photo by Sheri Dixon

Friday, September 14, 2012

Getting the Dung Beetle Vote

And just like that, we've been plunged into poverty.

Oh, I'm still employed and Ward's still on disability.

Our home and auto notes have not been given to some robo-calling collection agency.

We have food on the table and clothes on our backs. We are only barefoot by choice.

No, nothing has changed here at the farm.

But we've been plunged into the dregs of economic definition by Mitt "I have no fucking idea how most people live, thank God" Romney, who defines as "middle class" anyone who can write up to $250,000 on their tax returns in the little box that says "income".

What's that, Mitt?

What's a "tax return"?

Not now, Mitt- why don't you go check your off-shore accounts and I'll get back to you on that...

Do I consider ourselves middle class? Yep.

Do we make anything even APPROACHING six figures? Hell,no.

Oddly, Mitt said that middle class is anyone making $250,000 OR LESS.

So, what?

There IS no lower class anymore?

That's almost as telling as anything I've seen him say.

There's not even a delineation between Middle Class and Lower Class because none of it, none of US, matter.

Not that we don't "matter" matter, you understand. Of course we do. It's just like knowing that the world is full of bugs.

Now there are all different kinds of bugs- pretty ones (like butterflies), ugly ones (like those hairy-ass spiders), beneficial ones (like honeybees) and "what the hell was god thinking???" ones like mosquitoes and ticks and the ever-crabby red wasps.

So we know they're here. And all around us. And that there are a shit-load of different kinds of 'em.

But they're all bugs.

Of course we understand that they are living things, and that as living things they merit some rudimentary respect for their tiny, seemingly pointless yet noble existence.

We tip our hat to them distractedly if they're pretty, or grudgingly if they're helping us by pollinating our food, or violently while we're trying to beat them to death before they can sting us, all the while secure in the knowledge that we and they are not the same.

There's the whole Food Chain, Bigger Brain, Opposable Thumb thing in our favor.

We're better than they are. Different and better. Somehow, by sheer luck of the draw (or god's favor, depending on which side of the draw you are on)we are not at all in the same category- they think different than we do, feel different than we do, and are just on the whole simpler, less complex and well, lets face it- not as smart or sensitive as we are.

It's not a foolish analogy.

Since time immemorial people have been relegating other humans to "sub-human" status.

Slavery comes to mind immediately. Slavery was always justified by some "expert" stating that it was perfectly ok- all those brown people don't have the same feelings us white people do. If we treat them fairly (but sternly), they'll thrive in safety and comfort instead of being savages and getting eaten by lions and whatnot.

Back when I started working for vet clinics there was an injectable anesthetic that was not really so much a "put them to sleep" drug as a "paralyze them so they can't move while you're cutting them open" drug. It stated that it was for use "only in dogs, cats, livestock and infants".

Religions routinely slaughter "others" in the name of their particular god's love.

The "walk a mile in my moccasins" phrase doesn't even apply here.

Mitt wouldn't be caught dead in moccasins.

Am I pissed off that the Romneys are so stinking filthy rich that they cannot even relate to anyone other than their own very tiny insulated class?


I am pissed off that the Romneys are apparently unable to show or feel any empathy whatsoever for the absolute great and overwhelming majority of the people in this land that Mitt wants to badly to be king president of.

From telling a woman who just lost her home from a hurricane to "just go home and call 211", to even THINKING it's ok for the people who get huge paychecks and bonuses in a corporation to do so while they lay off workers by the thousands because of "the bad economy", to advising young people who want a college education to just "borrow the money from your parents" this is another stark reminder that he is utterly clueless.

If you don't/can't see the thousands of bugs every day that you're stepping on, how the hell can you care about them or their tiny little lives? How can you appreciate much less want to help in whatever struggles they have in just trying to find and maintain the things it takes to live- food, shelter, medical care (not talking about the bugs now and ya'll know it so don't be a mess of smart-asses)- much less anything at all remotely resembling "leisure occupations"?

What strikes me is how genuinely puzzled Mitt always looks when confronted with very real suffering by very real people- like he's looking at an alien, it's so foreign to him.

Not too long ago Ward and I were walking back to the house from the barn and we looked down to see a dung beetle rolling his treasure in front of him. He was bumping into the water hose in the path, over and over and over again. The hose is 50ft long- miles in either direction to a 1 inch long beetle.

I picked up the hose and placed it behind him.

Ward looked at me and I said, "WHAT??? He was born a dung beetle. He deserves a few breaks".

I know how he feels. Not exactly, because I've never (that I can recall, anyway) been a beetle. But I can empathize with struggle, and frustration, and need.

We've been so very lucky. And I say that while waiting on a call from the cancer hospital to give us a referral to yet another doctor down there- an oral surgeon who can hopefully work on Ward's mouth and teeth without ruining the graft sitting right...there. Ward's teeth are now showing the effects from the radiation he got years ago, and are breaking, falling out, infected.

I've been homeless. And jobless. And scoured the sofa cushions and car floors for enough money to buy ONE roll of generic toilet paper. Been battered some and frightened a bunch.

I used to joke that everyone needs to do "time" in a really poor trailer park, and still remember when I was there that I'd play the lotto every week (for $1) and remember the day I thought to myself (seriously) "If I win the lotto, I'll buy a piece of land and a REALLY NICE NEW TRAILER". Over the years there my own expectation of my life had been, not lowered, but shifted to fit more into my environment.

Everything and almost especially the really horrid stuff makes you who you are and how you view the world.

When I was a very young woman I dated many different men. More than a few were more than wealthy. And I noticed something.

The men who started out poor and made their money from the ground up had not only more colorful personalities but more character than the ones who had been born into their money.

And I'm not sure how you "fix" that, if you're a wealthy family. Some require their offspring to be active in various good works that immerse them into a poverty-filled environment, which is as good as they can do, I guess.

But it's difficult to relate to someone whose rope is frayed and they can see the end...and then the cliff's edge their entire family will drop off of when you're harnessed into a winch that will pull you back from the precipice without fail and every single time.

So we're lucky, because we KNOW about these things, we've SURVIVED these things, and not by our own skills or courage or prayers to the correct god but by sheer dumb luck. And we don't ever want to see ANYONE go through what we have.

So we weave a safety net and demand it to be strong, and inclusive.

We also know that we have no clue about the type of poverty too many Americans face every single day- we cannot relate to that. But we want that safety net made large enough for them. Because they, too are where they are by the fickleness of birth or circumstances.

Just like Mitt's family is where THEY are by that same dumb luck.

Back when the whole Occupy movement started, I got a shitload of flak from those defending the 1%. Partly because they assumed we were hating on the rich folks out of jealousy, but also partly because they were valiantly believing that they themselves were IN the 1%.

To all my friends who screamed, "You people just want to take OUR money away from us and we worked for that money!" in a tizzy of righteous indignation- visions of you and Mitt and Donald Trump all playing golf together and sharing a cocktail someday...remember.

Mitt says anyone who earns less than $250,000 a year is middle class.

YOU are not the 1%.

He can't even see you.

But I'll be happy to move the hose for you.

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