Gone to seed

We have a poverty problem in the United States. Too many of our declining middle class did not rise to the next strata, falling instead, to near poverty and into poverty. Yet, we do not talk about this problem enough. We have let their ladders out of poverty, go to seed along with their environment.

Poverty should be succinctly defined, as it is often misdefined along with simplistic diagnoses. Quite simply, poverty is the lack of money. The causes are many and complex, so the solutions must be holistic.

Some like to say it is due to lack of virtue. Some like to say it is due to lack of work ethic, while others may claim it is due to drug use or alcoholism. When I work with people in poverty, I witness hard working, often pious people. I see people with a lesser propensity to do drugs than general society.

If we recognize the simple definition of poverty as lack of money, we can focus our attention on providing ladders out of poverty. We can invest in the communities that have gone to seed, both with economic and social capital. We can start with redeveloping depleted assets. The term coined with a successful program in Atlanta is ABCD – Asset Based Comminuty Development.

ABCD could focus on repairing and not closing a community school, recognizing the during and after school value it offers. Or, it could be redeveloping a gone to seed golf course or empty textile or tobacco mill. Or, it could be repurposing a mall to be a school, church, charity or governmental building. Replacing or refurbishing blighted assets makes a huge difference.

Coupled with these investments must be education and career development, or social investments. Jobs and careers are scarce in too many areas. Opportunities must be introduced and nurtured to make them sustainable. STEM education, apprenticeships, trades skills are part of an all of the above tactical strategy,

But, we must be mindful of four negative trends in areas that have gone to seed – crime, opioids, food deserts  and single families. Community policing by people living in the community is key. Targeted help with the opiod epidemic is important. Better food choices must be available as they may not have a grocery market. And, we must have holistic sex education and access to planned parenthood tools and birth control.

What we cannot have is kicking tens of millions off health care insurance. We cannot reduce an already minuscule food stamps program. We need to think about improving the minimum wage.

These are just a few ideas. But, first we need to address what people in poverty lack – money.

 

 

 

Notable Notaries

The other day presented an opportunity to witness a terrific slice of Americana. “Witness” is the operative word, as my sister and I needed to sign nine closing documents in front of a notary and two witnesses, who also happened to be notaries all of whom worked at our bank.

What fascinated me as I was driving to send by Fedex the documents to the attorney, is the realization of the demographic make up of our legal witnesses. While all female, one was an American whose accent reflected an Eastern Europe upbringing. The second was an American of Mideastern heritage, while the third was an African-American.

To me, this moment of reflection made me proud to be an American. Our melting pot of immigrants makes our country a great place. To be hyper-critical of immigrants and people who do not look like you do tears at the fabric that makes us great.

For our President to convey a message that some people are more American than others is hogwash. Another’s rights are just as important as mine, not more or less. That is what makes America great not running down others who some feel are less a citizen than they are.

The Teacher Asked

The teacher asked little Johnny if he took Susie’s lunch money. Johnny said he did not. The teacher had seen this before.

She asked him again if he took Susie’s money. He replied more angrily and said how dare someone accuse him of such? Someone is making this story up.

Still unsatisfied, she told Johnny that she has strong evidence that he may be the culprit. Johnny stood firm saying “my enemies are out to get me. And, she gave me the money.”

The teacher said “so, you are admitting to having the money?” Johnny said “Susie gave it to me and if she says she did not then she is lying, believe me.”

The teacher asked if he was sticking with that story. When he said yes, she said “well let’s go down to Principal Mueller’s office and look at the videotape of you going into Susie’s backpack.”

At some point, most children learn that when caught in a lie, it is better to come clean. If you keep lying, more trouble will ensue.

Picture two men with the same name, one a father and one a son. The elder man never learned this lesson, so how could he teach his son not to lie. Principal Mueller may have a say in this, as well.

Sunday sermon-ettes

No, this is not intended to be overly spiritual. It is intended to offer a few vignettes, some spiritual, some historical, and some pedestrian.

– The Erie Canal is turning 200 years old. What I did not know is the US government did not want to fund its $7 million cost which was privately raised. That is astonishing as the Erie Canal (as the Panama Canal did later) significantly increased trade and promoted several cities like Chicago, Detroit, Rochester and Cleveland to prominence.

– I have been witnessing a letter to the editor debate on whether Jesus would have made the cake for the gay wedding couple, the refusal of which launched a court case. My favorite summed up my sentiments – Jesus would have made the cake and accompanied it to the wedding. We should remember, Jesus tended to hang out with the disenfranchised. He also said something about he who is without sin should cast the first stone.

– The ABC show “What would you do?” warms my heart and reveals the good in people. This Friday it aired a show where the ruse was an American Muslim couple waiting to be seated at a restaurant, but other couples were offered seats before them. When the couple complained, the female maitre’d said openly we don’t want to offend our other customers. Couple after couple stood up for the American Muslim couple, some leaving and one inviting the Muslim couple to join them. It made me feel better about real Americans.

– The Catholic Church has benefited greatly from the people’s Pope Francis. Surprisingly, there are some within the Church that do not care for the openness and discussion of considering changes to traditions. Although, I am not Catholic, we should remember when traditions began. Priests were allowed to officially be married until about the 12th century and some were married as late as the 16th century. The reason – money and property. If a Priest were married, he would retain control over his assets. A retiring Priest said today the Church is missing out on some very good ministers because of this restriction.

– Finally, I read today from one writer that it is not the job of the President to be a role model. I could not disagree more with that statement regardless who was President. Bill Clinton lessened his otherwise effective  Presidency by chasing women outside of marriage. John Kennedy’s womanizing may have as well had he lived longer, but the Press did not report everything like they do now. Invading Iraq under false pretenses damaged George Bush’s credibility. And, Donald Trump has shown Americans how not to act and has turned up the flame on incivility. The President sets the tone and can help reduce tensions, but the incumbent throws gasoline on some fires and starts others.

That is enough sermons for today. I would love to hear your thoughts.

America’s diversity is what matters

During this past election and until today, I get a sense from some that they feel they are more American than others. In my view that belief devalues what it means to be an American. We are the melting pot of the world and have first through multi-generation people living here whose ancestors were born in every populated continent on earth.

Our strength is in our diversity. And, while far from perfect, these diverse peoples do tend to integrate better with other cultures than in other places. Could we do better, absolutely?

One of the best movies of last year was simply called “Loving.” While the movie was about love, the title is about the first interracially married couple in Virginia named the Lovings. The Lovings successfully challenged a law banning their marriage winning a Supreme Court victory of 9 to 0. That was in the 1960s. Now, interracial marriages are about 1 out of seven marriages.

We don’t have this democracy thing down, but we should strive to live up to our ideals the best we can. And, if someone thinks they are more American than you or vice-versa, you both are wrong. My freedoms are no more important than anyone else’s, but they are no less either. That is how it works.

We are diverse. We are imperfect. And, yes we are Americans.

Is it thrifty or environmentally friendly

I have mentioned in the past I am both a tree hugger and capitalist. On the latter, I like to spend money wisely. But, it goes hand-in-hand with being environmentally friendly, as conserving resources is both cost effective and good for the environment.

My wife laughs at me as I will eat leftovers for several days. She will usually join in for one more meal, but she will abstain from further meals. It gives me satisfaction to finish food off. This is especially true as we as a country throw so much food away. And, I hate to throw food away.

We are also doing our best to drink filtered tap water. My wife tells folks my husband won’t let me buy plastic bottled water. She likes to tease me about things like this as many spouses do. However, I can assure you my wife won’t do anything unless she agrees with it. She understands this will keep from adding to the floating plastic in the Pacific.

We also live in an area of the city which is a couple of miles away from three shopping areas of various sizes. As I like to walk, I often will become a pedestrian shopper. It saves on gas emissions and gets me some needed exercise. And, since most car accidents occur within a mile from home, it helps me with the odds.

I mention these three things as they are easy things to do to save money and the environment.  I am sure each of us have things we could do that would save on both. What are some of your actions?

So, it is more than OK to be a little thrifty. Of course, my wife threatens me to not to turn into her mother who raised five kids on her father’s salary.

Monday, Monday

With this famous Mamas and the Papas’ song in my head, have the best of weeks. Here are a few random musings to start off the week.

The new sleight of hand approach being used by the US President on Russiagate is “It is his fault I cheated.” In essence, his predecessor chose not to make public the verified Russian meddling in the Presidential election due to the polarized political climate. While I understand his logic, I disagree with his silence. Yet, his choice does not alter the fact the newly elected President is at the very minimum an unwitting participant in the meddling and, as yet to be proven, a known colluder. Either way, he cheated, but that is consistent with his history.

Speaking of cheating, having clandestine discussions about health care reform does not give off the impression what you are doing is on the up and up. David Brooks, the conservative pundit, said on Friday that a key reason for the secrecy is there is no overriding mission to what is being done. Also, it could be construed as cheating to sabatoging the Affordable Care Act by not giving money promised to insurance companies to reimburse them for the initial adverse risk they took on. These actions harmed people as premiums went up even more and some companies left the market because they were stiffed.

The reason the “Black lives matter” movement started has been in evidence even more of late. Apparently, in terms of police shootings, they don’t. I would not want a police officer’s job as it is very dangerous. And, there are many, many fine officers. Yet, there have been too many actions taken that seem to fly in the face of reasonable use of force. Why must shots be taken? Why must so many shots be taken? Why must the shooter shoot to kill? When I see seven, twelve, sixteen shots are fired, I find that excessive. We must have honest review by all parties and better training. Too many Black men are dying and yes, their lives do matter.

These reflections turned quite sobering. I hope everyone stays safe and travels safely this week. And, don’t forget to hug your loved ones and tell them how you feel.