politics

Classism

I did it again.

I read the comments.

Again I was struck by the intensity of reaction vs the lack of vitriol. I mean, the tone was definitely combative and the “troll” was less of a troll as much and more of a “true believer.”

In grammar.

I get it. I seriously GET. IT. I really do. I mean, I couldn’t finish reading a published author’s post when there were two errors within a paragraph of each other and the second one was using “fourth” where “forth” should’ve been used.

I cringed, then moved on. I didn’t feel the need to publicly point out the misuse of the word.

As a writer, I believe that good grammar, proper spelling, and word usage matters. Of course it does.

That being said, a person’s worth and value doesn’t rest on whether they use “is” vs “are” correctly. Which is where we begin our tale.

It starred a meme on FB. What else could it have been?

Yeah. That was it. Cringe worthy, but, ultimately, not a big deal. Right?

“Disney is*”

Aaaand we’re off.

The initial discussion was whether Disney was a group (There is a legal, singular entity, The Disney Group International, Inc.) and if there was a group, should it be referred to in the plural.

Then it got interesting.

The initial person who made the comment was called classist. The debate shifted as she got defensive.

That interaction made me remember some recent conversations I’ve had with people regarding language, how it’s used and how that usage is perceived.

I have been accused of “talking down” to someone because I often use large or complicated words and phrases where clear, easily understood ones exist. For example, a much more natural way for me to have written that would have been: I have a tendency to use large, multisyllabic, and obscure words and phrases where clear, easily understood words exist.

Why? And why did the woman who had been a former foster child feel the need to publicly use her hard earned education to correct the grammar in a meme?

Because Classism.

For those of us who come from a background of poverty, education is very, very important.

It’s a way to prove to ourselves and to the world that “we’re better than that” and can “make something of ourselves” by “rising above” our origins among the underprivileged, ignorant masses.

Apparently, it’s also important to those of wealth and privilege, as well. Otherwise, several, high-profile celebrities wouldn’t have been caught buying expensive, elite educations for their offspring.

In other words, having a college or University education is, not only a key to higher income, it’s a piece of evidence that we can function on the level of a higher class of people.

Why else would some POC get accused of “acting White” for speaking in certain ways? Why else are people with proven experience and ability passed over for jobs and promotions in favor of less experienced, often younger, college graduates? Why else do all the other prejudices and “isms” exist?

Because Classism.

So, I finally felt compelled to enter the fray.

“A) The Disney Group is a collective of other corporations. It is a singular entity which encompasses other entities.

B) Classism isn’t about whether or not those of us who have worked for or earned a specific degree of education come from a position of wealth or privilege (I most certainly do not). It is an attitude and assumption of stigma toward those who aren’t educated and socialized in a specific manner which is acceptable to navigate in a classist, elitist society. It’s systemic as much as it is attached to personal privilege.

Therefore, it is possible to come from an underprivileged background and still be classist.”

I doubt there’s much to be done about Classism, other than to be aware and recognize its existence, in its various forms, then check our own assumptions, beliefs, attitudes, and language.

At least, that’s where we start.

Untitled

In the land of the free
And the home of the brave,
Fear and greed
Create the mind slave.

In what was believed
A land of abundance,
Writhes hate unrelieved
And lost moral compass.

Not the lost you may think,
Facade’s fake appearance;
Words and deed don’t sync,
Cognitive dissonance.

Against humanity
A legal crime
Political insanity
Time after time

Right is illegal.
Wrong wears the crown.
No longer an eagle.
Now an orange clown,

Playing the people
With words of false faith.
We’re called sheeple
Considered weak wraith.

We must together,
Stop vanity’s fight
From God’s aether
Let truth take flight.

Let compassion rule.
Let empathy drive.
Make justice true.
The spirit will thrive.

Take a stand.
Walk the talk.
Be peace in our land.
Make love the bedrock.

©️ 2019 lem

Social Justice and Being Christian

Forgive this interruption in the regularly scheduled programming about my job search journey. This is just too important to me to not talk about.

This past week I was in a discussion with several others regarding social justice issues like homelessness, stereotypes, what we believe about them, and how we act on them as followers of Jesus.

A significant part of the conversation was regarding those who experience homelessness, with much of that centering on those in chronic homelessness, who often deal with substance abuse and dependence issues.

There were the usual questions about the whys and wherefores of “those” people’s choices and lifestyles. We also touched on the changes and so-called solutions in our society which foster the problem of homelessness and its impact on society.

When we got around to what to do about it, that’s when we got down to the nitty gritty of our role as Christians and individuals. How do you love people who may be unsafe, living in unsafe circumstances, who reject the social services they may have access to? How do you determine if someone will or can benefit from your involvement? What does relationship look like in this context?

One person stated that we can’t know what to do unless we follow the Holy Spirit’s leading. But, what if you’re like me and have difficulty accessing and discerning what the Holy Spirit may be saying?

Look to Jesus. Not to be trite, but, what would Jesus do?

• Make eye contact.
• Listen without judgment.
• Offer a willingness to understand.
• Treat with dignity.

It’s not our job to solve homelessness or poverty, as individuals. Those are goals to be worked toward, for sure. However, what we do know that it’s our job as individuals to love our neighbor, including our neighbors without four walls and a roof.

How to do that? Take time to get to know one of “those” people, even if it’s just to share a cheap fast food meal, a conversation on the corner, or offering a garbage bag so they can pick up their debris. These acts are acts of relationship and relationships are what Jesus is about.

I’ve experienced homelessness more than once in my life. The longest period was as a teen in relationship with a much older man who was, essentially, a professional, low-level con artist. Other times occurred when my mental health crashed and I couldn’t hold a job at the same time as my relationship’s toxicity clashed with my anxiety and mania…only I didn’t understand that’s what was happening.

I didn’t have substance abuse issues, but, my mental health issues, which weren’t recognized or understood by me or others around me, created an inability to toe the line of organizational and societal demands and expectations. Encountering someone willing to actually see ME and not just my circumstances or my history was priceless. It afforded me a sense of dignity that can only come from being seen and treated as if I was worthwhile and that I mattered, whether or not I could conform or meet the expectations of others.

I have neighbors who are unsheltered. Many experience alcoholism and dependency on other substances. Sometimes they work. Sometimes they panhandle. Sometimes they collect cans and bottles. Sometimes they do none of the above. They often do what they can to keep the areas they occupy free of debris. However, sometimes they don’t have a way to gather and dispose of garbage. Just like they don’t have consistent or frequent access to laundry or bathing facilities.

I’ve witnessed them helping and looking out for each other. They’ve helped me carry things too heavy for me to carry up a flight of stairs…without expecting or asking for anything in return.

Of course not everyone in these circumstances is friendly, open, or safe. There’s a lot of history of personal trauma for most people living on the streets. Substance abuse and addiction is very common for trauma survivors and those experiencing mental illness.

It’s easy to look at someone on a corner with a sign and make assumptions based on what you think you would do, given the set of circumstances you believe they are in. But, you don’t know them or their story. You can’t, unless you take the time and make the effort.

Donating money is easy – whether it’s to an organization or directly to an individual. Choosing any degree of relationship with an uncomfortable other is less easy for most of us and it’s not possible with all people at all times…but, it makes more of a difference and more impact than you may believe.

How about a little empathy and compassion for our new FLOTUS?

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of Melania. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really know her name or her relationship to our new POTUS until his campaign and new presidency. I am certainly NOT a supporter of the man who is now our 45th President.

I made the decision to share a link on Facebook to, what turned out to be, a controversial article regarding Melania Trump. The article contained few facts, was based on reported hearsay, and definitely slanted to garner sympathy for Melania. Apparently, the content is not to be trusted as factual or believable, since it is an article from the New York Post.

Typically, many of the things that I share hardly generate much response, other than by a select few of my actual friends who intentionally seek out what I’ve posted. This particular article, and my shared response to it, garnered some intensely negative reactions, as well as a couple of sympathetic ones. While I genuinely appreciated the sympathetic ones, it was the negative ones which, understandably, caught my attention and pushed my internal buttons. These comments triggered something in me which feels like a form of defensiveness, both on Melania’s behalf and my own.

She is not fit to be a. First Lady

My issues are with the glaring hypocrisy from the right. They called Michelle Obama things like “an ape in heels” and criticized her for showing her arms, but accept with open arms a woman who was a sex worker and compare her to Jackie O. They cheer on the immigration ban, while celebrating a woman who was an undocumented immigrant working in the US. My issues aren’t with her, they’re with the people who are celebrating her as some goddess while ignoring their own hypocrisy.

Do people really believe everything they read? Especially in The New York Post? . . . Fact check people.

I’ll address the last comment, first. Guilty as charged. I often forget to fact check articles I share . . . which is one reason I’ve really stopped sharing most articles. I’ve stopped reading most of them, too. I honestly don’t know which news outlet is trustworthy or not. Based on my limited college education, I’m aware that almost all reporting is slanted, whether intentionally or not.

As human beings, we are truly incapable of being completely objective and without idealogical motivation in everything we do. That’s just a simple fact of life. With the internet and the overwhelming influence of social media in our post-millenial lives, this is more true than ever before. I suspect that very little of what is reported as soon as the information is available has been completely fact checked by those who report it or express their opinions about what the information means. Ours is a generation both more sophisticated and naive than any before, in my opinion.

Now, onto what this is really about for me, going deeper than the sound bite and looking for the humanity we all share. In my case, I’m going to openly admit that the filters which I read the article through are deeply personal and rooted in my own history, as well as the knowledge I have acquired regarding mental health, domestic violence, and women’s roles in our society and others. What follows is merely my personal conjecture and hypothesis.

First, let’s examine the publicly displayed character and attitudes of Melania’s husband. He has shown himself to be a person who does what he wants without the consent or feedback of women. He has displayed distinctly misogynstic views and has been proven guilty of demeaning, dismissive, and verbally abusive behavior toward women. He has shown himself to be someone who revels in his personal power and is not hesitant to use that power to achieve his own desires and agendas. If he has zero qualms about presenting this as his public character and identity, is it beyond the realm of probability that he exercises these same traits and characteristics in his private life?

Now, let’s briefly look at what we know of Melania’s personal history. Her country of origin, Slovenia, was under communist Yugoslavian rule until 1991. Melania was born in 1970. She came to the US as a model in 1996. Based on what little I know of Eastern European societal norms, it is likely that she grew up in a supremely male-dominated society, where women probably had little power and influence. At 16, she began a modeling career. The modeling industry, like the movie and music industries, has a well-known history of being both male-dominated and exploitative of the “talent.”

My conjecture is that Melania was preconditioned to have a more submissive role in relationship to men who have positions of authority and power. It has been documented that, initially, she refused to be in relationship to Donald Trump. It was six years before they were engaged to be married. Is it possible that a man of his wealth, power, and position pursued her, unrelentingly, until she succumbed to the pressure of being aged out of her industry, partially due to his influence? Is it conceivable that he would use his role as her husband and his influence in our society, based on his celebrity, wealth, and power to dominate her in the context of their marriage?

Sexual dominance, financial control, isolation, and psychological manipulation are often tools used to perpetuate control over those experiencing domestic violence. Is it too far from the realm of possiblity to consider that this may be a factor in Melania’s life?

Regarding her history as a sex-worker and illegal immigrant. The actual facts we know to be true are that, in her job as a model, she posed nude for GQ. How many models are used in publications and advertisements as sexual objects? As a model, she was likely employed through agencies and represented by agents who had significant control and say over which jobs she took. While she was guilty of working illegally under a B1/B2 visa, that designation is for both those on temporary business and those who are tourists. As a model in our country on that type of visa, it is possible that those who arranged for her visa and business in our country misled her and that she believed that the work she did was permissible?

In terms of how she is viewed and spoken of by Trump supporters, is she personally responsible and accountable for their vociferous villification of Michelle Obama, their iconization of her, and their evident hypocrisy between those two stances? Is it fair to criticize her for either their behaviors or her husband’s? Is it acceptable to shame her, for any of these reasons? Is it compassionate or kind to publicly assasinate her character based on how we feel about her husband?  Do any of us have the right to pass judgment on her for our idealogical mores and values which she has not met?

We had eight years with Michelle Obama as our FLOTUS. She is a strong, powerful, independent woman in a mutually supportive personal and political relationship with her husband. She exercised her power and influence in visibly constructive and ethical ways. A significant number of us dearly miss her and her husband. Melania is not Michelle. Donald is not Obama. I don’t see how we can justifiably find fault with her for not being Michelle, when it is clear that she is a completely different person, with a completely different history, in a completly different relationship with her husband.