The Poverty Problem
As I see it after years of living and working in Savannah there are three basic problems in Savannah that help sustain poverty. The first is a lack of liberal or radical clergy and churches. This is where the voices of the powerless can be given a voice to the powerful. Savannah has no church that is committed to the issue of eliminating poverty. There are churches who are helping those in poverty but none who are looking at structures. Where is leadership on an increased minimum wage? Making sure public transportation is accessible and goes where it needs to go? Challenges to nonprofits and government programs that are not reducing poverty that are left to continue.
Not only does a lack of voice from a liberal religious community hurt in giving a voice to the powerless it also lets the thinking and philosophy around the poor become a moral issue and not an insufficient funds issue for the basic needs in life. The poor need to learn to budget, make right relationship choices, stay away from drugs and alcohol, and so forth. While these may all be issues that help if you did all of these right you would find at the end you still live in poverty unless you have more money come into your pocket.
When you believe it is a money issue and not a moral issue, the minimum wage increase becomes important, economies that provide living wage employment is essential, training for skills that promise higher wages is provided. A safety net that prevents a spiraling down from low\middle income status to poverty is created, affordable housing and medical care is a necessity, and transportation to jobs are important, employment of those with criminal records is promoted. The only morality to the situation is whether a city with our resources will provide the necessary tools to conquer poverty. Yet without a constant vigilance of a religious group or other organizations outside the system that are offering challenges to the system poverty will thrive.
The second issue is classism among blacks (This is not to equate poverty as a black issue but a disproportionate group of blacks live in poverty. Of course whites continue to hold the majority of the welfare program rolls). There is not a black middle class concern about poverty. And a gap in understanding of educated blacks of poverty ridden blacks causes persons to develop the wrong philosophy and contribute to the judgment and misdiagnosis of what the poor need. Being a black member of society does not automatically give you understanding of what someone raised in poverty experiences. Blacks in this community are not always at the forefront of the issues of poverty.
Take HIV\AIDS and homosexuality were not addressed by the black community as a whole. This was so although HIV\AIDS hit the black community disproportionally. In the nineties this was a significant part of addressing poverty as people who once held jobs could no longer do this. Yet the black community responded with a symphony of crickets. Even today with all the advances in care the black community is seldom acting to prevent this disease.
Also cultural issues take the priority of the middle class. This is their interest and they justify it by saying if we show people to be black and proud this will help them out of poverty. This may help but once again they can be black and proud and still not affect their pocket books. Schools that give good education making you more employable are more important. Savannah State University struggles in part because of alumni bickering. The black middle class continues to bicker over monuments, cultural centers etc., and never seemingly over issues of poverty.
The black community lost political power in the last elections because of their making poor choices in city manager and police chief. Instead of finding the best black candidates they used a black cronyism and instated people who were corrupt and not up to their jobs. This resulted in projects that could have benefitted the black community to not come into fruition, violence in the streets, and gangs growing in black communities.
What is amazing is that the black history of success and influence rivals any other city in the United States. Carver State Bank, first church built by Slaves, integration before the civil rights law enacted, black schools in slavery days, Savannah State University oldest public historically black university in Georgia, and the list is one of amazing resourcefulness in the face of unrelenting adversity.
Third the ongoing white power structure. Of course this is still the issue. The white power structure has been in place for over two centuries. It has hidden levers and advantages that the white community is not any longer aware exist yet still they work to enhance the white community. When former Mayor Otis Johnson discovers that the city’s legal matters are farmed out to white only law firms there is a problem. When contractors the city uses are disproportionately white there is a problem. When public schools in predominately black communities suffer compared to white communities there is a problem. When so many black males are imprisoned there is a problem. And the list could go on.
Although this is not a complete list I think it is probably the main part of why poverty continues to flourish in a city and county whose wealth continues to grow.
Something that I find interesting is that three of the far right flag bearers of the cause Glen Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and Sean Hannity are college dropouts. Which in of itself may not mean anything. But each exhibit wannabe scholar aptitude. Beck plays at being a historian especially a revisionist historian on his show all the time. Pontificating about historians who do not tell it like it is although he has never done the rigors of academia to know. Limbaugh with his tongue in cheek Limbaugh Institute and his children’s history books to make sure our children learn the right history continues the wannabe scholar theme. Hannity blasting away at elitist academics to the point he seems to have a chip on his shoulder about not having a degree. A small part of our society live in an anti-intellectualism world.
I agree scholarship and intelligence is not talking a language no one understands unless they are in your field. In fact I have a belief that if you cannot explain your discipline or subject you probably do not have a full handle on the subject matter. Or the information is so useless who cares. Now someone will immediately say what about brain surgery or physics. I say Neil Degrasse Tyson and Bill Nye. In the historical ruminations I talk of Savannah native Kirk Varnedoe who was one of the great art history scholars. His lectures had standing room only. He was able to communicate to scholar and lay person alike. Yes some people have better knack for communication than others but I find it easier to explain something I know thoroughly.
I know art reasonably well. I have made it a habit to go to any art museum in any city I visit. Early on I made it a habit to read extensively about artists I like. I am also a docent with the Telfair Academy and I have many enlightening conversations with my wife who has a PHD in Art History. But I have heard many art lectures that because of the non-words and complex words used you at first think you do not get it but upon looking past the gobbledygook you realized they were not saying anything particularly difficult to understand.
I also understand one of the ways people make their profession important is by using special language only fellow scholars could know. It is called job security. You need us because no one else could understand what I am talking about.
I also understand another reason arcane language is used is to impress people. He\she is smart I know because I could not understand a word they said. It makes your colleagues heart strangely warm when you know you are an insider in the club of knowledge. All of this has been with us from the beginning of time. There is special knowledge and I am one of the chosen few who grasps it.
I once was asked by a small man in a bowtie if I was an academic. His meaning was are you worth my time. Now usually I have a smart ass answer to that question. Aw shucks no I just know stuff that is worth knowing. But since he was my wife’s colleague I said simply no. He looked at me sadly and turned around and said nothing else to me the rest of the night.
Scholarship is important not always necessarily the scholar. I have great respect for those who teach. Hell I have a M.Div. myself. But the Limbaughs, Becks, and Hannitys of the world have something in common with some scholars they have forgotten humility. The more I know the less I know I know. So listening to all no matter where they come or what their title is important. But in the end the one who has been disciplined and enamored enough with their subject to spend years in its study will garner my attention more than others. I have an intuition after listening to the Three that they did not have the humility to open their ideas to the critique of others and so they dropped out. May we always have the courage to be critiqued and then the wisdom to learn from that critique.
This week was my youngest daughter’s gotcha day. A gotcha day is when the adoption becomes final. Life is strange I never thought I would adopt or that I would travel to China to do so. But I did. Twice. Dorothy the aforementioned arrived and I held her in my hands for the first time twelve years ago on my birthday. It was the best birthday present ever. I anticipate getting use out of it for the rest of my life.
I have a reason for telling you all this. The reason is the greatest things come into my life when I am willing to accept and celebrate. The first short story included in this blog was about JJ a transgender youth who for a short period of time I knew her called me DAD. She did it to torture and make me uncomfortable but in the end I grew to like it and grew to celebrate such a young vibrant life.
I have been blessed to live a life that early on put me in the throes of the unfamiliar and uncomfortable. I am a white, heterosexual, middle class, marine brat, from the Deep S outh. But I have lived with and called friends homeless men and women, inner-city youth, gays, mentally ill, transgender, artistes, prostitutes, drug dealers, addicts, preachers, soldiers, Muslims, Baptists. Unitarians Universalists and much more. And from each I have learned and enjoyed.
So I puzzle when people who proudly proclaim their Christian heritage find accepting others so hard. Their faith is built on the concept of how we treat the stranger or the other. Jesus even once proclaimed to accept others like yourself does not mean much. Even the pagan Gentiles do this. Love your enemies and others as yourself. I have to conclude those who cannot accept or love enemies or others who are not like themselves are not very good Christians. That is if they are Christian at all. Many will call out my name in the last days but few will know me Jesus said.
There are three stages in which to deal with diversity of life. To tolerate differences. Tolerate is only a breath away from warring with each other. I tolerate you but if you stretch the dimensions of the relationship I make no guarantees. Acceptance which I agree you can be at the table but I do not necessary have to feed you. And the final is Celebration of the different things you bring and who you are. Most so called religious folk can barely tolerate others. They have trouble in their own faiths with getting along. So strangers beware.
War always starts with hate, envy, or the lack of a seat at the table for some. So I suggest that to prevent war we learn to celebrate everyone and everything. I can hardly wait to see the Olympic-like celebrations that will happen.
This election has been very confusing to the political pundits because they say Trump has broken the mold of what a successful candidate can and cannot do. But after a study I think I have it figured out. The following is a few things I have learned.
Finger size determines the size of your penis.
Hillary is not qualified because she has been acquitted of wrongdoing in the Benghazi affair six times.
Obama is guilty of being a bad president for not stopping Captain Kahn’s death four years before he was elected.
Our country has been taken.
America has lost its mojo but if you buy a hat it will be great again.
Scott Baio is a serious actor and political player.
Obama only has five more months to take your guns away and to turn this country into a communist rat trap.
You can have unsecure twitters but not unsecure emails.
If Trump were gay his fanatical voters would finally find another candidate. Unless of course he agreed to conversion therapy then they would vote for him. After all the Republican platform says this.
If you have the political and financial support of the Russians on one hand and the Chinese on the other hand you are the most qualified candidate to be president.
TP is bad to some people.
Leftist Bernie delegates would not agree to elect Hilary by unanimous decree so that their vote against the first woman president could be preserved for posterity sake. Now that seems like the radical left I know.
Talk Radio has announced our country’s collapsed. But do not worry they love their listeners so much to prepare them for this they have gold, meals, safes, guns and other things you will need in the apocalypse to buy. And by the way just because they say our country sucks and is collapsing does not mean they are less patriotic than us. They really love capitalism.
Libertarian candidate for President Gary Johnson does not care if he helps elect a tyrant for president (his words not mine).
Donald Trump has no self-esteem issues or does the Donald protest too much.
Bill Clinton will be the First Man in the White House.
Both major parties elected the most hated candidates by the country to represent their party.
Both major parties elected candidates who have or may have lawsuits against them.
Jill Stein, Green Party candidate for president, thinks she has a realistic chance to be president.
Michael Freeman will vote for the least controversial candidate.