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The Cushion of Life

I have been thinking quite a bit about these three words of late and their meaning both by intent and by design.

As I have now "migrated" to Nashville with claims that I am one of the 85 a day moving here (clearly unsubstantiated something I am becoming used to since relocating here)I wonder how many will stay and make this their home? I am fairly certain I have already begun to plan my exit ticket which in some ways makes me a transient.

Home, another word that has diverse connotations of meaning and evokes both sentimentality and disdain. Again words are often simple in meaning and yet dependent on the speaker the meaning can take on one of greater depth.

So how does the Oxford English Dictionary define the words:

Migrant: A person who moves from one place to another in order to find work or better living conditions.

Immigrant: A person who comes to live permanently in a foreign country.

Transient: Lasting only for a short time; impermanent; Staying or working in a place for a short time only.

Play a word game and ask yourself what image comes to mind when you say each word? There are historical images of those arriving at Ellis Island or images of Latin Americans running along trains and crossing desert lands; there are the images of Middle Easterners from Syria or those from Africa desperately trying to get into Europe. There is the constant of the Hobo, the rail jumper of the 50s made infamous in Woodie Guthrie songs or John Steinbeck books. Some of our concepts have powerful legacies and history in a country founded by Immigrants and Migrants.

As we try to figure out who were are and where we are in relationship to those who have now escaped hardship and come only to find a different kind I wonder how different it is for those who live here and move. I can assure you in is not easier just different.

I try to understand, to reconcile and in turn interpret my surroundings to adjust to my way of thinking. I try to believe that as a result there is change possible when people come to understand that not everything stays the same and that despite it always being that way it doesn't make it wrong or right just different and there is nothing wrong with trying something different, is there?

The last few weeks there have been articles on the impending issues on Migrants here and in Europe with equal inflammatory name calling, law making and other issues taking the forefront as the world seems to be imploding on its own axis.

The New York Times have many interesting articles with regards to the struggles Migrants and Europeans are facing in Europe as they try to assimilate both professionally and personally with their new status in their new homes. And here in America the founder of Chobani who is a strong advocate for immigration has too faced rage and anger from the hater crowd who resent his role and of course jobs to those he defends.

I watched a news report on CBS last night discussing coal miners and how one man age 46 was voting for the first time for Donald Trump as he believed he will protect his life and work. At one point you wonder if he understands he is defending a type of energy and fuel that killed many of those who came before him and did little to change that dynamic other than had them other stick of dynamite. As I watched I wondered how someone felt compelled to stand up for black lung and other health and safety crisis that have plagued mines, the environmental damage that has resulted, makes one wonder about the role of work, and education here at home. It also I believe demonstrates we have a lot of problems at home that clearly we too ignore in that same way they do in those countries we watch about on the news.

Poverty in America was the theme for this past weekend's Times and there were numerous articles, from Kristof's column about Growing Up Poor in America and how small businesses are trying to retain a semblance of what was and now is in American manufacturing, to this editorial:

Poverty in Unexpected Places

Grinding poverty in the United States has long been synonymous with the Deep South, where low wages, poor health and diminished opportunity are more pervasive than in other parts of the country.

But there are other ways to think about poverty that yield a strikingly different pattern. According to Census data that take into account the costs of living in each state and the role of federal aid in coping with those costs, California has the highest poverty rate in the nation, at 20.6 percent of the population, compared with 17.9 percent for Louisiana, 17 percent for Mississippi and 16.8 percent for Georgia. Over all, the West, with an alternative poverty rate of 15.7 percent, is virtually tied with the South, at 15.4 percent.

That does not mean poverty in California and the West is as grim as in Mississippi and the South. Southern poverty is associated with greater material hardships than are experienced elsewhere, including hunger. (The West includes the 13 westernmost states; the South is a group of 16 states that includes Kentucky, West Virginia, Maryland and Delaware, plus Washington, D.C.

The high alternative poverty rate in the West is driven largely by rising rents in California, where industries like technology, finance and entertainment have attracted well-paid workers who bid up housing costs. As rent increases have steadily outpaced wage growth in the last several years, housing costs as a share of total family income have swelled to more than 50 percent for nearly 30 percent of Californians, according to an analysis of Census data by the Stanford Center on Poverty and Inequality. The results are overcrowding, bad housing, the inability to afford other essentials, frequent evictions and other features of poverty.

Similar dynamics are at work elsewhere, notably in Hawaii, New York and Washington, D.C. In effect, high and rising incomes at the top of the economic ladder are impoverishing those with modest pay who are clinging to the lower rungs.

Market forces, however, are not the whole story. Another culprit is public policy, which at both the state and the federal levels has failed to soften the effect of the market through law and regulation, including zoning, renters’ rights and other legal protections.

At the federal level, about five million low-income households receive rental assistance through voucher programs and public housing, without which 2.6 million more people would be living in poverty. Still, only one in four eligible households receives federal rental aid. Worse, the number of families with children receiving federal rent subsidies has fallen in recent years and is now at its lowest point in more than a decade, despite rising need. Misguided federal budget cuts are to blame, as is Congress’s failure to see poverty in all its dimensions as of bedrock importance

The market is not going to cure itself of widening income inequality and the poverty it helps create. Bolstering federal rental subsidies, especially for families with children, is one good place to start.

Since moving to Nashville and working in the public schools as a Substitute I get destitute as anyone without savings, a second job or a family member working would be living on the streets. This is outrageous and utterly disgraceful but it puts one in line with the students who attend the same schools

So now Poverty and what does that mean. Well like Middle Class it has a broad definition and one tied up in legalese that actually doesn't explain what it is like to be poor.

And when Donald Trump speaks of the poor and their neighborhoods he has likely been to one as actually been driven through one enroute to his plane. Then add the voices of the Gates and their belief structure that encourage contraception and charter schools. Two things that neither have ever understood or experienced ever.

So take the word Poor or Poverty and do the same imagery that you did with Migrant/Immigrant/Transient.

Being poor and living in abject poverty are two entirely different things and the quality of life and how people perceive their life. What is not debatable is the concept of meritocracy and how "hard work" and "good values" somehow is all one needs to move up the ladder. It takes actually luck.

The reality in schools are kids busted and broken from families who are there doing what they can. In Kristof's column you read stories of those who struggle day to day and in turn they are not doing well. I can hear people saying they made bad choices and yes they did but educated intelligent and well to do people do as well they simply have the ability to land on a cushion to protect their fall; however, as we know that is not always the case.

We fight being called names while embracing the same words that we use to call names. The stigma, the branding, the Scarlet Letters that we use to incarcerate both physically and metaphorically make it hard to rise above. So we patronize, placate and offer band aids to cover seeping wounds. This is a more Inconvenient Truth than the film of the same name.

As I write this I live in the South and am in an alternative school with Children who could not function in a normal classroom or school, why I have no idea and I make no excuses nor justifications for them. The issue of class, the structure of society is so class based that being racist is simply a secondary function of classism/elitism. And when you have that ethos with no pathos embedded in place obsessed with history you have this - horrible education, lack of businesses, poor infrastructure, low wages and a very segregated city (but not one where race is the predominate factor).

So I live in the city they call "Nowsville" but it is for the now as I am truly not a migrant but a transient and when the time comes to leave I will. They used to call us Carpetbaggers but I will try to do some good while I get what I need before I leave but I have always prided myself on being an excellent house guest. I like soft cushions on which to fall back on and every now and then we all do.

This post first appeared on Green Goddess VV, please read the originial post: here

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The Cushion of Life


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