I Have A Right To Be Polarized

Good Morning Sunshine(s):

I remember the famous quote from someone getting his head handed to him:  “Why can’t we all just get along?”  Or, it was something along those lines.  Whatever  it was, it’s become more or less a New Commandment; as in “I give you a new commandment!  You shall get along with everyone!  You shall be tolerant, and diverse, and non-judgmental of your neighbors.  You shall not think their behavior savage, profligate, illegal, immoral or fattening lest you cause them to feel bad!  I am the, umm, the Happy Face!”

It was something along those lines that I woke up thinking about today, remembering the recent accusations of treasonous behavior directed at a group of senators from the opposite party here in these Untied States who wrote a very public letter warning a very public enemy about the life expectancy of a deal in the making.  A deal which a lot of folks, including the letter writers, not only think is not good, but is downright bad, not to say stupid, wrong and jejeune.  But, we have come to expect such things from certain folks over the last half dozen or so years.

So, they think the deal’s wrong, all wrong, and said so.  Well, at least we know where they stand on that issue.  At least, too, they don’t meet their opposition, who was one of their own, on the porch of the Senate and stab him to death to preserve the Republic.  But, it isn’t yet March 15th.

Some folks, not yet at the “calling someone treasonous” stage, lament such public displays of differences of opinion uttering versions of the “Why can’t we…” plea for harmony, unity, peace and good will.  Being right (not politically, Dear.  Puhleeze!) and acting that way causes disharmony.  Being polite does not.

Well, sometimes polite is wrong and right is, well, honorable.  I mean, it wasn’t right for former Rep. Wiener to show his naughty bits to a lady, even if some folks would say he had a right to do it…which I do not think he did, being after all married even if it was(is?) to a lady who works for a lady who has long thought it’s always right for her not to do the right thing (but what difference does that make?).   But it was right to say, and that loudly, that it was wrong, that HE was wrong, even if some folks would have preferred to “avert eyes” from the rude behavior, and to reach the conclusion that his wrongness was much wider and deeper than a mere matter of dressing or not.  Are you still following?

Stuff like this upsets a lot of folks.  They want everyone, like the fellows above, the Senators of Great Discord, to just get along; because, after all they say, it’s the right thing to do.  Families get along.  Don’t they?  They’re not polarized.  Neither are countries; or they shouldn’t be.  A nation needs to stick together and follow one leader.  “My country, etc…”  So they did in Rome, as recently as 70 years ago…and look what’s happened since.  And, they did it in places like Germany, Russia and China which were paradises and thousand year empires, for a while. Then other folks started thinking it wasn’t right, more or less, not to be polarized about some things…most things…everyone said should be right, including, most importantly, a bunch of Dear Leaders, and Uncles.   How else, one reasons in these cases, can Great Leaps Forward be accomplished unless everyone at all times thinks; nay believes with heart and soul, that all is right, and just, proper and helpful toward salvation?

While I continued thinking about this, I came across an article by a fellow with the odd sounding name of Hadley Arkes.  He wrote about polarization, a bad thing to have say the right believers in this article; worse, I suspect, than Ebola, because it has proven fatal in many cases among the polarized.  And Prof. Arkes concludes that it just might be right; despite what all of the folks who want us to have and exercise our rights in an atmosphere of smiling tolerance and agreeable silence say; vigorously exercise them, including the new ones which have been hiding in closets and shadows until coaxed out into the light by judges and oddly dressed or undressed people.

But, he, being a well educated fellow, and a real live professor of something, somewhere, says it much better than I ever could here.

Right’s never wrong.  But sometimes, and lately quite often, “rights” are, and being polarized, even angrily so, about that is, to my way of thinking, right.  The folks who argue against that, preaching tolerance of wrongs, will see nothing wrong, some sweet day, with putting people away who aren’t tolerant, diverse of opinion and supportive of one dear leader, a person not afraid of progress and change; a person to charge full speed ahead into the hope filled future. Dammit all!  They’ll do it because they’ll say that those who don’t think right are wrong and have no rights, particularly the right to think the way they do about the right way of doing things, including such things as Prof. Arkes mentions in his little article..

They’ve done it before. And, they’ll do it again, to paraphrase a once popular song.

They’ll do it again.

Niggling Details

NIGGLING DETAILS, PUT THEM ASIDE. CONCENTRATE ON THE BIG PICTURE

Earlier today I read a short posting on Facebook from one of my FB friends.  It was a comment on and a question about an article my friend had read in some online journal.  He remarked that the article was not, in his own judgement, a very well written piece.  My friend is a professor, BTW.  He said he’d have given it a C had one of his students submitted it, and I got from his tone that it would have been a charitable C.

My curiosity aroused, I clicked on the link and read the article myself.  My FB friend was right.  It is a very stupid article by some fellow; a paean to the brilliance of Our Dear Leader, his clear sightedness, his intuitive grasp of the “big picture”, as the numbskull who wrote this thing calls it.

Minutes before I began reading this article…which I really did not finish, since I became ill to the point of retching…I had read the following in a little book written way long ago when I was a boy, and people still had brains which they used to think. The author was speaking about power and how dangerous it can become both in the hands of the wrong folks and for the people over whom power is exercised:

“The greater a man’s power, the stronger the temptation to take the shortcut of force: the temptation to ignore both his creative originality and his personal truth; to achieve the desired end simply by force, dismissing what cannot be forced as not worthy of consideration – in other words the temptation to erect a culture on rational and technical foundations alone. To this end, man himself must be considered something “marketable” (“the labor market”), something that can be managed – i.e., “laid off or on,” “conditioned” from the start to certain ends.”

Are you getting the “big picture” yet?

Because, this next part I read I found really interesting:

“Nothing corrupts purity of character and the lofty qualities of the soul more than power. To wield power that is neither determined by moral responsibility nor curbed by respect of persons results in the destruction of all that is human in the wielder himself.

Antiquity was profoundly aware of this danger.   ….  For Plato, the tyrant (i.e., the wielder of power), who was not held in check by reverence for the gods and respect for the law was a forlorn and doomed figure. Little by little modernity lost this knowledge. Things that are now common practice – the denial of any norm higher than man, the public consent to autocratic power, the universal use of power for political or economic advantage – these are without precedent in history.”

The  author of the piece my FB friend linked me to was making a case for the superior intelligence of President Obama, and his ability, because of this, to see things that, well, we people of lesser intelligence cannot see..  As I read his article names of people came to mind.  You’ll read them toward the end of this if you persevere.  But, since the author was appealing to us to acknowledge the superior genius of President Obama I naturally thought how fitting and apt the description of the use of power was when applied to him. The term “Imperial Presidency” has been around since Nixon’s reign. (Let’s be honest, folks, and stop calling these things “administrations”.) It would be hard to find a better one than this presidency to call an Imperial one. The next one…if there is one…will be even more imperial.

Anyway, I recalled these few sentences I’d just finished while reading the article. And, I thought of people in the recent past who have been able to see the “big picture”; always a picture of hope and progress which would lead, inevitably to change; always change for the better. The following names were among those I conjured: Marx, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Hitler, Mussolini, Uncle Ho, Pol Pot, Idi Amin, Peron, Castro, Kim Il Whomever, the brand new Caliph out there in the desert. And, of course, the subject of this fellow’s essay, our current president. He, like them all, sees far, and dreams big. And all we need do is sit down, shut up and obey.

I give you a song, with words and pictures.  A song born in hope and forecasting change, a new age:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yDrtNEr_5M

A great song, don’t you think?  And not a true word in it.  That’s the Big Picture; a lie from top to bottom; a fraud from border to border.  But, only a genius would know that.

The Day All Good Things Happen

Today, a friend remarks, is the day all the good things happen.

Well, not today. Not this day, the day after death with no resurrection  No redemption  No return from the plunge over the edge.

Mark this Sunday down in your books, Pilgrims. It is the day when the wound was re-opened; the deep wound of 9-11, thought closed until torn open and pulled apart in Boston, where the boast was we were strong. The wound that, I think, has finally reached the heart of these Untied (at last) States; where the weapon has been aimed from evil’s center for long years.

I remember the flags years ago flying from little staffs on pickup trucks and motorcycles, the flags of hurt and unity, gone in weeks, except for the tattered rags of flag fabric fluttering from the bridges over freeways. And, of course I remember the many Boston strong hats and t-shirts; all the self affirming gear. It did and doesn’t do a damn thing except attract the hyenas and the vultures who love the smell of death and fatten on carrion.

What to do?

What, dear God, to do?

Some say we should support the police men, wave to them, smile at them, pat them on the back.  That seems to me like little more than pouring a glass of water on a volcano, punching a tornado.  Others cry havoc and let slip, at last, the dogs of war.  I understand that.  My own blood is up, and I really do wish to hurt, and know whom I wish to hurt.  Aah, but then…

My first reaction was unutterable rage; still smoldering, against the evil madness among us, a rage which finds its justification in the actions of stupid men and women in offices and places of power real or imagined, in the words and the policies of  the self-absorbed bloodsucking servants of influence and privilege, and the opportunistic liars and demagogues in the public square, who pander to and feed pain; who fan the flames of, and warm themselves in, the fires of hate.  And, then, what?

And, then, deep sorrow.

That lasts, today.

The day all good things happen.

Gimme A Break, Willya!

Michelle Obama, the First Lady of These Untied States, has made headlines recently with a comment about suffering the slings and arrows of outrageous racism.  I suppose she was lending her sisterly support to such as have suffered the same in the recent past at the hands of the thugs who “serve and protect” us.

She, too, wants to be counted among the sufferers and their Sharptons, their Jacksons abroad in the night…and day…to call attention to the malignity of race difference poisoning the country’s soul; to remind those of us who are privileged and prejudiced of the indignities we daily inflict on everyone not us, whomever we (and they) may be.

She tells a heart wrenching tale of being asked to get something off a shelf in a Target store, saying, “Those kinds of things happen in life.”  Those instances of humiliation and hateful racism is what she meant.

The only problem with her story is that the first time she told it, it wasn’t at all racist.  As a matter of fact, one might call the moment as she recollected it on some late night TV show an endearing typically American moment; a kind of Norman Rockwell thing.

I married a woman a foot less tall than I am, and I well remember her telling me, and others on more than one occasion that she married me because I could get the stuff on the top shelf.

Had I married a racist?  Good Lord, all those years and I never knew!  That must be the trouble with racism, so subtle, so insidious, so something or other.  I feel debased, now.  I am thinking of removing all top shelves from everywhere.

This whole situation reminds me of another incident in my life.  I remember the day clearly, though it was a long time ago. I was in my nice blue uniform, the one Customs Port Investigators wear. I was on duty at Pier 84 on the North River, as those piers were styled in New York. I think the vessel may have been the SS United States, or, in any event, a large ocean liner. The well dressed fellow approached me followed by a porter with a hand cart and several pieces of luggage. When he had caught my eye, he reached into his dark overcoat pocket, removed his hand and flipped me a quarter. “Call me a cab,” he said. I caught the coin and flipped it back. Then, I told him he could hail a cab himself since I wasn’t authorized to do so. I could, I added, search his luggage and himself…which for the next 15 minutes I did.

The porter, who was a black man by the way, gave me a wink, a nod and a big smile as he collected his fee from the guy and walked back inside the pier to his next job, leaving Mr. Cabman to fend for himself.

Who was the racist?

And then there’s this.  The story the way it happened, without a racial twist in any direction.

Wouldn’t it be nice…?

Doughnuts and Beer: A Story of the Golden Age

Here is a story I wrote some time ago, a story about an incident that took place quite a while before I wrote it down.  Every word is true:

DONUTS AND BEER: A STORY OF THE GOLDEN AGE

A long long time ago, me and Dennis and Bobby had finished up at Toolan’s Bar on Broadway under the El (not a Hebrew word for G-d).  The places closed at 3:00am on Sunday mornings as many of you may know only because it was the law in New York City.  The three of us, and quite a few more sons of Sons of Ireland, had been in there getting fluorescent light burns from early the previous evening. talking about this and that, ball games and ball peen hammers, dying Englishmen and dead Irishmen, sirens (police and female) and song, truth and not-so-truth from early the previous evening….and drinking huge amounts of beer.

Such work can cause in one a huge appetite.  It was in the knowledge of this fact of biology that Arthur had established his diner in the midst of a nest of many such places as Toolan’s Bar on Broadway, within which would gather of a night many of the same kind of yours trulys.  The lights dimmed inside, last call had long ago disappeared into our waiting beer swollen bellies and we, perhaps a bit unsteadily, went into the dark outside; the silent pre-dawn streets, the setting of many of film-noir.  As overhead trains rumbled by overhead, carrying the earliest or the latest to their destinations, from out the other places came small groups of kin, all headed for Arthur’s and a hearty breakfast, a worker’s breakfast, a drinking worker’s breakfast.

Now, it is a law of the universe, as fixed as the law of gravity, or any of Newton’s axioms of thermodynamics, that after three drinks everything is a great idea.  All of us were more than ready to propound greatness, then, by orders of magnitude; to advance humanity any number of steps on its path to glory, or whatever.  And all of us were ready, well oiled as it were, for adventure. I cannot remember who of us said it, but all of us saw the simple, and thus beautiful, symmetry in exchanging, not money, but doughnuts, with Arthur for our breakfast.  In a moment we would repay him in kind for the many good things his amazingly talented short order cook, and his tough but beautiful waitresses would prepare and serve us.  And, we would provide our friends and neighbors with the grease and fat their alcohol soaked systems craved at this time of the morning; and the sugar fueled energy to see them home to waiting mothers and fathers, or wives and daughters.  This was an Irish crowd, may I remind you, and damn near celibate where its drinking life was concerned.

It came to us, this equation of mathematical beauty, because God, in His infinite wisdom, had ordained from eternity that across the street, and just a bit north of Arthur’s now brightly lit and crowded diner there should be an A&P supermarket.  Furthermore, He had so ordered the universe, and arranged its constituent molecules, atoms and sub atomic particles that, at the very time we were conceiving this great idea, a delivery truck was being emptied of its cargo of delicious Ann Page donuts in a plethora of styles and flavors.  Large skids piled with trays containing dozens of boxes of dozens of freshly baked donuts were being placed before us only mere yards away.

Dennis, who toiled as a clerk in some many windowed office building far to our south in Manhattan, and had a head for such figures, quickly calculated that one of those skids held trays containing five hundred dozen donuts.  Bobby, a scholar, was able to compute further that five hundred dozen donuts would be a very even exchange for three of Arthur’s special breakfasts of bacon, eggs, delicious home fries,  juice, coffee and toasted english muffins.  Bobby would go on to make a lot of money in the commodities market I believe.  I was able to see that the truck driver was pulling away and leaving at least twenty of these skids on the street…by themselves.

With catlike grace and cunning, and with equal amounts of charity and hunger motivating us, we approached the outlying skids and culled the nearest one to push to our destination. It was so easy.  And that only confirmed us in our purpose.  Had it been more difficult, it would not have seemed God’s own work we thought at the time.  Simplicity, symmetry and beauty obtained.  It was, as we were well used to hearing in liturgical rhythm, “..right and proper, and helpful for our salvation…”

Such a good feeling to be fostering a cure for hunger prevailed among us that none of us noticed our company as we pushed the nearly six foot high skid down Broadway and across the street toward Arthur’s diner, and the now gathering crowd of, no doubt, doughnut hungry and appreciative late drinkers/early eaters.  “Excuse me, lads, where are you going with that?”  The question could only have come from someone so uninspired as to be sober at this time of day.  Or to be what in fact he was, a cop.  Dennis, ever helpful, answered truthfully, “We’re taking them to Arthur’s and exchanging them for breakfast.”

The prowl car stopped.  We had already stopped pushing our cargo.  The policeman, and his partner driving, looked at us.  “Get in the car,” said the officer, reaching behind him and opening the door.  We were good boys.  We were Catholic youth.  More to the point, we were Irish-Catholic youth and this was an Irish-Catholic cop speaking to us.  It might as well have been God.  As a matter of fact there was no discernible difference.

We got in.

We got in and arranged ourselves in the back seat, Dennis whispering, “Shut up!  Don’t tell them a thing.”  I’d have none of that, I thought.  So, to the first query of, “Just where the hell were you going?”, I answered, “Down to Arthur’s to trade some donuts for breakfast, as my good friend said.”  At about that time we were passing in front of the very same place on our way to the 50th Precinct, then a quiet little Station House in the North Bronx, a refuge for burn-outs from more active houses; a “rubber gun” squad as the term of art had it.

The two in front passed the rest of the trip in silence.  The three in back, now that the truth was out, were busy plotting defenses.  We all figured that 500 dozen donuts was, as they say in drug law enforcement circles, felony weight. What we had in our favor was the good we intended to do with them; a fact pointed out by Dennis.  That, and the fact that no one of us yet had been arrested was a cold comfort, though

Arriving at the Precinct, we were escorted out of the car past a very bored Desk Sergeant  into a large room with a long table, not unlike a corporate conference room, and told to sit tight.  Our captors both left.  Immediately, Bobby suggested an escape. I said it would be just the thing they were waiting for.  They were probably just outside the door waiting for one of us to crack it open and try a “run” for it.  I was having none of it.  Nor was Dennis.  He, suddenly filled with legal knowledge and eloquence, said that our chances “looked good” for an early release…whatever that was.  He intended to tell the officers that they had arrested us falsely and were in great danger of a civil law suit, if not arrest and imprisonment themselves.  (It was the early 60’s and a lot of that stuff was beginning to be heard.)  I prayed he wouldn’t.

Shortly, one of the officers returned. He said that they had contacted the A&P store manager, and he had sent out someone from the store to retrieve the skid on which our unexchanged “breakfast” was. We had left it on the sidewalk upon being invited to drive up to the precinct house with the officers.

Dawn was breaking now, the sky turning rosy pink over the Bronx High School of Science on the other side of the Kingsbridge Reservoir from us. Dennis was demanding that he be read his rights, and Bobby was refusing to say anything, to anybody.  He was infuriated at having his escape attempt thwarted.  I was thanking God that it was early on a Sunday morning, the cops were tired and didn’t seem to want to take anyone down to the County Courthouse.  I kissed a little butt and said that in the dawning light and growing sobriety what we had done was a pretty stupid thing to do.

That seemed to make everybody happy, everybody on the “other” side that is. My buddies looked at me like I was a quisling.  The officers left the room, and I tried to explain myself, my craven behavior.  No use.

Returning with the Desk Sergeant in tow now, we were subjected to a short lecture on how close we had come, and how lucky we were.  He was right, really.  I think that fact began to dawn on both Dennis and Bobby, who were returning to sobriety a bit more slowly than I was.

I expected then that, as the Sergeant got angrier, he’d give us a smack. He was a big guy, and I didn’t fancy one of those ham sized fists bouncing off the side of my now aching head.   But no, our luck held.  “Get them outta here,” he ordered, and the other two officers gathered us up and took us back out to the car.

Now, this was a change. I was no stranger to the 50th Precinct.  On previous such occasions I had been, more or less politely, shown the door. “Now the beating comes,” I thought.  I figured Dennis and Bobby were thinking the same thing as the door was held open and we sat in the back seat once again, silent as the car started back down the hill towards Broadway and Arthur’s and the A&P.  Perhaps we were going to be taken back to the scene and made to apologize to the store manager.  Strangely enough I even thought that maybe the cops were going to make us buy them breakfast?

We rode on in silence.  Past Broadway and up 231st Street going west  for two blocks to the next traffic light.  We made a left and proceeded slowly down the street for about a hundred yards.  We stopped in front of St. John’s Church.  The officer in front of me on the passenger side got out and opened the door.  It was nearly 6:00am and the first Mass would soon begin.

The three of us got out of the prowl car and walked to the curb.  We turned and looked at the two cops, now back in the car and looking back at us.  Nothing was said as the one nearest us waved slightly and smiled.  We knew what we had to do.

All three of us made it to confession before Mass began.

Several years after Special Agent Frank Shannon, a former NYPD Detective was doing my background for my entry into the Federal Bureau of Narcotics.  He asked me if I had ever been arrested and I told him the Great Donut Robbery story.  Frank smiled, then he laughed softly and said, ” You’re lucky.  It probably wouldn’t happen now.  There’s too many judges today. They need the work.”

Frank is dead now.  The other two cops may be dead also.  Every once in a while I remember them and say a prayer that God is as merciful to them as they were to three jerks one Sunday morning in the Bronx about forty years ago.

PEG
3/17/01

Catherine: A Poor Old Lady

Our fourteenth anniversary is coming up in a little bit.  Mariellen and I exchanged our vows after the 8:30am Mass in the Church of the Blessed Sacrament in Newark, Ohio.  There was a woman there who witnessed the event; an older woman saying a few prayers after Mass.  When our brief ceremony was over, she approached us and said, “Here’s $20.00.  Buy yourselves a drink.”

We went home to our little apartment in Zanesville, all 205 sg. ft. of it and began our life together.  It has been a most unusual one.

For instance, for a while shortly after August 11th, our wedding day, we found ourselves involved in a fight to prevent the destruction by the city of a neighborhood nearby, and the forced relocation of more than 700 people, some of whose families had been living in their home for several generations.  Having watched the destruction of property and lives that is the only result I can see to come from “urban renewal”, and having time on my hands, I figured we were in an excellent position to lend a hand fighting this “neronic” move against folks whose only crime was being poor.  (Neronic is a word I just invented.  It means a violent, stupid and cruel policy implemented by any government or its agents against a defenseless citizenry.  You can probably think of a lot of Neronic things government at every level is doing to you; to everyone.)

It’s a long story, but we did have more than modest success, saved an awful lot of homes and property and did a little bit of good.

But, I’ll tell you something.  It was hard work, and sometimes it was heartbreaking.  Here’s a little story I wrote about a phone call I got from an old lady who lived in Greenwood, the neighborhood about to be executed in the interests of improving the city’s image. Catherine was the woman’s name.  My grandmother’s name was Catherine.  She knew about poverty and landlords and having to move from her home, too.  She was born in Ireland.

I think this thing appeared in the local paper.  Don’t know if anyone read it:

CATHERINE

“I don’t have to do this,” I say to myself listening to the rough voice on my answering machine.  “”This is Catherine L, on Greenwood?  And I’d like to talk to you.  My number is 555-1234, please.”

That’’s all.  A simple message. One of many that will be coming in over the next few weeks I fear.  I listen to it again and wonder at the question in her voice as she tells me she lives on Greenwood. In New York that rising note of question might be replaced by, “”You know!””  A challenge almost.  But this is not New York, and Catherine is no New Yorker.  I think about it a few minutes and pick up the phone.

“”Hello?”” she answers. ““Catherine, I’’m Peter Gallaher,”” I say.  “”You called me?””
“”Yeah,”” she replies, her old and worn voice sounding thick in my ears. I still find it hard understanding some of the people here.  Catherine is one of them.  Not unlike many people she speaks with the muffled sound of the toothless.  Gum disease is a fact of life in Zanesville, and the yellow pages are full of dentists specializing in dentures, here.

Catherine wants to know if I will pick her up and take her to a meeting of the group I have suddenly found myself in charge of,  People for the Greenwood Neighborhood Restoration.  But I was out when she called and she has found a ride in my absence.  Bill Briggs, a retired Presbyterian minister, will carry Catherine to the meeting.

She thanks me and says good bye.  For some reason I don’t want to end the conversation so I ask her just where she lives.  “”You know where I live, in the blue house just up at the other end of Greenwood.””  I ask her how she is feeling, is she well.  “”Oh, I got arthuritis, and lung problems and heart problems, but I’m mostly pretty good.””  She did honest to God say “arthuritis”, something I find endearing among some of the older people here.  Sometimes its ““the arthuritis””.  My  Irish Grandmother had “the arthuritis” also.  My Grandmother’’s name was Catherine.

Catherine tells me that she lives alone since her husband died in her blue house at the other end of Greenwood, at the end which is scheduled to be demolished and replaced with brand new lower income housing for the poor.  Catherine says, “”Say, can you tell me how much them new houses is going to cost?””  ““As far as I know, Catherine, the city says they’ll cost about $100,000.00 each,”” I answer.  ““Can you afford to buy a house for $100,000.00?”” I ask.  ““I can’t afford to buy no house like that.  Will they rent me one?””  ““Well, they plan to let people rent them to own them after 15 years.  Can you afford the rent?””  “”How much is it?”” her old voice asks me.  ““I think the city will charge about $400.00 a month.””  I answer trying to keep scorn and anger from my voice

“”I only get $600.00 a month from the Social Security and I don’t get much in the cheese and the food stamps on top of that,”” Catherine says in a flat voice.  “”How much rent are you paying now?”” I ask..  “”$200.00 with the utilities,”” comes the answer.  “”Well, Catherine, it looks like you won’t be able to live in one of those houses unless you could qualify for some kind of subsidy, and that might help you but only for about three and a half years.””  I ask her how old she is and she answers that she’’s sixty-nine.

Catherine tells me a bit more about herself saying that she’’s right now living in the best place she ever has had in Zanesville.  I know the house, a run down place a few hundred yards from the really squalid places that house people among whom I spend my time on Sundays.  Like many in this neighborhood Catherine has no car; has never owned one.  Her husband died several years ago and she’’s been alone since.  She mentions that she tried to get her widow’’s pension from the Social Security and only got $200.00 a month from them.  That means that he was probably earning next to nothing when he worked.  If he worked.  He was ninety-five when he died.  ““I just started getting sick after he died,”” she comments.  “”And it’’s got to where I can’t do much for myself anymore.””

““I had somebody to drive me into Columbus to see about his Black Lung, but I couldn’’t collect nothing,”” she says forlornly.  “”I don’t need it now.  I can get along,”” she adds.

I bet.  Her friend up the street, one of the few with a car up here, drives her to the store twice a week, and the Senior Center picks her up in a van three mornings a week and takes her over there.  She pays her friend $3.00 for each trip, money she can’’t afford to someone who needs it badly.  It’’s about four percent of her income if my very poor math skills are working.

“”I don’t need the Laundromat no more.  I got me a used washer last year.””  As she says that for some reason the vision of her walking down to the Muskingum River with a load of laundry on her head flashes through my mind.  “”But what’’ll I do if we all get moved?””  “Well,” I think to myself, “there’’s the river.”

Catherine, a sixty-nine year old widow living alone on $600.00 a month in a run down house hasn’’t heard from the city yet.  They have a plan for her though. The fellow who is writing the grant for the thirteen million dollars that the city will use to hire the men who will tear down her home and build a new house has said, “”Private home ownership is  what lifts people out of poverty”” — or something along those lines.  Private homes, boulevards and trees are the center of the plan the city has for this neighborhood of poor people.

He’’s also told me that the city doesn’’t expect more than twenty percent of the people who live in the neighborhood now to be able to live there when the project is finished and they’’ve all been “lifted out of poverty.”

But Catherine may have the last laugh.  She’s sixty-nine you know.  You do the math.  Her age, her health, a three and a half year subsidy?  She and a three year subsidy just might be a perfect match.

January 22, 2001

 

 

A Modest Proposal: Don’t Elect Em, Buy Em

(They’re All for Sale, Anyway)

This ain’t politics, really. It’s economics.

Here’s a question.  Well, here’s a couple of questions.

What do you do with folks who live in places like this: places with people who jump at the chance for something to remind them of their “obligations”; who like Homeless Jesus statues in front of the churches in their rich neighborhoods to embarrass themselves and the high rollers and big spenders they live among when they come in their Caddies and Rollses and long dark Lincolns to be seen in church once or twice a year?  Homeless Jesus statues are even better than pictures of starving babies, or real bums on benches.  They never ask for money, or a meal.

These folks, they’ll feel “compunctive” for an hour or so, until they get back to the Club, The Bent Elbow  or The Green Albatross, for a few befores and a half dozen afters, and an hour or two with Big Jim Cornerstone, home from Upstate for the weekend talking over deals and the “help” they need; and maybe pushing an envelope across the table with a nod and a mention that help’s a two way street.  And, Jim nods and says, “I got your back in the Committee, Billy, my boy!” before he leaves.

Was that a stagger or a swagger on Jim going out the door to his car?

What do you do with a pol who goes on the payroll of a big deal company making drugs that have to be “regulated”, and picks up a trip or two from a company that wants to build a power line and needs to go to a nice resort in Arizona or some place to find out how the power line will impact her neighborhood back in Upper Michigan?  At $500.00 a night, plus the round trip up front with all the swells, and points.

What do you do when stuff like that happens…on both sides of the aisle?  Even in Philly, of all places; it being the home of brotherly love and all?

What do you do about an AG who finds out about all of this and then says there was nothing wrong?  Do you think the AG got a call from someone who said unprintable stuff and suddenly discovered that he’s an AG up a tree with no way down, alone in a desert with no water, in the middle of an ocean on a leaky boat without an oar?

No pol I suppose is ever going to feel bad about a thousand a month they get, regular, from XYZ MFG., you think?  They’ll never feel bad about their vote on XYZ’s plan to fast track the new factory they want to build between the VA Hospital and High School, because, well, that’ll bring 300 new jobs to town.

And, the runoff will add 300 tons of dirt a day to the Neversocruddy River.

You think a pol will ever say, you think that ANY pol has ever said, to themselves, “This ain’t really mine.  I only take it so’s I can stay in office and help the fools (oops, folks) who voted me in, and keep that jerk Bruntkowski from ruining the district and the state if he ever gets enough money to beat me.”  And then they stuff it in their pocket, or hand it to Tommy the Bag, and have another snort and light a cigar and smile and say, “Don’t worry. ”  Just like Big Jim from Upstate.

You think?

Here’s something to think about.  How about buying a few of our own?  I got an idea for a kind of Buyer’s Club.  I think this is real Poly Sci, not that other stuff that they charge you a couple of hundred “G’s” for in college, and you learn how to hold coats for real pols, and hand them stuff they never thought of sayin’ to say to the squares at the Town Meeting.

I’ll start small, someone from the School Board who’ll go for a Ham sandwich. But, he’ll be mine, and will say no to stupid stuff, of which there is a lot…like Common Core and uni-sex bathrooms…in schools all over the place.   I don’t care what he thinks.  As a matter of fact, if he’s a real pol, he don’t care what he thinks.  He may not even think at all; to want to think, or to be able to think.  I only need him to raise he hand at the right time and shut up the rest of the time.

You can’t convince me that Joe Biden thinks or even can think, or that guy from Indiana who was a Veep a couple of dozen years ago was able to think.  Reid can think?  Boehner?  Pelosi?  Gimme a break.  They’re owned, and they love it.   The difference between them and Tip O’Neill or LBJ is that they were sold, Tip and LBJ shopped themselves.

None of those pols in that Philly story think about anything except the next envelope, or the next free ride, and what stupid people like you and me who ain’t got any green to spread around have to put up with in the back of the bus, with our kids in a school with one bathroom for everyone next to a smelly factory.

So, I’m going shopping today for a pol who’ll be mine for twenty bucks.  I’ll put an add on E-bay.  We get 500,000 guys doing the same thing, and suddenly we got a “Movement”  I got a good name for it.  I’m gonna call it “Representative Democracy”  Because, what we got now ain’t.  If it ever was.

Unless of course you’re a Fortune 500 deal.

Happy Easter!