Sunday, September 05, 2004
Welcome to article43.com - a memorial to the layed off workers of (PRE SBC MERGER) AT&T, and the disappearing MIDDLE CLASS citizens of America. It is NOT endorsed or affiliated with AT&T or the CWA in any way.
This sticky post was written the day we appeared on the internet in 2004.
In addition to INFORMATION, resources and opinion for former AT&T workers DEALING WITH the EFFECTS OF LAYOFF and looking for meaningful employment, some articles here are meant to bring into awareness the LARGER PICTURE of corporate dominance of the UNITED STATES’ political and economic policies which brazenly DISREGARDS, disrespects and EXPLOITS worker, citizen and HUMAN RIGHTS under masks like FREE TRADE and the PATRIOT ACT - resulting in a return to a society of very rich and very poor dominated by a few very rich and powerful - whose voices are anything but - for the people. If left UNCHALLENGED, the self-serving interests of those in control may result in the end of DEMOCRACY, the end of the middle class, irreversible ENVIRONMENTAL damage to the planet, and widespread global poverty brought on by exploitation and supression of the voices of common people EVERYWHERE, while the United States turns into a REINCARNATION of the ROMAN EMPIRE. Author Thom Hartmann shares some history and outlines some basic steps to return our country to “The People” in his two articles TEN STEPS TO RETURN TO DEMOCRACY and SAVING THE MIDDLE CLASS. I support CERNIG’S idea for a new POLITICAL MOVEMENT - if not a revolution to cleanse our country of the filth ruling it - as we EVOLVE into a GLOBAL community - assuming we learn the THE LESSONS OF OUR TIME and don’t DESTROY CIVILIZATION first.
Everything here can be viewed anonymously. Inserting or commenting on articles requires a free user account (for former AT&T employees with a real, non throw-away, email address.) Requests to the new user registration page are redirected to BLOGGED DOT COM’S site because most new signups I get are from COMMENT SPAMMERS and their ilk, so if you want to contribute, contact me through email, phone, or some other way.
There’s no third-party scripts here like privacy-eroding WEB COUNTERS, hidden datamining widgets like Pay-Pal donation boxes, or AMAZON DOT COM tracking stuff. The RSS feeds are pulled by the server, and have no relation to anything you may be doing here. Standard Apache WEB LOGS of info like IP, and pages visited are rotated every few days, and used internally to check the web server’s performance. Logs of suspicious activity may be shared with law enforcement, or other ISPs, to deal with troublemakers. Nothing here is for sale, and donations are not solicited.
If you get an email that claims to be from somebody here that’s anything but a request to post your article, or report suspicious activity (like logs sent to an ISP to report an attack) - it’s SPAM. I do not, and will not - ever - join the junk mail sender community. There are no mechanisms to prevent anyone from forging anyone elses email address in a “from” or “reply-to” mail header. For those of us whose email addresses are fraudently used, the best we can do is filter out NDR REPORTS.
Per U.S.C. COPYRIGHT LAW - TITLE 17, SECTION 107, this not-for-profit site may reproduce copyrighted material not specifically authorized by the copyright owner. Such articles will either have a web link to the source, home page, and/or show credit to the author. If yours is here and you have a problem with that, send me an EMAIL, and I’ll take it off. Stuff I wrote carries a CREATIVE COMMONS LICENSE permitting non-commercial sharing. In addition, this site’s owner forbids insertion and injecting data of any kind - especially advertisements - into ours by any person or entity. Should you see a commercial ad that looks like it’s from here, please report it by sending me a tcpdump and/or screenshot in an EMAIL, then READ UP about how the PARTNERING OF INTERNET SERVICE PROVIDERS and companies like NEBUAD are DESTROYING INTERNET PRIVACY.
Resumes of layed off AT&T workers are posted for free HERE.
Links to some Telecom companies’ career pages are HERE.
Click HERE to learn a little about Article 43 and why I loathe the CWA.
Click HERE or HERE to learn what the CWA did when given a chance to do the right thing.
Click HERE for a glimpse of undemocratic and hypocritical CWA practices.
Click HERE for an article on Corporate Unionism.
Click HERE for an article of AFL-CIO’s undemocratic history.
This site can disappear anytime if I run out of money to pay for luxuries like food, health care, or internet service.
Discernment of truth is left to the reader - whose encouraged to seek as much information as possible, from as many different sources as possible - and pass them through his/her own filters - before believing anything.
...the Devil is just one man with a plan, but evil, true evil, is a collaboration of men…
- Fox Mulder, X Files
No matter how big the lie; repeat it often enough and the masses will regard it as the truth.
- John F. Kennedy
Today my country, your country and the Earth face a corporate holocaust against human and Earthly rights. I call their efforts a holocaust because when giant corporations wield human rights backed by constitutions and the law (and therefore enforced by police, the courts, and armed forces) and sanctioned by cultural norms, the rights of people, other species and the Earth are annihilated.
- Richard L. Grossman
Unthinking respect for authority is the greatest enemy of truth.
- Albert Einstein
He who is not angry when there is just cause for anger is immoral. Why? Because anger looks to the good of justice. And if you can live amid injustice without anger, you are immoral as well as unjust.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
- Bishop Desmond Tutu
Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.
- Martin Luther King Jr
Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.
- Benjamin Franklin
If we do not hang together, we will surely hang separately.
- Benjamin Franklin
We must be prepared to make heroic sacrifices for the cause of peace that we make ungrudgingly for the cause of war.
- Albert Einstein
Solidarity has always been key to political and economic advance by working families, and it is key to mastering the politics of globalization.
- Thomas Palley
The impending credit crisis cant be avoided, but it could be mitigated by taking radical steps to soften the blow. Emergency changes to the federal tax code could put more money in the hands of maxed-out consumers and keep the economy sputtering along while efforts are made to curtail the ruinous trade deficit. We should eliminate the Social Security tax for any couple making under $60, 000 per year and restore the 1953 tax-brackets for Americans highest earners so that the upper 1%-- who have benefited the most from the years of prosperity---will be required to pay 93% of all earnings above the first $1 million income. At the same time, corporate profits should be taxed at a flat 35%, while capital gains should be locked in at 35%. No loopholes. No exceptions.
Congress should initiate a program of incentives for reopening American factories and provide generous sufbsidies to rebuild US manufacturing. The emphasis should be on reestablishing a competitive market for US exports while developing the new technologies which will address the imminent problems of environmental degradation, global warming, peak oil, overpopulation, resource scarcity, disease and food production. Off-shoring of American jobs should be penalized by tariffs levied against the offending industries.
The oil and natural gas industries should be nationalized with the profits earmarked for vocational training, free college tuition, universal health care and improvements to then nations infrastructure.
Tuesday, March 21, 2017
Hopeless in 2017
Losing your job at 50 or 60 is not good for your health. There is compelling evidence that no matter who you compare the older job loser to, he or she does worse physically and mentally.
- Why Stress Is Making You Sick - William Gallo, Yale University School of Medicine, AARP, May 2009
Day-to-day, the single-most intimidating OBSTACLE I face is not the unemployment rate or another round of hapless job interviews, but ATTACHING AN IDENTITY to THE MAN I make eye contact with each morning in the vanity mirror.
- Trials of a Stay-At-Home Boyfriend - Salon, March 13, 2012
| I began to doubt my ability to find another full-time job.” Being fired from a job that you’ve poured your heart and soul into can be particularly gut-wrenching. “I don’t get involved with people like I used to,” he says. “I probably never recovered from that layoff. It was like family.”
- Life Aftert Layoff - Discarded and Demorazlized - September 4, 2006
While older workers are less likely to be laid off than younger workers, they are about half as likely to be rehired. One result is that older workers have seen the largest proportionate increase in unemployment in this downturn. The number of unemployed people between ages 50 and 65 has more than doubled… The prospects for the re-employment of older workers deteriorate sharply the longer they are unemployed. A worker between ages 50 and 61 who has been unemployed for 17 months has only about a 9 percent chance of finding a new job in the next three months.
- The Human Disater of Unemployment - NY Times, May 12, 2012
And Now, a Few Words From the Long-Term Unemployed
By Hamilton Nolan
lmost four million Americans officially suffer from long-term unemployment. Unable to secure any meaningful legislation to help them, President Obama is reduced to begging corporations to pledge not to discriminate against them. What is long term unemployment like?
In tonight’s State of the Union address, Obama will doubtless take a stab at describing the plight of those out of work for many months or years, as a prelude to the announcement that he “has secured pledges from a number of major U.S. employers to adopt hiring policies that discourage discrimination against the long-term unemployed.” That’s a paltry remedy to a crushing problem.
Throughout the course of our 40-volume Unemployment Stories series, we heard dozens of people speak of the financial, social, and psychological trauma that accompanies long term unemployment. We have quite a few stories that we didn’t have a chance to run in that series. We’ll share a few with you now. Here, some words from America’s long term unemployed:
I’m an art director. I knew pursuing a career in art was going to be a rocky road when I was a kid. I worked hard, went to art school, paid my dues, found success. Even as a freelancer, I could always find work. It’s typical in these pieces to mention the level of your previous success. I usually just tell folks that they’ve probably seen my work somewhere. Advertising is like that.
That seems like another world now. At this stage of my extended unemployment, I’ll do anything. Digging ditches, washing dishes, I don’t care so long as there’s some sort of paycheck.
The worst part of extended unemployment is a sense that people blame you for it. As if somehow you’re choosing this. Anything you may have achieved before is irrelevant. Now you’re lazy, unmotivated, a drain on the system and the target of all sorts of condescending unsolicited advice. Gosh, thank you! I hadn’t considered applying at Wal-Mart, the gas station, Jenny’s diner. Wow! There are job fairs?!? OMG! I had NO idea!!! I’ve been too busy enjoying my life of luxurious relaxation. Go back to school! Brilliant! Not only will my bankruptcy make it tough but I can destroy my credit even more while becoming even more overqualified to be a stockboy!
After a while, it doesn’t matter how well meaning the would be job counselors might be. All of it makes you feel less than human.
After a while, you drop out of everything. When friends and family decide to get together someplace you opt out. It’s too humiliating when you can’t afford a glass of soda. Besides, how many times can you listen to someone tell you there’s a job fair going on at some hotel conference room?
Even positive activities become points of criticism. You ran five miles? How much did that pay? You watched the game? Bet you made a lot of money doing that!
It’s NEARLY IMPOSSIBLE TO STAY POSITIVE. Low level depression is a constant state. Regular rejection attacks your self image. You begin to doubt all the habits you built up to become successful, no matter how successful you were.
At any given moment you waver between giving up completely or absolutely losing your temper. Maintaining an even keel is exhausting.
You lose so much more than a job with extended unemployment. You feel like you lose the things that make us people. Not just money, a home, independence… you lose your value as a person.
When you finally come to the point where you realize you’ll take a minimum wage position you know that such a job won’t provide for any kind of life… you’ll be lucky to pay for transportation to get to and from work.
You can’t vent your frustration. If you do, you simply prove to others that you’re not worthy, you’re not trying, you don’t want a job, you’re a screw up, you’ve already decided you’re defeated.
Defeat is a great word to sum up the experience. Talk politics, economics, strategies, psychology… doesn’t matter when you get turned down for yet another job. Day after day, month after month, year after year, defeat. You lose.
How remarkable is it that people who deal with exactly that reality set their alarms every day? Find a way to get online, submit resumes day after day, put on a brave face and find a way to get through it all? Dig deep and smile when people mention that they saw on the news x or y company is hiring two hundred people?
Most of us are so far past any sort of reasonable breaking point even we can’t tell you how we continue. Press any of us about it and we’ll say ‘what choice do we have?!?’
Reality kicks you in the teeth
I’ve read the unemployment stories and many of them reflect my own.Even though it may be repetitive to writethese words I still feel the compulsion to writethem down and share them with you.
In thinking about laying out the facts of my story, I do realize that a lot of it is my own fault.Some might say “no”, but that’s how it seems to me.I went to college and for the longest time I didn’t know what I wanted to do.I had walked a very long and crooked road to try to find something that I could do with even a little competence and enjoyment.I started in the math and science area.I could barely get passed even the most remedial areas.Then I tried the technical college.I could barely hack it there.Finally, I found that in the English department was where I could do my best and so I went on to study both professional and creative writing.
I had thought that I might get into an entry level position where my skills might have been of some use.Sadly, that wasn’t the case.I searched and searched and searched.The days turned to weeks.The months bled into two years.I couldn’t even land jobs washing dishes, washing cars or cleaning toilets despite my willingness to do those jobs.
And there wasn’t a lot of support for this.
One of my family members even said to me, “If things don’t change in five years, you might as well kill yourself.”
And during that time, I was living at home because of the fact that I had no income source to find any kind of home of my own.Then to make matters worse, my mother was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver.And she passed away within a month.
She had no will or life insurance and so, her house (the home I was living in) went back to the bank along with her car.It was only by the purest good fortune that my eldest brother allowed me to live with him out in California.
I did try to remain optimistic about coming to California, thinking that this would be a new chapter in my life and that I would continue to soldier on in the face of my mother’s passing.But, once again, reality kicks you in the teeth.I searched and searched and searched.Days turned to weeks and the weeks bled into months and still nothing.I’ve applied to be a dishwasher at Chili’s, a night time stocker at Toys R Us and many others.Still nothing.Even people at the temp agencies and staffing centers said that they couldn’t help me.That in itself almost seems like a sign to give up, doesn’t it?
Already, I know that there are those out there who would tell me that this is my own fault because I had chosen a degree in an area that is pretty much useless.I’d be willing to concede that.On the other hand, when it comes to jobs listings at job sites and company sites constantly say that they want experience.But to get experience one must have a job.And so the vicious nonsensical merry-go-round continues to spin.
It’s at times like this that I start to think of the writers and artists who’ve come before me:Kurt Cobain, Ernest Hemingway, Sylvia Plath, Vincent Van Gough, Hunter S. Thompson, Spalding Gray and Richard Jeni and the question that I find myself asking is, ”DID THEY HAVE THE RIGHT IDEA at the END OF THEIR LIVES?”
The Failed Writer
Section Dying America • Section Personal •
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Wednesday, March 15, 2017
Internet Privacy Bites The Dust
Advertisers look forward to buying your Web browsing history from ISPs
Ad groups thank Republican lawmakers for move to kill ISP privacy rules.
By Jon Brodkin
Mar 14, 2017
FCC and lawmakers seek end of privacy rules
The FCC’s new Republican chairman, Ajit Pai, opposes the rules and has already halted the implementation of a data security component that required ISPs to take “reasonable” steps to protect customers’ information from theft and data breaches. The more well-known portion of the rules, which requires ISPs to get opt-in consent from consumers before sharing information with third parties, is scheduled to take effect no earlier than December 4, 2017.
The entire set of privacy rules could be undone by either the FCC or Congress. “Without prompt action in Congress or at the FCC, the FCC’s regulations would break with well-accepted and functioning industry practices, chilling innovation and hurting the consumers the regulation was supposed to protect,” the ad industry groups said.
It’s “one of the worst rules that has been put forward in some time,” Association of National Advertisers Executive VP Dan Jaffe said, according to a MediaPost article. “One way or another, it needs to be stopped.” Jaffe said that the ad groups “plan to lobby on the Hill in support of the resolution proposed by Flake and Blackburn,” MediaPost wrote.
Republicans say the Federal Trade Commission, not the FCC, should have authority over the privacy practices of ISPs. But overturning the existing privacy rules would not by itself return authority to the FTC, and the FTC could be more lenient with ISPs than the FCC.
If no agency enforces privacy rules, “consumers will have no ability to stop Internet service providers from invading their privacy and selling sensitive information about their health, finances, and children to advertisers, insurers, data brokers or others who can profit off of this personal information, all without their affirmative consent,” Sen. Edward Markey (D-Mass.) said last week.
Acting FTC Chairwoman Maureen Ohlhausen said last year that the FTC recommends getting opt-in consent for “unexpected collection or use of consumers sensitive data such as Social Security numbers, financial information, and information about children,” and an opt-out system for other data, she wrote. Under that scenario, ISPs apparently would not need opt-in consent from customers before sharing Web browsing history.
Section Privacy And Rights • Section Broadband Privacy •
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Monday, March 06, 2017
Homeless In California
Aging Baby Boomers Heading for Homelessness
By Peter King
Wanda Clarke, 63, never saw it coming. She lived in Los Angeles for six decades. Now for the first time she was stranded on the sidewalks of South Central. It was devastating. I’m 60-something years old. I should not be homeless. But when her husband died of complications from multiple heart attacks, she could no longer afford her mortgage on a single income cashiering at Vons.
Surviving homelessness is a struggle at any age, but for a graying generation it can be brutal. Realities such as fewer job opportunities, diminished income, rising medical costs and infirmity can make homelessness both easier to fall into and harder to escape.
Steve Renahan, a senior policy advisor at the nonprofit Shelter Partnership, has studied the older homeless population in depth. When asked if he thinks their increasing numbers will soon reach crisis levels, he said they already have.
There are over 10,000 people 55 years and older living on the streets of L.A. County. That’s more than double what it was a decade ago. These are the first of the baby boomers. With thousands more retiring every day, we can expect to see that figure grow significantly.
Renahan says that one reason boomers show higher rates of homelessness may be because they have faced more competition from their peers in the workforce. As a result, they have performed worse economically overall compared to their parents or children. So when fixed retirement incomes - such as social security or pensions - and skyrocketing housing costs are layered on top of mediocre lifetime economic performance, we have a recipe for the current crisis.
Look at the basic numbers. The median monthly rent for a one-bedroom apartment in Los Angeles is $2000. The average social security benefit in California is only $1224 a month. For thirty percent of California retirees Social Security is their only source of income. It’s no wonder were seeing more elderly Angelenos making their homes on the street.
“You can either eat or you can pay rent, but you can’t do both,” says Robert, 68, who makes his home around Sunset and Vine in Hollywood. He retired at 62 and only receives $994 a month in social security benefits, which wasn’t enough to cover the rent where he had lived for 30 years in Santa Monica. In an interview with Mark Horvath from InvisiblePeople.tv, he says at his age he has no future. “My only future would be if I went back to work. I’m a mechanical engineering technician. There isn’t a lot of work in that area anymore.”
Laura Trejo, general manager of the LOS ANGELES DEPARTMENT OF AGING, says they are trying to get homeless seniors back in the workforce with a pilot study called the Older Workers Employment Program, which provides job training and connects them with potential employers.
Karen Prater, 62, is one of their success stories. When she lost her job caring for dementia patients, she was the one who needed care. She says she couldn’t find work because most employers weren’t interested in hiring someone her age.
Unable to afford housing on her own, she decided not to “burden her family” and opted to live in shelters. A year and a couple shelters later, she heard about the pilot program. After signing up, she landed a temporary job for the city department of disability and also found an apartment.
So far the program has found jobs for Karen and several other participants. But, even if it works on a larger scale, it’s not enough to stop what some have termed the “silver tsunami” of retirees who could flood our streets, unable to keep up with the cost of living.
The social stigma of homelessness also contributes to the problem. Wanda from South Central was ashamed and embarrassed by her situation. Her son, who lives in Orange County, still has no idea she was homeless.
Living on the street is no joke. You don’t have a place to shower, to go to the bathroom, explains Wanda. On the streets, she reached a point where she no longer wanted to live. Luckily she was able to see a psychiatrist. Then her case manager found her a rare vacancy at the NoHo Senior Villas in North Hollywood, an affordable apartment building run by Clifford Beers Housing. The apartment building was co-developed by PATH, People Assisting The Homeless. They provide Wanda and others at the Villas with crucial supportive services to make sure they doesn’t slip into homelessness again.
Wanda thanks God everyday from the balcony of her apartment. I’m going to be here until I’m 105, exactly. Enjoying life because it’s a low-income building. [Rent is] a third of my income. I have money left over out of my check to spoil me.
So what else are local officials doing to help the bulk of homeless seniors who aren’t as fortunate? The L.A. County Board of Supervisors, Mayor Garcetti and almost every other elected official are pinning their hopes on recently passed Measure HHH for homeless housing. They are also hoping that voters will approve MEASURE H, the sales tax hike on the March 7th ballot, which would create revenue to pay for homeless social services over the next ten years.
But Measure H is no guarantee in an election that will feature lower turnout, a more conservative county electorate and a two-thirds majority to pass.
In the meantime, expect the homeless population to include more aging baby boomers on fixed incomes who are forced to live out their goldenђ years in shelters and on the streets.
Section Dying America •
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Tuesday, February 21, 2017
A Poverty Of Understanding II
By Poor As Folk
Ferbruary 19, 2014
Today, I did something I never thought I’d do. I YELLED AT my son for being hungry. Oh sure, there are many parents nodding in agreement because they’ve done the same thing. Many have yelled at their KIDS for asking for one more snack right before dinner was served or for wanting to eat junk food out of boredom.
That’s not why I yelled. I yelled because I didn’t have extra food to give him, and I was taking my frustration out on him. He wasn’t doing anything wrong. He’s just a kid, a 7 year old who is full of energy and constantly growing. Of course hes hungry often. That’s what kids do. However, I didn’t have enough food for anyone to have extras. Everything has to be rationed out over a week or more. Food stuff needs to be stretched.
Already angry and frustrated with our situation, I lost my cool when my child asked a simple question - because I knew there was nothing I could do to change it in that moment. My anger turned to worry, another constant feeling in my daily life, as I wondered if this would create food issues in my child. Will he be afraid to eat, knowing that we might not have enough the next day?
I’m 35 years old. I am a mother and a wife. I am college educated, degreed, and I have held a professional license. I have been working since the age of 18. Until now. I live in poverty. I am poor. My family is poor.
When I say I am poor, I don’t mean that its going to take me two weeks to save for a new iPad or the next iWhatever. I don’t mean that I’ll need a coupon to shop at J.Crew. I mean that I have saved my kids Halloween candy for times when my blood sugar gets too low after a day of not eating because I can’t afford enough food for 3 square meals for the entire family. It means that having my heat set above 60 degrees is a luxury. It means that the needle on my gas gauge is constantly hovering at E. It means that we wear our clothes several times before laundering because we cant afford the fees to use the washing machines. It means the thrift shop is damn expensive. It means so many more things that we don’t often think about unless were living in poverty. As a culture, we are disconnected to the idea of not having access to the most basic needs. Consumerism and materialism are supposedly signs of a healthy economy and successful nation, environment be damned, and a blind eye towards those less advantaged is a requirement.
Our story of poverty doesn’t come with credit card bills, expensive cable packages, luxury toys. Its not that anyone should be judged for why they are poor, but people naturally ask, mostly out of curiosity and sometimes to find information to justify their lack of care for your position, for a way to blame you for your own situation. It makes it easier to detach. We have both been hard workers for over a decade. We have played by the rules. It still got us.
I am currently UNEMPLOYED - and that’s not for a lack of effort. My husband lost a fairly good job over a year ago and we’ve been pulled down a spiral ever since. His period of unemployment meant we burned through our savings and our emergency fund. While I am still unemployed (to be fair, I do walk dogs or babysit on occasion for some cash, but those times are few and far between), my husband is currently working three jobs. Three jobs. My husband is not college educated. He has worked on the warehouse/shipping/receiving side of retail for a very long time and is good at what he does. Hes very strong, enjoys physical labor, and is a hard worker. His three jobs are retail-based. Two of them pay exactly minimum wage. The third pays just above that. He is constantly applying for jobs on a weekly basis, as am I. With three jobs, you can imagine he works many hours. There have been weeks were he worked all three jobs back to back with maybe an hour or two in between. THANKSGIVING to the New Year were brutal. He would often work nearly 30 hours in a row, come home to sleep for a few hours, then go back for another cycle of 30 hours. I’s been brutal on his health and our family.
Will someone stop for a moment and tell me in what world is it considered moral for a person to work three jobs and still be unable to support their family. It just isn-t right.
Living in poverty is like being punched in the face over and over and over on a daily basis. It’s pulling yourself out of a hole, only to fall over a cliff. Every step in the right direction is rewarded with a hearty push several steps back. The changes to ones mental health when living in poverty can be astonishing. I suffered a miscarriage years ago and I knew anger and sadness then. I made my way through it and survived. I didn’t think I would feel such strong emotions again. I was wrong. The anger is back. Anger is for everything. I’m angry I am in this situation. I am angry I’m not good enough for proper employment. I’m angry my children are living through this. I am angry at my husband. I’m angry at Christians who preach against me, ignoring the words of Christ. I’m angry at politicians who vote against people like me. I’m angry at A SOCIETY that views me as a leech, as a welfare queen, as someone who deserves the be on the bottom of humanity’s shoe.
There is jealousy. I’ve never been a materialistic person and neither has my husband. We have never felt the need to keep up with the joneses no desire for brand name clothing, big screen TVs, or the latest electronic gadget. We’ve never had cable. I liked to shop when I genuinely needed things, but I wouldn’t overspend or buy things I couldn’t afford. I never owned a credit card. Fashion magazines were fun and Id laugh at the implication that a woman should spend $200.00 on a pair of jeans. Now, I’m jealous at anyone who can afford to buy $15.00 jeans on sale at Old Navy. Friends post their OMG! Kohl’s haul! on Facebook, posting pictures of their new boots, sweaters, jeans, yoga pants, etc. Where I would once say, “oh, those boots are cute,” I am now filled with plain old bitter envy. I wish I could just look at my boots, the ones with the rip in them, decide it was time to buy new ones, and walk out the door to buy a new pair. I wish I could say, “O Gee,” I sure am sick of wearing the same two shirts day in and day out, and go to a store a buy a few new shirts that actually fit. I can’t. I have clothes that are finally showing their age and their wear. Threads are falling lose, seams opening, little holes throughout fabric, buttons are disappearing. An acquaintance said to me recently, You actually LOOK LIKE a poor person. Gee, thanks. I didn’t know there is a certain look for poor people. My husband spent a few months with holes in his work pants. I sewed them up as best I could, but eventually the fabric would be worn down so much that there wasn’t much to sew. He took to wearing black shorts under his pants (also black) so the holes wouldn’t be a noticeable. Thankfully, he received a couple of new pairs for Christmas. He also spent months walking with holes in his shoes. His sneakers literally fell off his feet one day and he was left with boots that were no longer waterproof and had a hole or two. He’d walk to and from work in rain and snow in those boots. Forget socks. He doesn’t own a pair without holes. We were blessed by a couple of friends who chipped in to buy him and new pair of sturdy, waterproof work boots.
Jealousy isn’t limited to clothing. I’ve been JEALOUS that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat. Food is a big one. In this age of social media, one can guarantee that at least 3 ultra-filtered Instagram photos of a friends lunch will scroll on by on their computer screen each day. Back in the day, I would just note that so-and-so had a bagel for lunch and I’d go on with my day. Now, I just sit there and wish it was me. I wish I had a plate full of good food to obnoxiously photograph, but I don’t. It’s the food that really drove the issue home for me not too long ago. I had taken my children to Ikea. We werent there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I love Ikea because it’s fun to imagine having different furniture and organization. While there, I bought my kids lunch. They had one of their specials going and kiddie meals were free! My kids each had a meal, which included drinks. I didn’t get anything for me. As they ate, I would pick at their plates, stealing a bite here and there. I looked at everyone eating around me and thats when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow. I wanted so badly to be able to order something for myself. I was starving and the little bites of steamed veggies and mac ‘n cheese weren’t very filling. I hadn’t eaten yet that day and found myself just staring at the plates of strangers, wishing I was free to get myself something to eat. I found myself glaring at people through my tears as they took plates and bowls half full of food to the trash center - what a waste of food! Never before had I been tempted to say, hey, I’ll take that, than I was on that day. My son noticed me wiping tears and asked what was wrong. I lied and told him I took a bite of his sister’s squash and it must have had some sort of spice on it and I was reacting to that. He believed me for a moment, taking a last bite of his mashed potatoes before pushing the plate over to me and telling me he was full. More tears to fight off.
That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again. You don’t know if your next meal will be something proper or if it’ll be half a fun-sized bag of M&Ms that you hoarded from your kids Halloween haul or nothing at all. ItҒs an ever-present gastric uncertainty. As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband.well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too. This is obviously unhealthy. Our health has tanked over the last year. I’ve been told I constantly look tired. My eyes are more sunken, devoid of light. My skin is dry, blemished, and overall just blah. My hair is brittle and I lose a lot of it on a daily basis. I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.
The emotions certainly take their toll. HOPELESSNESS IS UNBEARABLE. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging words. I always managed to see the good in every situation. I try my best to hold onto that, but its been slipping away quickly. FEAR is constant. You’re always afraid of what’s next. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted because we can’t afford our rent. You want to think positive, but THE IDEA OF WHAT ‘S NEXT IS ALWAYS LOOMING. Things that might seem minor to one person can spell disaster for a family in poverty. Last week, my husband told me my tail light was out. This is typically not a big deal for many people. To us, it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. But, it’s illegal here to have one out. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Obviously, its the law to keep your car in check. We know this. I’ve always been great at keeping my car well-maintained. My inspections were always done on time, lights would be replaced immediately, oil is always changed, I never drove on gas fumes at the needle hovered on E. It’s all different now. Small things are big things. Monumental things. The idea of needing a tail light, an inspection, or a new tire due to the 100Ҕs of pot holes created by tons of snow this Winter is enough to send me into a panic. Weather is terrorizing these days. Two of my husbands jobs can be called off due to snow or ice because the trucks cant get to them, so they tell staff to stay home. We’ve had storm after storm after storm this season. My husband has missed so much work, not by choice, due to snow and ice. We added it up and discovered that he missed enough to pay for nearly two months of rent. Same for me no doggies to walk in this weather because people are staying home.
Poverty is isolating. FRIENDS eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. They take it personal no matter how many times you insist its not. Your children’s social lives suffer for the same reason you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited. People eventually tire of you being unavailable to come out for fun and they stop calling and texting. And maybe I should say those people aren’t friends in the first place, but it doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make me hurt less for my children. Conversely, you have friends who know you’re in poverty and they try to brainstorm, try to help you through it. You say thank you a million times, but its not enough. After a while, trying to save you is boring and when they realize they didn’t fix you, they get annoyed. Ive been called everything by people who were supposed to be my friends. Because I can’t snap my fingers and make things work perfectly and because that fact depresses the fuck out of me, Ive been called useless, manipulative, worthless, unmotivated. No one wants to hear that you have tried all the options that they suggested and they didn’t work out. No one wants to hear that you know exactly why a suggestion wont work. They don’t understand why you cant “just move” or just “declare bankruptcy” or just swing around a pole (note: no one ever suggests that my husband sell his body for cash, but quite a few people have presented it as an option for me). This isn’t to say they are not well-meaning - and they certainly are not under appreciated by me - but they eventually get exasperated when you explain time and time again why certain suggestions don’t work. They want to fix you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to deal with the overwhelming depression and HOPELESSNESS that accompanies poverty. It’s hard for them to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. So, it’s sometimes easier to be angry at the poor person, to convince yourself that they just don’t want to work for it, and keep your distance from them. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.
However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop me from doubting myself, from putting myself down. It doesn’t stop the shame. I feel like a leech. I’m told by my friendly clergymen, my wonderful politicians, and by people I know and once called friends that I am a burden on society. I’m a taker. If only I worked harder. If only I wanted to stop being poor and getting handouts, then everything would turn around and I would be rich. If only I would PRAY harder, attend the correct church, and read an ancient book that I have read cover to cover many times in the past. Then God would just bestow His blessings upon me. Or, I should really just consider putting some positive energy out into the Universe. If I meditate and tell the Universe that I want money, money will come and everything will be fixed. The constant shouts from society’s peanut gallery telling me how the poor or worthless and damned help shape my inner dialogue and I begin to agree with them. I am worthless. I deserve the shame I feel.
It’s hard to accept help when your inner dialogue tells you that you are useless. People tell me to be willing to accept help, Ill be able to pay it forward someday. Without friends and the kindness of strangers, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas for our kids. My car payment would not have been paid for a couple of months, my husband would still have holes in his boots, and my car would still be uninspected and I’d be in deep shit. And were still here, still in need.
I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue utility bills and a statement from my landlord telling us they are pursuing legal action against us because our rent is currently 17 days late. I have multiple windows open on my computer - several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once hes home from work, a few for charity searches, another for PRAYER requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me. The future is more than uncertain and it feels that the ground under me can open at any moment and swallow me whole.
And so I do pray. I do hope. I work hard to get our family out of this hell hole and so does my husband. I am grateful in ways that I cannot fully express for all the help that has come to my family in recent months from both friends and strangers. It reminds us that even though life is pure shit right now, there are bright spots. The good exists. So, we continue to focus on that. I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story - humans deserve compassion.
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