In a way, it’s a republican country these days even if they didn’t actually take the election by a majority. Still, this pervasive sentiment seems to be taking hold: “Fuck you. I got mine.” And nobody is the least bit ashamed of that twisted attitude.
As a <not republican> I have some trouble with this sentiment. As a <not Christian> I also have a problem with it. Then there’s the fact that I’m a <not a wealthy/cishet/male/American person> so obviously, this doesn’t work for me.
Now there’s a tough one. People like to wave a hand sort of vaguely in the air and say “. . .but I hate labels. What are they really but limitations. . .?” Right then I imagine the speaker disappearing in a puff of pretentiousness just before I get to answer “Labels, you say? What are they really? They’re language, you dolt.” Oh, look, a label! Communication. Another label! Spend some years on anti-seizure meds (to deal with crippling migraines) and you’ll learn to appreciate the precious act of being able to find just the right word to match up with an idea you are desperate to express. In the right hands (mouth? pen?) language can be freedom and beauty and possibility. Language, labels, are the basis for ideas, laws, social structure, science and art. It unlocks doors, opens the mind to ideas, allows a person to express themselves, to share and to receive, to release all those fears and joys and discoveries and share them with the world. Language allows us to give. It also allows us to ask for help.
I don’t have labels yet for some aspects of me including those above, the <not Christian> (though atheist mostly fits in my case) and <not republican> (which should be obvious since I don’t fit into all of their required checkboxes – see next missing label) and <not a wealthy/cishet/male/American person>. If I had a label or labels for them, then when someone starts in on the “but Trump is our savior and he’s so smart and so rich and so orange, and he says what he thinks” (gagging as I type that line) bullshit then I can just point out my labels. That label would tell anyone who wants to know that I’m in the vast majority of America’s population that Trump says he’s going after, the “other.” That label means I am <not one or more of the following: wealthy/male/cishet/Christian/white/American>. I suppose, for now, the closest I’m going to get would be to say I’m one of the 99% as “other” doesn’t seem specific enough since anyone not American is also an “other” regardless of their skin color.
Unfortunately, many of my fellow 99%ers have no idea they’re one of us, one of the “other.” Not all would be considered the sharpest knives in the drawer; it might take them a bit to come around to who they are rather than who they hope to be at some point in the future. I genuinely hope 45 doesn’t hurt them or their loved ones too badly in the meantime. They’re the people who keep voting to eliminate “safety net” programs, to build a wall, and they are quick to tell you all about how unfair the estate tax is as if it will apply to them (which, I can assure them, it will not). They are also authorities on “welfare queens” and would be thrilled to tell you about that one time they saw one in the check-out line at Wal-Mart and precisely what was in her shopping cart. (cue the eyeroll)
You knew I’d get around to where I’m actually going. I read an article posted by a friend today. If you don’t want to bother with the link, the short version is don’t pick mold off bread and then eat the rest of the loaf or slice; it’s hard to really get mold off of/out of bread so if there is any doubt, toss it. Good information, I thought. I’m in a place now that if there is mold on my bread I can afford to toss it. I will not go hungry for a week without it. I didn’t always have it this good. Hell, most of my life I haven’t had it anywhere near this good.
“Do people actually pick the mold off and eat it?!?! Yuck!”
The comment surprised me. I mean, we cut the mold off cheese and eat the rest, right? You don’t even have to be particularly poor or starved. It’s what you do. So, if you’re hungry, yeah, you cut the little moldy corner off and eat the bread. Freeze what you can if it’s all you have for the next week, try to make it last, but you save as many calories as you can.
To that comment, I offered a matter-of-fact response that there is a lot of hunger in this country, more than they know apparently. It went over like a lead balloon. I forget that people can be set off by the littlest challenge to their notions. So, yeah, I probably should have wrapped it up all pretty and sweet (women should always do that because other people like when women are sweet – *cough* *fuck ’em* *cough*) with a bow, but damn, you know? This television station did the story in a matter-of-fact way because yes, people eat bread after removing the moldy bit they can see. Now we know why we should avoid it if we can. A matter-of-fact story with my matter-of-fact response to an odd comment set off what looked like a bit of a pissing match, but I can say with complete honesty that my intent was only to educate. But the “match” struck home. It offended me in a way that surprised even myself. This person clearly assumes that everyone is so wealthy here that we can just throw away food that isn’t perfect and perfectly fresh. Why does that surprise me? I mean, everyone in the U.S. knows that we are a society of waste. We waste so much. . .
And there it is. I don’t waste food. I’ve been hungry or downright starving so much of my life, childhood through adulthood, that it hurts me to throw food away now. It’s a failure on my part. I am still insecure about food, about hunger. Every week or two I make “leftover soup.” Still. I get everything I can find in the fridge and freezer that needs to be eaten and even remotely makes sense for soup and I throw it in the pot with my little bottle of veggie stock. Steamed veggies are a favorite since fresh veggies are a luxury I revel in these days so I keep and reuse the steaming liquid until it’s time to make the soup. The bottoms of mushrooms, peels from potatoes, tops from celery and onions, ends from carrots, yu choy, and squash, etc. get saved in the freezer until it’s time to boil them up to make the rest of the stock. I don’t wash and reuse aluminum foil like grandma did, but I am not joking when I say I don’t waste if I can possibly avoid it. This is how things are when money’s tight especially when you have children who need to be fed and clothed before you. Always before you.
My son’s grown now, and I am confident that he had enough to eat growing up. He didn’t have a lot, but he had enough. I made sure of it, but there were some somersaults on my part, sometimes borrowing, and yes, I was hungry a lot, ate spoiled food or just plain didn’t eat for weeks at a time. My mother had to do the same things when we were growing up. Any parent will say they understand. There are many more of us who have to live like this even for a little bit than that commenter realizes. A lot of parents, especially single ones, eat the moldy bread because the alternative is to be hungry. We get tired of always being weak from hunger. That physical weakness and the irritability don’t make us better parents or better employees.
Which brings me to what I came to understand when that person’s attitude offended me so. There was a kind of ‘how dare you assume things about me while I’m looking down on people for what they have to do to survive’ kind of vibe, and it hit me. Wham! This is it. This is why I never considered food stamps even though coworkers suggested it more than once telling me “this is exactly what the system is for – you’ve paid into it, use it!” My frustration with that commenter was part of the whole “only lazy welfare queens ask for help” BS we’ve been sold ever since Reagan started reciting his anecdote around 1976. It’s been drilled into us. If you need food stamps you’re a failure and you didn’t work hard enough and you’re lazy and you’re icky. That’s the attitude we use to control our single parents and anyone else who needs help.
That saying about pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps? This link says it best.
“The origin of this descriptive phrase isn’t known. It refers of course to boots and their straps (laces) and to the imagined feat of a lifting oneself off the ground by pulling on one’s bootstraps. This impossible task is supposed to exemplify the achievement in getting out of a difficult situation by one’s own efforts.”
Our politicians and “leaders” love to brag about how they did it all with no help from anyone, not the government, not their families, not society, not church – they were, perhaps, tossed into the forest just after they were born and raised by wolves? – so we can do it, too. They pulled themselves up by their bootstraps, especially the ones who were born on third and love to brag about hitting a home run. They did it, and we can, too. But that saying is literally an impossible task. We all need help sometimes. It’s up to us to stop making people feel like shit because they fall on hard times for a bit. A parent who pays her taxes, her bills, her daycare, who works at least one full time job (sometimes I had a second job, too) should get to eat. She shouldn’t be made to feel like a failure for needing help. And do NOT let anybody say “yuck” at you for having to eat old food sometimes to live. Especially when you’re eating old food hoping to avoid having to ask for food stamps.
And to those jerks who tell poor people just trying to get by what they can or cannot have with their SNAP (“food stamps”), dried beans and potatoes and tuna are not luxuries. I could make a can of tuna and a cheap box of store brand macaroni and cheese last four days. It’s not particularly healthy, but there was protein and calories to keep me upright at work. A bit of cooked (formerly dried) black beans and cheap rice will trick your brain into feeling full for pennies. And ketchup sandwiches are a thing, even if there’s a bit of mold on the bread. A SNAP supplement for food of $133.44 in one month could be all the difference for a family with children. Poor people know how to stretch that, but they need the beans and the potatoes to do it.
So, fuck Reagan and all the rest for making my mother (who worked full time and was stuck with a mortgage on a new house) feel that it would be wrong to get assistance in hard times. Fuck those bullies for making me feel like a bad person and a bad parent because even though I worked my ass off there just wasn’t enough. And fuck them for making me feel guilty for eating or shame for wishing I could eat. Nobody deserves that. Nobody.
This “fuck you all,” “lift yourself up you lazy slacker” attitude needs to stop. It’s part of that argument about the minimum wage where a worker looks down on another and says “I only get paid $x/hour, and my job is more important than his, and he doesn’t do his well enough so he shouldn’t be paid a living wage.” The answer to that one? Why shouldn’t you both be paid a living wage if you’re both working full time? Better pay will attract better workers to both of your professions, or at least, it’ll make you both take your jobs much more seriously. Bonus? We have workers who can support and feed their families, who spend money, who contribute positively to the economy, workers who don’t need government assistance to survive.
We can’t keep doing this shit to our hard-working parents and their children. Their children are our future. Feed kids at school if they need it. Feed our elderly citizens. It’s hard to be productive when you’re hungry. We have so much food here. Feed them even if they aren’t going to be productive. The help is there for when people need it. Don’t make them feel bad for taking what is ours to give, what is theirs, when they really need it.