Monday, December 16, 2013

Five degrees.

The (dinning room/office/toy vehicle race track) Table
Some kind of Christmasy Tea
Roll of Everything Ritz Crackers

We got snowed in last night (Friday, December 6th), so there was no official mom-escape to a coffee shop to write today.  With 53 minutes left in the day, we'll see what happens...

Five degrees.  Fahrenheit.  That's the projected overnight low here.  There's also half a foot of freshly fallen snow that ain't going anywhere.  We're pretty warm and toasty in here (though my tea has gone cold after Henry resurfaced for a cup of milk and one more storybook before we dragged his butt back to bed).  And even though we weren't able to go to the mall to get our picture with Santa, this is one of those days when I don't bitch about the weather, because my first thought when I saw that forecast was for all the homeless people in this town.

There are a lot of them here, loitering downtown, holding cardboard signs by busy roadsides.  They often have companions - other transients, an adorable cat or imposing dog, children.  I watched one woman go from begging for her growing belly, to begging for the tiny bundle in her arms.  I figure the baby is not quite a month old yet.  Mother and child will most likely have found their way to a shelter, as many others will, too.  Others will have a sympathetic friend of some sort who will let them stay on their couch, or at least take shelter in the garage or shed.  More will break into cars or homes or offices.  And those are just the ones we see, who wear the trappings of homelessness on their backs and their disintegrating clothes.

But shelter is scarce in this town, and almost nothing is open late for people to find a temporary haven of warmth.  How many will be out there in the elements with whatever paltry shelter they can drag around?  How can they possibly keep warm enough on a night like tonight?

My first reaction when I saw that number - 5 degrees - was that I wanted to go out and buy a bunch of those $5 throw blankets from Rite Aid, and just drop a pile of those cheap blankets in the middle of the downtown plaza where the homeless tend to congregate.

Oh, look SNL is on...

...and it's Monday!

Still snowed in.  At least, I haven't yet been forced to put my chains on and shovel the rest of our parking lot to get my car out.  Yet.  Time to make myself some more tea and finish this...  Hopefully.

Nope!  Tues - no, Wednesday.

...or, Saturday...

My usual Out Day, but I'm blogging from home again.  Today I had some running around to do and a Hobbit movie to see (very Empire... that's all I'm gonna say...).  But I am going to finish this!  Damn it.

Chocolate Peanut Butter Kettlecorn (on which I have made myself sick)

Tonight, it's a balmy, sauna-like 31 degrees Fahrenheit.  It's still damn cold.  I did end up buying some of those cheap blankets - 4 of them.  They're now in my car.  I'm not sure what to do with them now, but I figured in the store that I already spend too much money on coffee outings, and the occasional Hobbit movie, so why not go further into debt for something more useful.  I imagine I'll just hand them out as I see somebody who seems to need one.  Or I'll find some kind of non-profit or church or something.

I should have gotten socks, too.  Because aren't wet socks the most annoying fucking thing in the world when you're already pissed off at something important, like being homeless in the winter... or ever?

Okay, it's Sunday.  Clearly, I am not good at working at home.  I literally fell asleep at my computer last night.

Peppermint Tea
Pretzel Sticks

Since I've completely lost the plot at this point, I'm going to just go somewhere else and see if it meets back up with me along the way.

I got into an internet conversation recently with a conservative (or two).  I would consider this particular person more thoughtful and intelligent than many, though he did throw in a number of Fox "News" specific bullet points, which were mostly ludicrous by nature.  We were discussing the minimum wage and the fast food workers striking to get their base pay raised to $15/hr.  The discourse brought to mind a phrase: compassionate classism.  It's like hateless racism - because you don't have to hate black people to throw around the n-word. So, too, with classism.

The argument was approximately that, yeah, it would be nice to raise wages, but that would raise the cost of labor too much and force those same people to be laid off or replaced by automation.  (Also, another person thought that these jobs need to be low and unlivable to motivate these workers to better themselves and move on to other jobs... 'cause it's only lazy, unmotivated people who stay in a law-wage job... Yeah, that's what would hold us back - too much money).  So the "compassionate" view would be to keep wages down low so people don't lose their jobs - AND so that "job-creators" can utilize all the capital they need so badly to innovate and create new jobs for those people who will eventually be replaced by automation.

That's a convenient opinion if you're not one of those people working minimum wage.  It's also not a capitalist society if almost none of the people in that society cannot utilize capital.

Whatever validity  there might be to that argument in some contexts, we are way, way beyond those bounds.  I have argued all these economical points before (you know, customers are the job-creators, too, you don't need THAT much capital, innovation can come from anyone, etc).  But what allows these policies and stereotypes to persist, is that those who are espousing them aren't feeling the 5 degree temperatures outside.  Many of them are in a completely different climate altogether.

There's a difference between sympathy and empathy.  Your heart can go out to the poor starving kids on TV, to the tens of thousands of Syrian refugees, to the Haitian people who are still devastated by that years-old earthquake.  Yet you somehow talk yourself out of doing anything about it.  It's overwhelming, you've got your own kids to take care of, etc.  When you're warm indoors you feel bad for people living in the cold.  But when you are feeling the bone-biting chill yourself, and seeing ice form on the inside of your windows (not condensation, not frost - fricken ice!), you feel them.  Even if it's just an extrapolated experience, it becomes real, present.  You no longer have to argue yourself into doing something - you have to justify not doing something.

There's a Rumi quote I came across just the other day: "Every story is us."  This may be my next wrist tattoo.  It sums up so beautifully my core belief that a person is a person is a person, and on some level it can be said that there is no such thing as "others."

Ideas that keep you from seeing or treating some people as your human equals - markets know best, poor people are poor for a reason, minimum wage can't be raised - those dangerous ideas are the electric blanket that smothers your humanity and keeps you from feeling the five degrees of separation between us.

And it's Monday.  Nighty-night.

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