Tag Archives: racism sexism class

Make No Mistake: This Was Never About Jobs

Brief health update: I am being tested – for the 3rd time – for pheochromocytoma, which is an adrenal gland tumor, and also being tested for carcinoid syndrome, which is a tumor ‘somewhere’. The endocrinologist thinks the tests will be negative, judging from my past test results, but he wants to make sure because my symptoms indicate one of those two diseases. He told me as I left that he might have to send me to Pittsburgh, which is the default answer for doctors here when they don’t know what’s wrong with you.  I can’t go to Pittsburgh, as I have no way to get there nor money for a plane or train (plus taxi, plus motel, etc).

At this point I would just be happy if they found a way to control the symptoms.  This illness has completely derailed my life.

Anyway, on to the subject at hand: the election.

I was dismayed that Trump won, and I was very disappointed that the Democrats didn’t get the turnout they should have.  I should mention, I live smack dab in the middle of “Trump country”, which is Central Pennsylvania.  The polling place I voted at had very long lines, and that should have been the first clue that Clinton wouldn’t win – my polling place never has a line, usually.

I also noticed a lot of apparent first-time voters, judging by how many people needed to have their hands held as they were walked through the process of using a voting machine.  No further comment on that.

So…Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost in the electoral college.  This is the 2nd time in 16 years that this has happened to a Democrat running for president.  But since she won the popular vote, this indicates – at least to me – that Trump doesn’t exactly have an overwhelming mandate from the American people.

Now, I have been watching news shows all through this election and beyond, and I have to say I disagree with the general consensus that Trump won because people have “economic anxiety” and that we “have to listen to them”.

No.  And no.

I live amongst the people who voted this guy into office.  I have heard their views – unwillingly, mostly – on the bus, on the senior van, in the hospital, in the shops, and so on.  Not one of them ever mentioned jobs when they went on their “I love Trump” rants.

They mentioned getting back to “the way things were, when no one was politically correct”. The translation?  “When I could be disrespectful and mean to anyone not like me, and no one would challenge me.”

They mentioned “taking our country back.”  Translation?  “I don’t want all these brown and black folks in my neighborhood/town, and I certainly don’t want to have to look at them or interact with them.”  Similar to that is “I don’t want these thugs coming to live here from Philadelphia, selling their drugs.”  Translation?  “African-Americans who live in this area are thugs and drug dealers, and are responsible for the drug epidemic.”

Never mind that the heroin problem here is multi-generational.  I worked as a drug and alcohol counselor and most of the heroin addicts I treated got the habit from parents, grandparents, cousins, etc – in other words, this heroin problem has been around for many, many years.

But it’s just another thing to blame on minorities, another justification for racist thought.  That is never acceptable, no matter what form it takes.

Not one time did anyone mention jobs, except as an afterthought about when this area had a lot of factories.  It was part of the landscape, not the central reason these people are so angry.

The closest I heard to anything like that was at a talk some man gave about his life as a machinist for Slinky.  He mentioned that he had seen machinery jobs leaving this area for many years, but he still told his kids that they should be machinists, too, and not be “lazy, like those kids who do programming.”

As far as I am concerned, if he saw the writing on the wall and still steered his kids towards being machinists instead of learning marketable skills (like a good parent would), then that’s on him.  He has some hang-up about certain skills and certainly about higher education, and his stubbornness hurt his kids.  It’s his fault.

No one in this area thinks Trump – or anyone else – can bring back the factories that dotted the landscape in Central PA.  That ship sailed long ago, in the 1970s.   The owners of the means of production decided they could make more money overseas, it’s as simple as that.  They weren’t and aren’t going to come back just because people want them to.

The people here know that.  A lot of them, too, are retired military people who have never worked a production job in their lives.  And the average Trump supporter pulls down $72,000 per year (“Trump Voters Earn a Lot More Than You Might Think”, Josh Hatner, USA Today online, 5/5/2016).

These are not poor folks.  They own houses, and cars, and bitch about how much they have to pay for Medicare (which is based on their income, so I really don’t feel sorry for them).  They are comfortable in their little world and they resent non-white people moving into the area.

They complain about “having to be politically correct” even as they say hateful things when other white people are around (I hate that, their assumption that because someone is white they will agree with whatever bigoted shit they care to spout – and I make that reaction clear to whomever tries that with me).

They don’t even want to discuss race or gender, because then they would have to examine their own racist and sexist viewpoints…and let’s face it, they don’t want to do that because it makes them feel uncomfortable.

Luckily, they feel, someone came along who would say all the stuff they were thinking, and now he’s president!  Now they have carte blanche to be as ugly and horrible to others as they want to be, and it’s ok because Trump got elected.

In some ways, as much as people get on the news shows and express disgust with Trump’s and his supporters’ racist/sexist/xenophobic/lgbt-hating ideas, backward and wrongheaded ideas have now been normalized.  This is what bugs me about people, liberals all, who keep insisting that Trump supporters are not bigoted, and we need to “understand them.”

Most progressives already do understand these people.  It’s why we won’t stand to let them get away with anything – not their rhetoric, or certainly not their hateful actions.  What liberals like Michael Moore – who, to me, is just a blowhard even if I agree with some things he says – want us to do is pander to bigots and racists.

They want us to “reassure” these hateful people that they are not under attack.  I won’t, and I can’t, do that.

They are under attack for a reason.  Well, for several reasons, actually.  Their viewpoints that they hold represent:

Racism

Sexism

Xenophobia

Anti-Semitism

Anti-LGBT

And on and on.  These ideas, this yearning to return to a time when only straight, white men were listened to, and everyone else was either vilified or ignored, are not compatible with the values our country is supposed to stand for.

Small World, Small Minds

Note: I started my volunteer gig on Monday.  My very first day, I sort of got in trouble for reporting a problem that the “powers that be” subsequently told me wasn’t a problem.  

So, I am going to avoid situations where the “not-a-problem” comes up, in order to stay clean if the shit hits the fan.  Because I take these kinds of “not-a-problem” things really seriously and will not risk my reputation – such as it is – for social reasons and to “get along”.  

Yesterday I atoned for it by repackaging 160 bags of candy for resale.  And was chatty and pretended to like being bossed around by 80 year old women who get sarcastic and mean if things are not done “just so”.

I marveled at the fact that they were able to sit and stand for much longer periods of time than I was. Physically, these first days were hard on me.  The walk to the bus stop to go home is uphill and difficult.  I fell asleep both days during the hour-long trip on the bus going home.

Thankfully, I have today off.

Today’s blog post is about something that happened last week on the van…

I recently wrote a blog post called “Free Garbage is Still…Garbage”, in which I mentioned that many people do not understand how poor folk live in America.  I was writing mainly about people who have never “been there”, people who never think about unpleasant things like hunger and poverty, or people who basically think that being poor is self-inflicted.

Well, I ran into another representative of a group of people who like to complain about people who live on disability – that small but vocal percentage of people who are on disability themselves, but who deserve it!  Because they’re really sick!  They really can’t work!

But those “other” lazy bums, they can!  It’s not right!

I was riding the senior van to a facility, going to my volunteer gig orientation.  A very obese man sat in a wheelchair behind me and started the conversation with, “I used to be in a workfare program, and they were supposed to hire me at the job I worked after 2 years, but after 4 years I hadn’t been hired so I demanded that they hire me!”

“Uh oh,” thought I, “a real charmer.”

“Of course,” he continued, “they said why should they hire me when they can get welfare to pay me?”

By now I am rolling my eyes.  Because you just know that no one said any such thing.

Aside #1: It may have actually been true, but I don’t think they would have told him that to his face – that kind of stuff results in lawsuits.

So he was embellishing somewhat, ok.  We all do it sometimes.

“But then I got arthritis,” he said, “and I couldn’t work.”

He paused, then angrily stated, “It doesn’t matter anyway, because you have to know someone or be related to someone in order to get a job here.  I even went to go see the guy I used to caddy for, and told him I needed a job, but he wouldn’t hire me!  I told him he could either hire me, or pay my way through his social security payments!”

Yeah, because that will surely convince someone to give you a job.

Aside #2: Again, there is some truth to the idea that, in provincial Altoona and in the even more provincial surrounding small towns, you have to know someone/be related to someone to get a job. Mostly because everyone around here is related to someone, or knows someone who is connected to them in some way, who is in a position to hire them/give them a reference (or talk unkindly about them being a troublemaker, in my case).

He was on a roll now. “But you know what makes me so mad?  All these bums on social security who say they can’t work because they have drug and alcohol problems.  They just have to set their minds to not using or drinking, and go back to work!  They’re just lazy!”

Ding ding ding – hot button pushed, right there.

“Now wait a minute,” I objected, “people who are addicted to drugs or alcohol do have a hard time holding a job.  They have a problem that needs to be addressed.”

“Yeah, but it’s all in their heads!  They could work if they wanted to!” he argued.

I sighed.  “You would agree that these substances affect your brain, right?”

“Yeah,” he replied.

“And you would agree that your brain is the thing you think with?  So these substances cause an impairment in the way people think,” I tried to explain.

“Exactly!” he beamed.  “That’s why they can just set their minds to not doing it anymore, and go to work!”

I gave up.  He clearly wasn’t going to get it.  I tried another tactic.

“Welfare and social security fraud is only at about 2%, that’s less than just about at any other government program.  So it’s not that many people,” I stated.

“I know TONS of guys who just sit around all day.  Why, just look at THEM!”  He pointed to 3 guys crossing the street.  They were all about 30, I guess, and were not white.

“Do you know them?” I asked.

“Well, no, but they should be at work!” he exclaimed.

Ok, this guy was just not going to get it.  He has decided that any minority person who is ambulatory and “doesn’t look sick” is just scamming the system.  People like him never seem to change.

So I dropped the subject and stared out the window at the scenery, annoyed.

With all the problems this guy has – health being the major one – he is worried about people he thinks might be taking advantage of the opulent living we on social security disability have?

But he himself is on social security disability.  Surely he knows this ain’t no “high-on-the-hog” living.