
And what a game it was! They all opened up citing their RepubliCred, and all of them made note of how many children and grandchildren they have. Now, I’ve got nothing against being proud of family, I have a son I’m proud of, but there was something strange about how they were presenting their children. It’s almost as if they were using them for personal gain… naw, must have just been my imagination.
I found the official transcript of the debates online, and did a word search for “children” and “kids”.
Let’s start with Michelle Bachmann:
I also believe that marriage is between a man and a woman. I carried that legislation when I was a senator in Minnesota, and I believe that for children, the best possible way to raise children is to have a mother and father in their life.
Now, I didn’t come from a perfect background. My parents were divorced. And I was raised by a single mother. There’s a lot of single families and families with troubled situations. That’s why my husband and I have broken hearts for at-risk kids and it’s why we took 23 foster children into our home.
Loving couples want to share equal protections afforded all man/woman couples? The children! Think of the children! It’s better to parade 23 of them through one house than to ever let them settle into a stable home life lacking both a mother and a father united in holy matrimony.
Not to be outdone, Mitt Romney stepped up with his own appeal to the innocent youth of our nation in response to a question about the auto industry bail-out:
There is a perception in this country that government knows better than the private sector, that Washington and President Obama have a better view for how an industry ought to be run. Well, they’re wrong. The right way for America to create jobs is to — is to keep government in its place and to allow the private sector and the — and the energy and passion of the American people create a brighter future for our kids and for ourselves.
Not only do Washington and Pres Obama think they know better than the Invisible Hand* how to run this nation, they’re ruining the future for our kids!
Then later on, when moderator John King asked him about federal disaster relief, he again expounded on this theme:
We cannot — we cannot afford to do those things without jeopardizing the future for our kids. It is simply immoral, in my view, for us to continue to rack up larger and larger debts and pass them on to our kids, knowing full well that we’ll all be dead and gone before it’s paid off. It makes no sense at all.
If only we loved children the way Romney does, then we’d stop this senseless disaster relief. After all, only adults are ever affected by natural disasters. Government intervention is clearly an attack on childhood as we know it.
I think Herman Cain takes the cake, er pie (he’s the CEO of Godfather’s Pizza), with his thoughts about his grandchildren:
The reason we’re in the situation we are today with Medicare and Social Security is because the problem hasn’t been solved… You know that commercial where they have demagogued the whole thing with medi-scare and having grandma tossed off the bridge? If we don’t fix this problem, it’s going to be our grandkids in that wheelchair that they were going to be throwing off the bridge. We have got to fix the problem.
I clutch my pearls at the very thought.
His final words about what he learned from this debate touched me, however, because I think I learned this lesson too:
What I’ve learned is that all of these candidates up here share one thing in common. And that is, it’s not about us. It’s about the children and the grandchildren. We’re not that far apart on all of the big issues.
You’re right, Mr. Cain, you’re not that far apart on all of the big issues. A vote for either of you would be as worrisome to me as a vote for the next. But hey, at least you’re thinking of those children, because if you won’t, who will?
*Republicans: always looking to invisible beings for guidance.