A Little about Me
I’ve heard it a million times. “The poor in America have video games, they have TVs and food stamps and nice houses and etc etc etc” You see, ignoring that the whole world isn’t America, that’s a lie. A really bad lie, and one that seems to be believed by so many Americans that it is really sickening. Now, when it comes to debating political ideas, I don’t really put much in the way of personal anecdotes. That goes especially for conversations about religion. However, I am going to now tell you some personal anecdotes, because I want you to see into, just a little bit, the life of someone who has experienced abject poverty in the US. I want you to understand that being poor isn’t fun, it isn’t nice, and it sure as hell isn’t a choice.
I come from a strange background. I grew up with domestic violence, hunger and staunch fundamentalist Christianity. My earliest memories are of violence. Violence and hunger. I remember standing behind curtains, maybe three years old. I stood there with my sister and we dug our fingers into a jar of peanut butter. We ate, trying to sate our hunger, our malnutrition. We were caught by my mother and beaten for “stealing” from our family’s food rations. I don’t remember a time growing up where we weren’t on food stamps. Food stamps is not a good place to be. They don’t give you a thousand dollars and a ride to the grocery store. They certainly didn’t give my huge family enough to live on. My mom would use one whole chicken for a week or two, trying to make it last. Lunch consisted of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and it wasn’t uncommon for dinner to be a baked potato. No, that’s it. A baked potato. Nothing else. Once a year we would have a luxury, our birthday. We could pick out one thing at the grocery store for our birthday dinner, and we’d buy the cheap cake in a box mix for the cake. My clothes torn, my shoes 3rd or 4th hand, sizes too big. No TV, no cable. No cell phones, we could barely pay for our electricity, let alone expensive extras. No candy, no soda. No Halloween.
The places we lived in were shit. One place in Kansas City, was a house that was about 120 years old. It was crumbling. It had old style radiators that burned you if you touched them, but were also useless at heating the shack of a house. The windows were brittle, the wood rotting. Rats in the basements and droppings in the pantry. Mold everywhere. Rats scurrying through the walls when you tried to go to sleep at night. I woke up one morning, the shitty broken window had not held against the duct tape during the night, and there I was, covered in 3-4 inches of snow. There was also the morning that I woke up with a dead rat on my lap. My step father worked, it just wasn’t enough. I remember going with him in the wee hours of the morning to collect aluminum cans from the bins of the rich neighborhoods, trying make ends meet. We would scrap and save, and we would fall short every time.
I wish that all you high minded libertarian types could live through what I lived through. The violence, the hunger and the embarrassment. The hopelessness and the sadness. No political speech today.
Live like that for your formative years, and then come talk to me about how great it is to be poor in America.
See you next time folks.