Spartan

“Trump’s budget calls for a drastic rollback of programs for the poor and disabled along with a robust hike for the military and border security. The plan, which won’t become law without Congress’ approval, is laced with $3.6 trillion in cuts to domestic agencies, food stamps, Medicaid, highway funding, crop insurance and medical research, among others.”

In my mid-twenties, I worked as a caregiver in a group home for adults who had developmental disabilities. I knew of a resident, named Sally, who slumped in her wheelchair all day, because she’d lost the core control to keep her head up. I asked why we didn’t provide a chair that allowed her to recline, and the manager said that they we didn’t have the funds, but that we were trying to raise the money as fast as we could. I don’t know if Sally ever got her chair. 

Our care agency—which has a good reputation—paid most of its workers $7.50/hour. (This was when $5.15 was minimum wage.) People could earn $11/hour, but that money was available only for those who would stay overnight in a house with three sexually-aggressive men. My colleagues and I provided the most personal care imaginable, every day, including holidays, while trying to ameliorate the residents’ awareness that many of the people in their lives were actually paid to be their companions.

The work could be rewarding; it’s good to bring light to somebody’s life. During my tenure, I met the best parts of myself. But I also met the worst. I was able to change jobs before I burned out, but my older, less-educated colleagues did not have that latitude. And when somebody is stuck in a job that makes exacting demands while meting little compensation, that person can start to resent the job—to reject the fact that they earn less than a living wage to keep three or four others alive. And some of these employees become so weak that they develop a behavior that moves from indifference, to negligence, to abuse. 

This, then, is a post about not just the welfare of the people who work in group homes, but also—and most important—the people who live in them. The WHO estimates that adults with developmental disabilities are four times more likely to become victims of abuse than their non-disabled peers. Part of this abuse stems from the fact that predators prey on the vulnerable. And the truth is that there are few people more vulnerable than those who can’t move or speak well. But another factor is the wholesale depletion that goes on in the group homes as they try to address so many needs with so few resources. There is never a time when abuse is excusable, but as a reaction, it becomes more available to some, when they face the grinding demands of the impossible.

By further decimating funds for the care of our most vulnerable, Trump’s budget will threaten the country from the inside. He will divert so much to defending against invasion from the outside, that he’ll make us like Sparta, who lionized a boy who so focused on stealing a fox that he let it claw out his innards rather than return it to his enemy.

(Originally posted May 24, 2017)

Dumbledore’s Army

Well, I can’t bring myself to say goodbye to the Obamas, in part because I have faith that they aren’t really gone. So instead, I’m looking at literature. Our children’s stories—some of our favorite ones—have prepared us for this new era. Be brave, and compassionate, and inquisitive, and true. We must all be our childhood heroes now.

(Originally posted January 20, 2017)

Sin

When I was younger, I thought that taking God’s name in vain was saying something like, “Christ on a bike.” You know what it really is? It’s using God’s name to justify actions and attitudes that are truly unholy. Whether you use it to justify subway explosions, or edicts like the Doctrine of Discovery, or camps for conversion therapy, you are committing what some would call a mortal sin. I don’t threaten people with damnation; that tactic belongs to another sect. In fact, I don’t even believe in damnation–or at least not in the vindictive, I-loved-you-once-but-now-I-hate-you kind of thing. But do I think that this sort of name-in-vaining can damn well summon hell.

(Originally posted November 20, 2016)

Giving Them the Knee

I wonder how long it will take for protesting athletes to decide–en masse–that they’re just not going to take the field. They’ve gone on strike for pay disputes. They could easily declare that this is far more important. Imagine whole groups of people refusing to play while other folks are dying. Imagine them saying no to a country that uses them for entertainment while it kills their brethren. Think of this resistance seeping into Hollywood, or finance, or infrastructure. Let’s see what actually happens if racism gets its wish, and all the blacks and their allies disappear from the country.

You think it’s upsetting when somebody kneels for the national anthem? What I think is that you’re really afraid. You’re frightened–as you’ve always been frightened–of the people you oppress. And the reason is not the one you assign to your fear. It isn’t because “these people” are barbaric, or violent, or even disrespectful. It’s because your country has been all of those things to them–and furthermore, it’s because their mounting imperative to resist comes from God-given, human dignity.

(Originally posted October 20, 2016)