Monday, January 21, 2013

The Owners Are Getting Scared

I work at a homeless shelter. Tonight at dinner, as I sat at our service desk and watched all of the people eat, and talk, and laugh, I remembered how disturbed one of my neighbors was when he heard about our efforts to ensure that the residents of our shelter--and all shelters--got out and voted. My neighbor--white, christian, male, conservative, mid-fifties--went from disturbed to downright offended when President Obama won re-election, and the county that it all seemed to come down to was our county, Hamilton County, Ohio. To my neighbor, by bringing local community organizers into our shelter to have residents sign voting pledges, by have state agencies come in to help our residents register to vote, we were essentially delivering the country to President Obama.

"We didn't tell them who to vote for". I said.

"Of course you knew who they were going to vote for. Who gave them the free cell phone?" he said.

Ah, the so-called 'Obamaphone'. Conservatives hate it. To them, it smacks of decadence, and misguided liberal spending. In reality, it's a very practical investment for our society to make. Newt Gingrich talked about replacing the safety net with a trampoline: we live in a very high-tech world, and in order to function in this world, we have to be plugged in. If we expect disenfranchised folks to even have a chance at competing, wouldn't they also have to be plugged in? In the shelter business, we are about helping people get housing, but we're also about helping people eliminate barriers to housing. If our residents have cell phones, that cuts out a lot of walking time, and a lot of paper work. Ultimately, it should help them get back on their feet, and that is something we all want.

"People who are on the government tit shouldn't be allowed to vote". he said.

"If you believe that, then no C.E.O. in the country should be allowed to vote." I said, always the troublemaker.

"The rich worked for what they've got. The people who stay at your shelter have been made soft by the system. " He said.

My response: You are likely to die in the class you are born into. Inherited wealth gives a person an unfair advantage. Being born into a privileged class gives a person an unfair advantage.Yes, a person can rise from the bottom to the top, but what do they have to become to do so? What do they have to sacrifice? I guarantee you a privileged person who rose to the same level did not sacrifice as much. And what if you don't have the killer instinct? What if you just want to live a simple life, and not participate in the rat race? Should you have to work so hard? Yes, the man born with sand bags tied around his legs can still hypothetically 'win the race', but why not take off those sand bags and see how he does? Why not give him the option of not even running the damned pointless thing in the first place?

It's a frustrating conversation, especially when you consider that my neighbor should be on my side on this: he is not one of the owners of this society. At best, he only serves as one of the owner's many attack dogs, operating under the illusion that 'if only I work hard enough, I too can join the ranks of the owners'. But dogs cannot become men.

The point is, this argument about who should and shouldn't be allowed to vote is coming up more and more. After Romney lost what he and his followers had deluded themselves into believing would be a great white landslide (no way colored and poor folk will vote again like they did last time!), they started talking about restricting the vote.

But it's too late for that. Us poor people, Us women, Us black people, Us latino people, Us asian people, us gay people, us disabled people, Us non-religious people--we're voting. We're being heard. And if you want to say we are just voting for people who are promoting our best interests, then you're right: but tell me that the rich in this country don't do the same thing.

And there are more of us.

The owners are getting scared.

And they should be.

1 comment:

Lodo Grdzak said...

A lot of people work jobs they hate. Despise even. But what oftentimes gets them through is the belief/rationalization that they are the hero of their own story. Everyone else is loafing; but they're working. Other people ask for hand-outs, but not them. Other people ask "how" or "why"; but they're too busy paying the bills for such liberal, high-minded questions. Questions like that are for the spoiled, the coddled, or the homeless in shelters. "No one's giving me anything." Umm hmm. And what are you giving yourself besides a sour attitude and heart disease?