Monthly Archives: March 2015

Microaggression: WWJD?

“WWJD”, for those who are unfamiliar with this, is short for “What Would Jesus Do”.  It’s something that some Christians claim they think about when facing a moral dilemma.

The problem with that is, well…a couple of different reasons.

One is, they don’t actually know “wwJd”, because they haven’t read the Bible.  The Bible that has about a gazillion different translations, yes, but usually has the basics regarding parts of Jesus’ life, his parables, and other stuff like Paul’s letters etc.

You may or may not be surprised that many Christians haven’t read it, they “just know from what my pastor tells me” (that’s something I have heard a lot).

Quick aside: I was sitting with workmates at lunch (at my last job), and one of them was getting married to a preacher’s son in a couple of months.  And taking some kind of Bible study class that her future father-in-law was teaching….

Girl: He wants us to pick our favorite story from the New Testament!  (Looks around anxiously)

Me: Hey, how about the one where Jesus is on the boat, and it’s all stormy and stuff, and the disciples are freaking out and then He calms the storm…always liked that one.  He was grumpy because He had been taking a nap.

(Blank looks from everyone in the break room)

Girl: I don’t know that one.  I don’t know any stories.  Just the Christmas one, and he said that didn’t count.

Crickets chirp.

Me: (Because I am nasty this way) You mean that, at a table full of Christians, the only person who knows a story from the Bible is a pagan??

This is typical, I find.  So, Christians, put up or shut up.  If you don’t know your basic tenets of your religion, and you certainly do not know the basic tenets of mine, keep your trap closed.

The other problem with “wwJd” is that some Christians pick and choose, according to their prejudices.

If, for example, they feel hostile towards a group for whatever reason, they trot out the “Jesus and the money-changers” story, to illustrate that, yes, Jesus did have a temper.  Doesn’t matter to them that their example is completely out of context.

If so many are not familiar with the Bible, who’s going to know, right?

A final example is the quote, “No one comes to the Father but through me.”  This is interpreted by many Christians as, “If you don’t believe in Jesus, you’re going to hell.”

But wait!  Let’s see what Pope Francis says about this.  I chose him because, even though evangelicals think he’s the anti-Christ or something, no one can say he hasn’t read the Bible.  I think we can all agree that he’s pretty much studied it his whole life.

I was raised Episcopalian, not Catholic, so I am also trying to be fair here.

Pope Francis stated in 2013:

“The Lord created us in His image and likeness, and we are the image of the Lord, and He does good and all of us have this commandment at heart, do good and do not do evil. All of us. ‘But, Father, this is not Catholic! He cannot do good.’ Yes, he can… “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ, all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists. Everyone!” We must meet one another doing good. ‘But I don’t believe, Father, I am an atheist!’ But do good: we will meet one another there.” (“Pope Francis Says that Atheists Can Do Good and Go to Heaven Too!” Catholic Online, 5/20/2013)

Which brings us to today’s post.

You know, a regular theme of mine is the microaggressions people who live in poverty face, that make everything in life that much harder in the day-to-day struggle.  Microaggression is basically having someone treat you as ‘less-than’, by being dismissive or insulting.  It’s usually not stated outright.  But it is done with the intent to hurt, and it’s usually received that way, too.

What it is not, is “freedom of speech”, or “freedom of religion”.  That is never the intent, it is only the excuse that cowards use when they don’t want to own up to being assholes.

Here is my latest example of religious microaggression.

I ride something called the Senior Services van.  It takes people to the store, doctor’s appointments, or basically anywhere you need/want to go, if you are disabled and/or 65 years of age or older.   I am disabled, so I use it.  I do not have a car (because I cannot afford a car, not because I “lost my license” – that is another microaggression for another post).

It is paid for by lottery money, state grants, and the people who use the service.

I was picked up on Monday from Walgreen’s by the van, driven by a driver I didn’t know.  He seemed friendly enough – at first.  But we hadn’t gone even a mile when he asked me if I was “ready for Easter.”

Ok, so what?  I said, “Well I think I will be traveling to see my grandson, so I am getting ready for my trip.”

“What?  You’re doing what??” he asked.

Now I am getting a bit weirded out, because his tone isn’t “I am hard of hearing and cannot hear you”, but “I am flabbergasted by what you just said.”

And I am thinking, “What is wrong with him?  Maybe he’s just having a bad day.”

He chatted about how he has 6 kids and a million grandkids or something.  I wasn’t really listening all that hard because I didn’t like his tone and his manner was rather pushy.

Then we got to my street.

He asked, “Where do you go to church?” All of a sudden, out of the blue.

“I don’t go to church,” I replied.

“Why not???” he asked (again, with the “I am flabbergasted” tone of voice).

And this is where I should have said, “None of your business.”

But to be honest, he caught me off-guard.  I am not used to being asked things like this, not since I left Memphis (which is full of obnoxious Christians).  To people in Memphis, I would just tell them, in a spooky voice, that I was a witch.  That stopped them and scared them into not talking to me.

“I am not a Christian,” I said.

“You don’t have to be a Christian to go to church, but you do have to be a Christian to go to heaven.  Did you know that, Victoria?” he asked, in a patronizing manner.

Now my mouth has fallen open.  I am shocked.  I am speechless.

And I am furious.

We had arrived at my house, so I just got off the van and went inside, remembering to observe what van number he drove.

I went inside and called the van company.  I spoke to a woman who usually takes reservations, one who has been friendly and nice.

Not today.

“Hi, (name of person I won’t mention because I am nice), I’m glad you answered.  I want to file a complaint about a driver,” I stated.

“Ok, let me get a pen and paper,” she said.

“Ready?” I asked.

“Go ahead,” she replied.

“The driver asked me what church I go to,” I began…

“I’m not going to tell you!” she exclaimed.

Silence.  I am puzzled by her response.  Then it dawned on me.

I asked her, “Did you think I was asking you what church you go to???”

“Well, yeah,” she answered, in a somewhat huffy voice.

You see Christians, the pushy kind, always seem to think they are under attack for some reason.  I think it’s because they are no longer allowed to push their beliefs on everyone else, and that pisses them off.  So they interpret things in that light.

Surprised, I stated emphatically, “I wouldn’t ask you that!!” Then I added, “The driver of the van asked me that!”

I related the rest of the brief encounter.  She never said a word.  After a prolonged period of silence, I asked if she was still on the line.

“I’m still writing!” she snapped.

Then she asked if I wanted someone to call me back about it.  I told her I trusted her to pass the info along.

After I got off the phone, I started to wonder, would she really pass the info on?  She seemed offended that I had even reported it.

So I called back, got another person, and gave her my name and number for a call-back.

Not 5 minutes later, Pit Bull is rapping “Oye”.  My default ringtone heh.  Man, I never get tired of hearing it!  But anyway…

Supervisor identified himself, asked how he could help me, and I related the incident.  And realized that the first woman who took my report did not turn it in, because he asked for info that I had given her, like the van number and so on.

I didn’t ask him whether or not he got my first message.  No need to get more than one person in trouble that day.  But, wow.

His reaction was to apologize, and to say he would take care of it right away.  I got the feeling he didn’t like the driver saying those things to me.  And that perhaps he was familiar with this guy doing this to other clients.

So, I hope he fired him.

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Technology & The Art of Being Poor

Art.  No, not really, but it makes for a catchy title.  I do not consider being poor “art”, that would be way too petit bourgeois.  It just helps, sometimes, to think of my economic situation in different ways, so I don’t let it depress me – too much.

Today was supposed to be grocery-shopping day.

After I had the awful experience (at Martin’s Foods in Duncansville) of having my EBT card declined due to their mistake, I am doubly paranoid about having my card declined, and as I sat on my porch waiting for the van to pick me up, I realized I needed to check my balance.

So I picked up my phone, looked up the EBT Hotline in contacts, and pressed the number.

Nothing.

No ring sound, no “Thank you for calling Pennsylvania EBT customer service.  For English, press 1.”

I hung up and tried again.

Nothing.

I went to check all my sound settings.  They were all ok.  Then I decided to see if any of the sounds played.

No.  No “Oye” by Pitbull (default ringtone, heh).  No notification sound.  No nothing.

Van pulls up.  Oh good, I can ask the driver.

The driver is my age.  He laughs.  “You’re asking the wrong person.”

Uh-oh.

I told him I couldn’t go because I couldn’t call for a pickup, and I couldn’t call to check my EBT balance to make sure I didn’t get declined when it came time to check out.  He understood, and left.

In a fit of pique and swearing like a sailor, I stomped up the stairs to my apt.

Cursing Motorola.  Cursing Moto.  Cursing technology.

Got on the internet and realized 2 things: 1. I could have looked up my balance on the internet, and 2. many people are having this issue with Moto G 1st gen.

The solution?  Reboot.  So I did.

No.  Still no Pit Bull.

Read a few forums and one said to go into developer mode – which I had miraculously unlocked on my phone when I first got it, in order to change some settings to cut down on the amount of space things take up (or something, I forget what, exactly).  And change from ART to Dalvik, which apparently messes up your “optimal performance”, but fixes the “no sound” issue.

So I did.  And Pit Bull was rapping and singing again!

Called the EBT Hotline.  Got my balance.  Yay!

Called the van place and booked for tomorrow.

It’s these little things that drive me crazy, and almost all of them are connected in some way to technology.  I admit, some of it is my fault, because I have always had one of my kids or someone else (usually a boyfriend) fix my technology problems or at least told me how I could fix them.

Now that I live alone, the only ones I can ask are the cats.  And they aren’t telling.

Now nearly everything has technology connected to it.  Had I not had a phone or an internet connection – both of which I often think I should get rid of when I am frustrated – I wouldn’t have had any way to check my food stamp balance.  Because they aren’t even food stamps anymore, they’re credits on a card.

And I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but when was the last time you saw a pay phone?  As in, phone booth, put quarter in, make call?

Yeah, I thought so.  Me neither.

It was technology that led to the Martin’s Incident, and the same goes for today.

The smallest, seemingly easiest things to do with technology are all way over my head.  And it frustrates me to no end that I can’t do stuff that, say, a 12 yr old can do.

I know, I sound like an old bat.

Verizon has a how-to class on Moto G.  I would love to take that class, as it is free.  But it’s on Saturdays.

Van doesn’t run on Saturdays.  So that’s a no-go.

This is where the being poor part intersects the technology dummy part.  Too poor to own a car, can’t take classes to use technology.

And it is pretty much this way for most things.  Being poor is not only a matter of not being able to afford things, it also makes errands and things people take for granted about 10 times harder than they should be.

Got to do laundry?  Two choices: either lug your laundry to the laudromat on foot (which is difficult, try it sometime), or call the van and pay $6 round trip to go do your laundry.

Run out of milk?  Catfood? Garbage bags?  (I chose those because I frequently run out of them)  Got $6 in exact change?  No?

Tough shit.  Walk to the store that’s 3/4 of a mile one-way from your apt?  That’s my new goal.  But if I didn’t have the “Rest-n-Roll” cart that comes with a fold-down seat, I wouldn’t even attempt it.  Because I would probably need to sit down along the way and…

When was the last time you saw a bench on the street, that wasn’t a bus stop?

Yeah, I thought so.  Me neither.

Further compounding things – and preventing me from ever being able to walk to the bank if I had to – is that this area of PA, for some extremely weird reason, has very few crosswalks.

I’m serious.  Drive down any street in Altoona and thereabouts, and you will see traffic lights on corners, but signs that indicate you cannot cross the street on foot.  Signs with a person on them and a big red slash across it.  It’s one of the strangest things I’ve seen here.

And yes, people do get tickets for jaywalking if they try to cross the street.  Really.

So, if I need to go someplace that I cannot walk to, it’s $6.  The nearest branch of my bank has “no pedestrian” signs, AND no walk-up ATM.  Last time I went, they wanted to charge me FOR CASHING A CHECK AT MY OWN BANK!

New policy.  “You can use the ATM outside,” she said.

“But I don’t have a car!”

Blank look.  Crickets chirp.

So, I got behind a car in the drive-thru ATM.  That was really weird and embarrassing, standing out in the drive-thru lane.

And in the car in front of me, the woman who I noticed had seen me standing there, finished her transaction.  Then, put on her makeup, put on her seat belt, looked in the glove compartment for something, and basically twiddled around for 5 minutes before she left.

And all the while I am hoping a car doesn’t come up behind me.

Little things.  Being poor makes everything unnecessarily hard.  Everything you do takes twice as long, usually, too.  It makes going to the grocery store an all-day adventure.

And not in a good way, either.

Goddess help you if you’re disabled or frail.  (I am disabled, but not frail, thankfully)

I mentioned the lottery to a van driver once.  Told him if I ever won, the first thing I would do is buy a car.

“No you won’t,” he said.

“Why not? I asked.

“There’s insurance and gas. You can’t afford those on disability.”

I realized that, if I did win enough to buy a car, and nothing else, he was right.  Compounding this would be that SSI would cut me off, and so would the EBT people.  Even if I cashed the check immediately and spent it all on a car.  Income is income, and even if you are broke the very next day, it would take at least another month to get your benefits back.

“It’s like they want you to stay poor,” many people have remarked to me.

Indeed.

Today’s recommendation for books is….

“The Murder Pit”, by Jeff Shelby.  It’s what you call a “cozy mystery”, which are books that feature an amateur sleuth (usually female), are set in a small town (usually), downplay violence and sex, are funny (sometimes), and have a love interest for the sleuth.

Basically, “Murder She Wrote”, in book form.

There is a subgenre that features cats as helpers to the sleuth, or sometimes they solve the crime all by themselves and then get a human to help them.

Those are my favorite kinds of cozies.

As for movies?  I highly recommend “The Imitation Game”, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as Alan Turing.  No, I haven’t seen it but many people tell me it’s good.

I haven’t seen it because the van doesn’t run past 4PM (or thereabouts on weekdays), and not at all on weekends.  See?  See what I mean?

Be good.  Be kind.  Don’t get run over in an ATM drive-thru.

 

 

 

 

 

Empathy, Shlempathy: Who Cares?

I have to admit I am becoming increasingly bewildered by the online world.

You have Facebook, which can be a funny, nice online thing to read….until you get the “poor thing” spammy posts, that go something like: “My friend’s sister’s cousin’s best friend sent me this picture of this POOR CHILD! It’s so sad, he/she is dying/scarred for life/missing/chronically ill.  Like this page and pass it on!!”

Sometimes there is a link to a crowd funding site, so you can send money too.

Sometimes it isn’t a child, it’s an adult.  I saw one post on FB where a woman was asking for money – preferably in person from a celebrity – so she could buy a large-screen tv.  She is on disability, you see, and never has money for stuff like that.

You can imagine what I said to her.

Regarding the children ones, I used to look them up on Snopes but it got so that there were so many of them that I didn’t want to bother anymore.  Why should I be the one to look up a hoax?  They all have internet access, too, and if they are too gullible to just believe everything anybody says, well….not my problem.

The children postings, if you look at the source, quite often come from FB pages where there are nothing but these stories.  Usually it is a middle-aged or older woman, who seems to collect them and pass them on.  No vetting, no nothing.  Just hysterical, “brought tears to my eyes” posts.

I can’t call what these people feel “empathy”.  It’s more like they are just easily manipulated and get their “crying buttons” pushed.  Like when you watch a movie.  No one would say they felt “empathy” for the couple in “Titanic”, for example.  It’s not the right term for it.

I think the more exposure this kind of post gets, the more it serves to shut people down entirely.  I mean, you can’t help everyone, right?  And when you think about it, “liking” a post on FB does NOTHING.  It doesn’t help the person who is supposedly in trouble/sick/dying/whatever.  So, what’s the point?

The point is to show everyone how empathetic you are, without actually having to be empathetic, or to act on that feeling and really help someone.

It’s easy, and it’s lazy.  And fake as all get-out.   And, even when you point out that it’s a hoax, some people just dig in more and insist it’s not.  Because damn, then they would look gullible and stupid, instead of caring and on moral high ground.

It’s part of the fakery that is the online world.  I am puzzled by it all.

It also is dismissive of real-world problems, and what people can do to change them.

It’s easy to “like” a page on FB.  But it’s hard to:

~ Visit an elderly shut-in

~ Visit a sick/dying person in the hospital

~ Offer to run errands for people in crisis

~ Go out with volunteer search teams to help find a missing child

~ Volunteer anywhere, to do anything…

These actions really do help.  But they also make people aware of others, and other peoples’ pain, and so elicit the kind of real empathy that seems somewhat lacking in today’s world.

When you think about someone, someone you have talked to, and the kinds of things they are going through, and how it affects them, and suddenly you feel sad or angry…

That’s empathy.

When you are moved to do something – anything – that can ease someone’s burden or pain, because you will ache inside until you do….

That’s empathy.

If even one post I have ever written here moves you to action, to help someone else…

That feeling of being moved, that’s empathy.

This other stuff on the internet?  Not so much.

Oh I won’t bitch about people sending money on crowd funding sites, if it really helps someone.  That, too, can be the result of empathy.  Some people have neither the time nor the ability to get out there and physically do something, and that’s ok by me.

I am disabled, with no transportation, and would only be able to volunteer if someone could give me a ride.  That would be empathy, too…a “2-for-1 deal” where you would not only be helping me, you would be helping me help someone else.

Ha, I did try to volunteer at 3 places around here – at the library, at a ‘feed-the-homeless’ thing sponsored by a church, and at the women’s shelter that helped me 5 years ago when I showed up on their doorstep.

The minute I asked about car-pooling (hey, I’m not cheap, I will pay for gas), didn’t hear a word back, ever.

That’s definitely not empathy.

I’m not sure what that was, actually, but it saddened me.

If I ever win the lottery, I will start a non-profit that includes transportation for people who want to volunteer.

My dream, of course, is to start a women’s shelter that is run in a logical manner (as in, it actually helps women and their children and pets), has a way to make it easy for people to volunteer (like a van), and has a small side-business for the women to work in until they find work elsewhere (if they want to).

I say “win the lottery” because at this point, as poor as I am, I can’t see how that’s ever going to happen.

Heck if I could get a job that paid well, I would use my own money to start a shelter.

But right now, as it stands, all I can do is write.  Write about the issues that the poor, the disabled, the disenfranchised, the survivors of domestic abuse have.

And try to evoke empathy.

I don’t have any book recommendations this week.  Originally, I was going to recommend Dee Brown’s “The Gentle Tamers: Women of the Old WIld West”, because I had skipped around and read some of the later chapters and, while I found the content somewhat patronizing, it wasn’t until I went back and read the book from the beginning that I realized I cannot recommend it.

Yes, the book was written in 1958.  Yes, it relies heavily on the ‘biographies’ of the (mostly eastern U.S. and wealthy) white women who wrote somewhat sensationalist serialized books for profit.

But I expected more from Dee Brown.

The book relies heavily on stereotypes and horror stories about tribal men kidnapping pioneer women whose only ‘crime’, it would seem, was their traipsing across tribal lands.

But, in fact, many of these women were missionaries (out to ‘civilize’ native people by opening up schools on native land and re-naming native children – and adults – with English names); wives of military men who established forts on native lands and then proceeded to kill the natives with guns and diseases; and wealthy women traveling with their husbands to seek their fortunes in California during the gold rush.

In other words, they tried to destroy the indigenous people using disease, cultural obliteration, and just flat-out murdering them.

All of them believers in “manifest destiny”.

All of them convinced that native men were ignorant, ‘uncivilized’, sneaky, bloodthirsty rapists – and their accounts reflected that.

Honestly, I couldn’t get through most of it without being angry.

I don’t know what Dee Brown’s story was, in between this book and “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee”.  He must have had an epiphany of sorts.

There is no context for the “Taming” book, and there needed to be.  So I cannot recommend it.

For weird news….this falls under the “what a weird thing to think” category:

At the February meeting of the U.N. Disarmament Conference in Geneva, a representative from Belarus made this comment about the debate regarding whether or not the meeting should be public…

“What if there were topless ladies screaming from the public gallery, throwing bottles of mayonnaise?” (“Belarus Diplomat Worries Topless, Mayo-Throwing Women Could Disrupt U.N.”, Reuters website, 2/11/15)

And the response is weird, too…the president of the conference replied that “members of the public were already entitled to attend plenary meetings of the conference and sit in the public gallery, and so in theory could already drop mayonnaise onto delegates.” (Ibid)

Then there is…Shane “But I Was Hungry” Lindsey was arrested in New Kensington, PA, when he stopped for some chicken and biscuits right after robbing a bank down the street.  Well, though, in his defense, you really can’t get a decent chicken and biscuit meal anywhere up north here, so when you find one, it’s just too irresistable. (“Police: Suspect Stopped for Chicken-and-Biscuits After New Kensington Bank Robbery”, CBS Pittsburgh website, 1/15/15)

Dammit, now I’m hungry.  Gotta go make biscuits.

Be good.  Be kind.  Eat biscuits, southern-style.