Even when you do everything right, the bottom can still fall out.
America’s view on poverty needs to change. The war on the poor is all wrong. We use cartoonish cliches to explain poverty, but it’s often a one-dimensional lie.
Who is the face of poverty? I see myself; a college graduate currently experiencing the hardship of an empty pocket. I have struggled more than promised.
Switching majors junior year from music to fashion, I imagined a glamorous career in New York or Paris. Instead, I ended up at a mall in Bellingham, arguing with a customer over the return of a smelly pair of sneakers. What happened? This wasn’t Madison Avenue.
Moving to Seattle as grunge began to explode, I chased my original dream with fervor, supporting my songwriting with reception work. Back in those days, you could have a view of the Sound and the Needle and no roommate. Still, I was nowhere.
Today, I am choosing the less-permanent Scarlet Letter of poverty; the food bank. I found it morbidly humorous that while standing in line there, I scratched out a piece on “food trends” for a local magazine, making 10 cents a word.
What really sticks in my craw though, is the frequency at which the famous photo from the Great Depression makes the rounds. You know the one. It’s the black-and-white print of a woman smothered in kids, escaping the Dust Bowl. That photo is how old? And yet almost every journalist dusts it off when doing a story about poverty in America. That isn’t poverty in America.
When my mom and dad were first married, mom worked as a secretary, while dad was a janitor, and they not only owned their own home, they bought brand-new matching furniture to fill it. That was in the 1950s. What janitor could do that today?
The narrowing of our opportunities, the peeling away of benefits, compensation and rights, cannot be attributed to just one culprit. It’s a compilation of many tiny moves and pushes over a long period of time, toward less for the worker and more for the top. So much for Norma Rae.
Even when you do everything right, the bottom can still fall out. I’ve been to Paris and have seen the world! Now I enjoy an obstructed view of Union Gap, Washington. Things have changed. But is it really a misstep that actually landed me here, or is it something more?
Who are the poor, really? Mozart died a pauper. And now we download his genius onto our iPhones.