I have had no less than four episodes of near head explosion in the past 48 hours and three of those were over the contemptible nonsense I saw from some of my Appalachian pals over the Government shutdown. There were two distinct and equally ignorant threads 1) the “sorry guys no paychecks (for us military guys) because the Democrats would rather help illegals…” and 2) “why should my kids pay their student loans so illegals can go to college for free?”
I’m not going to attempt to unpack this jumble of nonsense because apparently facts have no place where emotions run high. (but if I did I would say that Dreamers aren’t illegal immigrants, the military was still going to be funded and there are no federal financial aid programs for Dreamers.) Instead I’m going to talk about what it’s like to be poor in America.
I had some good friends from south Asia who laughed and laughed when I drove them through the “poor” sections of the midwestern town I grew up in. “they have electricity?” laughed my little brown friends (hey they WERE little). In general, I’m pretty sick of folks comparing our country with theirs if it’s my liberal friends who say we should be like Denmark or my conservative buds who remind me that I could be living in Syria. I can’t imagine what it’s like to live in any other country. I mean Jesus, I just got out of Ohio 10 years ago!
When I did live in Ohio, I had a house that I couldn’t afford (a very shitty house that I couldn’t afford) a cadre of broken down cars, one credit card with a $350 limit and three kids. One of my kids was severely disabled. It was a mess. There was a period of about three years where I let the gas service get disconnected during the summer so I could save enough to pay it off in the fall when we would need it for heating. Not having gas meant that my home had no hot water. It was cheaper for me to join the Gym down the street and shower there than to pay my gas bill. My kids bathed a variety of places or we would heat water on my electric stove. It was a truly miserable way to live.
I have friends in Ohio who are in similar situations and completely believe that illegal immigrants don’t pay taxes for 7 years and get free college tuition and stay home and never work.
Yeah, I’d be pissed, too if I believed that.
I listened to a really great This American Life about Albertville, Alabama (and hey it’s a two parter) and the issues that they faced when Mexican workers at their chicken processing plant came to live there. Particularly interesting were the claims by the anglo plant employees that there is a sign at the border advertising jobs in Albertville. As if Mexicans just hang out at the border waiting for a sign telling them where jobs are. Like we can just drive a pickup down to the Texas/Mexico border and just pick up a group of guys hanging out with a packed lunch ready to go to work. It’s an absurd notion but people believed it.
It’s truly disappointing when the GOP pushed through an actual tax cut but my lower middle class friends complain that “illegals don’t pay taxes…” Even in a world where that is true, the substantial amount of money that rich americans aren’t paying far exceeds what migrant workers and day laborers are making.
How about learning a little Spanish, how about asking someone about their Mexican hometown, how about eating a CORN tortilla for once?! A little curiosity and fact checking would go a very long way in this discussion.