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08 September 2005 @ 12:51 am
So many lies, so little time  
The Barbara Bush quote is making the rounds of the internet. As a former "underprivileged" person (makes it sound like I merely lacked a country club membership) I can't even believe all the levels of ignorance her statement betrays. But let me try to deconstruct her remarks, one by one:

"Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston."

Yes, poor people have had to learn to adapt, and probably can't fathom that they will be able to return or that there is anything left of their meager belongings to return to. (They generally don't think of themselves as lucky, for good reason.) They know their survival depends on making their new situation secure as soon as possible.

Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality."

They are overwhelmed by the entire situation, as anyone would be, and grateful that people are welcoming them instead of treating them with the usual disdain and repugnance, lest their poverty rub off on their benefactors. Her "sort of scary" remark betrays this last attitude--her fear that Texas will be overrun by poor black people is obvious and disgusts me.


"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."


I used to like Barbara Bush as a welcome change from the formerly vain (who has been transformed by dealing with Alzheimer's) Nancy Reagan, but this last was too much for me. I don't expect Barbara Bush to really have a clue about the lives of poor people, but this is ridiculous. I am at a loss to understand how she thinks that things have improved for people who just lost what little they did own, their TV, their clothing, their family photos, their furniture, pots and pans, dishes, beds, bedclothes, and other treasured belongings acquired with such difficulty, and landed in another state to reside on a cot with whatever family members managed to escape with them and stay together. Poor people also depend on their network of friends and family to survive. If I didn't have money at the end of the month, a friend might. If I had all but one ingredient for a meal at that time of the month, my neighbor might have that one crucial item, and maybe we'd share the meal. Take all those things away and you have poor people desperate to figure out how they'll survive, bravely trying to make do where fate has plucked them down, and to her it looks like they are doing well?

I've tried to imagine how to describe and explain poverty to people who have never experienced it. I guess I should write more about this because I didn't realize anyone could really be that clueless about it.

If you are reading this, and do have questions about poverty, please ask. I don't really know what people wonder about, what they don't get, what needs to be explained, and need to figure out a starting place for my writing about it. Thanks!

My experience: daughter of an impoverished single parent who grew up to become an impoverished single parent after leaving my abusive first husband, and put myself through college to escape poverty. I was the first person in my family to get a BA, my grandparents were farmers in Iowa. I have raised two children on as little as $360.00 a month in the 1980s.
 
 
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