If You Ever Thought Your Vote Counted, Try Homelessness

A whole lot of armchair politico-ing going on, but it's still a million miles from justice

Daily, the job of a social worker is to inspire, to show the way, pave some sort of less bumpy path, enlighten, mentor, listen to, value, drive, serve, formulate, plan for, seek money with, engender kinship, provide case managing, and reflect upon the lives of some amazingly resilient survivors.

This is not for the faint of heart or weak in the head sort of person who believes in some magical Disney World of One-Day-I-Too-Will-Find-My-Fairy-Godmother story.

I have been working hard on all fronts, including writing my biography, or in my case, sort of a strange anti-memoir/multiple form story about what it is to be me, with me, around me, and inside me, through the looking glass of the dynamic people I have lived to learn from and places I have visited to dream about.

Terminal Velocity — Man Lost of Tribe. It’s a weekly attempt at 30 parts, 30 weeks, of some vision or fugue of some part of my life, or my anti-life.

Here, the Preface over at LA Progressive: Terminal Velocity.

It’s surreal though to be doing something creative like that, working on other writing projects, and even contemplating a book release, while still on the streets, talking to ex-heroin addicts who have no veins left in arms and legs, who did their last series of mainlining in veins in the forehead before coming clean, who have a hobbled walk because all nerves are damaged in feet and whose gaits are just off enough for anyone to notice they must have been living on the streets for some good stretch of time.

These are just the tip of the iceberg:

  • Fighting appeal after appeal for three years to get Supplemental Security Income at $733 a month with the caveat of not working too many hours or this king’s ransom will be taken away — remember, this is for people over 65, disabled at any age, or blind.  So my client is forced to NOT work enough to survive in gentrifying Portland, where rents are sky high, and whose landlords do not rent to felons.  So we have people working under the table, just to survive, and if they get nailed, oh  no, oh no, Kafkaesque State Trooper will intercede . . .
  • How about on average, $80,000 in back child support to be paid to the state for children who were never declared the man’s until a huge fight ensued with the ex and, bam, the payments she received in state benefits for 16 years, say, are now payable by the man who, in many cases, is homeless, is in recovery and probably just out of prison and now on the hook for another $15,000 in fines and restitution for being arrested and sent out for warrant, and, say. another $15,000 for ER visits during some OD episode, driver’s license suspended for life, and this 49 year old is  supposed to smile and take that $10 an hour check . . .
  • Or, 15 years in prison for making false IDs for migrant workers and others, and, then, bam, the day you get out, you are now faced with a $750,000 fine to be paid back, thanks to the district attorney piling on charge after charge because you were a defiant woman (hmm, 18 years old) and did not cooperate. You have a 16 year old son, and, well, guess what — no mamma for 15 years, well, there might be just a little resentment and miscreant attitude . . . .
  • Or, try this: 65, homeless, the only free set of dentures the state pays for, which were lost on a camping trip, so you go without choppers for 10 years, and he wants a job at a call center, but he can’t enunciate and pronounce words well, so his case worker, me, finds some dirty and off the wall place to help him get new teeth. The smile is big on that day, and, well, with other crippling issues, and felonies, and a gift for cello at a young age, but in jail time and time again, hmm, I am not seeing the doors being pushed open in Portland for him . . . .
  • Or, how about raped at 9, drugged at 11, on her own at 13, and, well, 15-year-old gets hooked up with 29 year old, and, well, the rest of that life until age 49 is not pretty — unbelievable risks, both physical and legally: three trips to the Portland airport, and stolen luggage, and her dope dealer rummaging through, tossing a hundred worth of heroin, that habit a daily appetite, fed by the stealing and the airport rummaging, yet she has five children, all doing okay, fine, professional and successful . . . .

It’s very difficult to read all the bluster and hyperbole about the news of the day, especially the political news in UK, USA, EU, elsewhere, when so-so much of the reality of the majority of the world is not even a crusty eye lid blink of the politicians and movers and shakers.

These people — name them in the Fortune 1000, in all branches of government, celebrities, higher education, the arts and letters — have no idea how the other 89 percent live, no idea, and so we have these silly pieces and movements of the likes of the 350.org types, or any number of cultural battles now launched, and, what, we have a bleeding population, destroyed from the inside out, by the very people with the degrees and the so-called elite minds, sucking on their pain and downfall like giant leeches sucking the light out of the moon.

It’s an easy scan of the Guardian or NYT or WP, WSJ, Time, Newsweek, Rolling Stone, and the like, and witness the depraved minds of the editors and publishers. There is no fight in them for the truly exploited and driven to poverty and insanity people I work with.

Then, recently, all these columns on what to do with The Bern energy now that he is in HRC’s camp, the same one he declared safe passage before he put his foot into the president contest ring.

It’s as if even my own left of the left people have gone running from the poverty, insanity, malignancy around them, as the world of Capital, run by Fascists, eaten up by Libertarians, metastasizes into a carnival of idiots vying for more intellectual space without an ounce of concern for the real people in them.

All the shit I have to go through, and then to end a day with all the sad-sack writers fretting about the state of the world, our futures, if a Trump trumps a chump, Hillary, the Mrs. Clinton.  Really, there is so much BS that even this liberal “intellectual” we all associate with manufacturing consent spews the same tumor-growing mush that if you go and vote for Jill Stein, or no vote, you are silly, misinformed and aiding and abetting Trump’s campaign.

Oh, shoot, listening to and reading all this crap about Noam Chomsky endorsing Mrs. Clinton, or the ramifications of Britain leaving the EU, or all the shit storm coming out of pundits’ and Trumps’ mouths — what’s it get us? All the revisionism, all the lies of Capitalism, all the new summer blockbusters, the criminality of the Olympics or any big sports “show” (kick-backs, money laundering, stealing from public coffers, immense waste of resources), the slow IV drip of this lobotomizing liquid called the hope and sweat and tears and shed blood of wanting capital, money, dough, the bucks — how does any of it really help?

I am working my ass off supporting homeless, recovering addicts, mental health patients, early release parolees, families, and so many more, and when I open up the Nation or flip to Counterpunch, or DV, or any number of leftist venues, it’s almost as if there are several planes of human existence and several species of hominid Homo Sapiens roaming planet earth.

Not one struggling, poor, recovering, fighting, slave wager, reconciling ex-street criminal will ever get the electronic, digital, print, broadcast bully pulpit; not one of them will have 20 minutes or more to talk to any of the 50 state chambers or the national one on what really is the cause of homelessness, drug addiction, criminality, lack of skills to fit in this One Percent and the 19 Percent Henchmen world of debt (death) by bureaucracy – the criminal intent of Ivy League graduates and other MBA and law school matriculators who make mints off of the pain, the fines, the penalties, the garnishments, the levies, the fees, the poverty, the mental health issues, the learning disabilities, the physical handicaps, the broken homes, failed students, sleazy loans, rents, taxation, profit gouging imposed on the backs of you and I, and mostly my Red Bull sipping, Krispy Creme chewing, public transportation taking, three-NA/AA/HA meetings a day clients.

It’s ludicrous and elitist and totally off the mark, irrelevant, obtuse, misdirected, disingenuous, out-of-touch, patronizing, limp-wristing when it comes to how “they” – the editors, fancy writers, the mainstream and left-and-right-stream media, the TV talking heads, the so-called national intellectuals – see, treat, portray, consider, reflect, narrate, legislate, criminalize, pathologize, denigrate the rest of us, we in the 80 percent in this un-United States of Annihilation. Imagine, the hundreds of miles of copy a day written by mostly out of touch, out of sync, bastards, really, of a bad form of journalism.

What really is happening in You Name It City, USA, is a labor-killing, children-shackling, citizen-neutralizing, public spaces-razing, social net-unraveling, education-lobotomizing, art-stinking, health-poisoning set of corporate-with-government-oversight (lack thereof, that is) systems that have denuded any semblance of citizen-directed democracy.

All these people – some of whom I respect – going on and on about The Burn (err, Bern . . . .the sheepdog that he was from day one, way before anyone even dreamed Trump was more than just a dry mental ejaculation), about Trump, about the United States of Israel, Clinton x3, about the state of the climate, the oceans, the air, the economy, the culture, the rain forests, elephants, whales, or the super-nation power of the Pharmaceuticals-Big Agriculture-For Profit Prisons/Hospitals/Utilities/Schools/ Armies all wrapped up in Total Global Surveillance/Total Stripping of Civil Rights Homeland Securities/ TransPacific Partnership UnFree Trade Agreement (sic), well, it’s comical and pathetic.

Where’s it taking us? Who really are the voiceless victims?

Look, the economy in Oregon, according to neoliberals, libertarians, liberals, the like, is booming, and is an employee’s market (whatever the fuck that is). “Booming” as in jobs in warehouses, on production lines, and inside distribution centers for a whopping $10.50 an hour. Really, I was at a presentation yesterday, by a woman who is operations manager of an agency that staffs many companies, some of which are Fortune 500 companies. The nutshell of what she was saying – this all being presented to senior citizens – is companies are looking for low skilled, repetitive motion, stooping/standing/climbing/lifting people, and, darn, what a time to be 60 or 70 and go back to work, because, really, that’s all we 80 percent are good for – work till we drop.

Oh, the irony, that those people in the audience who were looking for $10 an hour work are seeking work because the shit that is sold as social security checks and the almost zero retirement funds and the obscene amounts of money it takes to just survive in this One Percenter’s Profit Gouging Society are eating our old people alive.

Yet, we can read more and more about Methane or Fracking or X-Y-or-Z country sacking X-Y-or-Z’s treasuries and environments or Kissinger as Hillary’s running mate, or that Donald Trump is the best looking thing since Fran Sinatra, and all the lying, bloviating, prognosticating, propagating, propagandizing of the millions directly supporting and working (sic) for the two-warhead machine of Democrats and Republicans, and still NPR, Time, Mother Jones, The Nation, In These Times, Whatever Leftie Magazine Title You Want to Write In This Blank Space______________ get us, the 80 Percent, the homeless, the abject poor, the disenfranchised, wrong-wrong-wrong.

If we are lucky, partially right, which is worse than clear cutting our humanity altogether.

Imagine the people paying for those luxury vacations, paying for orthodontic work, those college and post-graduate degrees for Johnny and Jenny. All the beachfront homes, cabins, three-car garages, ride-on mowers, golf lessons, swimming pools, all of that, paid for because a good chunk of the 80 Percent are geared into a human-killing, thought-scrubbing criminal justice industrial complex.

Servicing-punishing-exacting from the poor, the addicts, the PTSD traumatized, the mentally ill, the criminalized, the dropouts, the developmental disabled, that’s how so many make a comfortable living. Imagine all the spin-off careers and systems have come to fruition because of the war on drugs-blacks-entire families-Mexicans-the poor-uneducated.

None of the big political and philosophical ideas matter in this country, not one iota, when we have this much poverty, this much gutting of schools, neighborhoods of color, industries, families, futures. Really, the entire “The US will be a little bit-somewhat-much-a whole lot” better off with Clinton” is an entire bunch of mulch from a decade ago, from a half century ago, from the beginning of this slave state country.

The clients I serve are heroes, broken once-twice-thrice, but, really, fighting, even just for a few measly C-notes more a month to survive with a larger frame of sobriety in a country that hates them and for many USA patriots, would like to see them gassed. Really, everyday, I fight with someone, or several, telling me that the value of an addict or criminal or abandoned child or abandoning mother or father is worth the cost of regular unleaded in a fat horse needle.

Jeffrey St. Clair, sure, he’s spot on, but there are a couple hundred million plus in the USA who are under the screws of the One Percent tyrants and their Little Eichmanns.

Hillary Clinton is a living refutation of the logic of lesser-evilism, since her candidacy as the most rightwing Democratic nominee since Harry “A Bomb” Truman is the inevitable consequence of decades of lesser-evil voting. This toxic political pragmatism engenders a process of natural selection in reverse, where the candidates get more-and-more retrograde because their opponents can always be painted as fractionally more odious. Well, let each pick their own poison in the privacy of the voting booth. Rationalizing, however weakly, a vote for Hillary Clinton isn’t my main problem with the Chomsky/Halle essay.

The most noxious element of the Chomsky/Halle endorsement of Clinton is their paternalistic guilt-tripping that seeks to blame people who choose to vote for Jill Stein, Gloria La Riva, Gary Johnson or no one at all in the extremely unlikely event (one percent according to analytics guru Nate Silver) that Trump prevails in November. If HRC, who now enjoys support from both the Chomsky wing of the Democrats and the Kissinger-Goldman Sachs wing of the GOP, loses it will be the fault of her own record of mendaciousness and villainy, just as Gore was solely responsible for blowing the 2000 election, even though liberals continue to viciously scapegoat Ralph Nader.

My people, my friends, my clients, my reflections will not know even a dust-weight’s bit change the day Trump or Hillary takes the reins. The states and cities and counties will still be running in various forms on three of eight cylinders.

Paul Kirk Haeder has been a journalist since 1977. He's covered police, environment, planning and zoning, county and city politics, as well as working in true small town/community journalism situations in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, Mexico and beyond. He's been a part-time faculty since 1983, and as such has worked in prisons, gang-influenced programs, universities, colleges, alternative high schools, language schools, as a private contractor-writing instructor for US military in Texas, New Mexico, Arizona, and Washington. A forthcoming book (Dec. 15, 2016), Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber, looks at 10 years of his writing at Dissident Voice, and before, to bring defiance to the world that is now lobotomizing at a rate never before seen in history. Read his autobiography, weekly chapter installments, at LA Progressive. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.