The Power and the Glory of the Poor

It’s been hard to get my arms around a book review I have been working on. The No-Growth Imperative, by a friend and former professor. A big book, academic but not really that cutting edge, for sure. Some of the  same old saws around sustainability, tragedy of the commons, Peak Everything, population bombs, urban-rural carrying capacities going at hyper speed beyond limitations, the finite planet treated as infinite consumer and plowing-mining-burning sphere.

It’s not that the book doesn’t have its pluses; it’s just that sustainability is something I’ve studied and taken seriously and fought to reappropriate as a humane and rights of nature sort of coverall. The earth charter and all that. Bringing people to a new sense of existence. Tied to the rights of ecosystems to not only survive as islands of aberrant terminally dying oddities, but as form and function to what it means to be human animals.

We’ve pretty much illustrated how stupid we have been in pre-post-beyond industrialization. We pretty much have proven the invalidity of analysis and data trolling and a million books nuancing the same thing over and over. We have pretty much given in to the fact that we are a broken tribe of people who can’t really escape the Dunbar number, can’t really believe that social networking and unlimited voyeurism and exhibitionism and peeping tom-ism will do squat to put healthy food on our tables, culture in our minds, and a sense of belonging to our billions of tribes.

So, while I wile away those moments, I thought I’d pine in and weigh in on some hyper-magnified things like one man’s coursing through life in small-town Pennsylvania:  Charles, the poet contributor to DV once in a while. Working class. Revolutionary in his capturing of life on the planet Earth.

His own life is emblematic of the lives of us, the never-to-be-realized sanctified life of good, thinking and contributing folk who deserve more than the assault on freedoms, foundations and federal programs for, by, because, with, and of the people.

It all comes down to small moments. Sometimes we are moved by the narratives we still luckily get in newspapers, a dwindling concept, really – the Oregonian is firing hundreds of employees (reporters, of course) due to a cut  back to a four-days a week home delivery newspaper model. Can you imagine? Four days a week is the new norm. Four days of news. Let those other three days be blank. Just what Oregonians need. Oh, sure, the millionaire owner  of the Oregonian thinks he believes the scam artists and their digital financing bunk about this upcoming wave of on-line love. Those three days (for now, look for no days home delivery soon) with no home delivery of real news printed paper will be made up in some cloud computing Shangri-La.

Here, for instance, the power of a news story, from Sharon Olds’ poetic brain, YEARS AGO:

 The Abandoned Newborn

When they found you, you were not breathing.
It was ten degrees below freezing, and you were
wrapped only in plastic. They lifted you
up out of the litter basket, as one
lifts a baby out of the crib after nap
and they unswaddled you from the Sloan’s shopping bag.
As far as you were concerned it was all over,
you were feeling nothing, everything had stopped
some time ago,
and they bent over you and forced the short
knife-blade of breath back
down into your chest, over and
over, until you began to feel
the pain of life again. They took you
from silence and darkness right back
through birth, the gasping, the bright lights, they
achieved their miracle: on the second
day of the new year they brought you
back to being a boy whose parents
left him in a garbage can,
and everyone in the Emergency Room
wept to see your very small body
moving again. I saw you on the news,
the discs of the electrocardiogram
blazing like medals on your body, your hair
thick and ruffed as the head of a weed, your
large intelligent forehead dully
glowing in the hospital TV light, your
mouth pushed out as if you are angry, and
something on your upper lip, a
dried glaze from your nose,
and I thought how you are the most American baby,
child of all of us through your very
American parents, and through the two young medics,
Lee Merklin and Frank Jennings,
who brought you around and gave you their names,
forced you to resume the hard
American task you had laid down so young,
and though I see the broken glass on your path, the
shit, the statistics — you will be a man who
wraps his child in plastic and leaves it in the trash — I
see the light too as you saw it
forced a second time in silver ice between your lids, I am
full of joy to see your new face among us,
Lee Frank Merklin Jennings I am
standing here in dumb American praise for your life.


 So, we are that abandoned newborn … or geriatric … or special needs … or black kid … or public worker … abandoned family foreclosed upon … abandoned PTSD soldier … abandoned diabetic … abandoned homeless man … abandoned school child … abandoned shut-in … abandoned college student . . . abandoned crime victim … abandoned whistle-blower … abandoned cat … day care worker …

America is the enterprise of abandonment. Full of rhapsody when the old red-white and blue goes bang, pop, sizzle on July 4. Full of self-delusion when we believe some comic book vintage story about entitled god-blessed society, the exceptional people, streets paved in gold.

I was thinking just how stupid we are, the One Percent and their 19 Percent Ass-kissers. Brian Williams, pronouncing on his boob-tube show, that doctors are now re-evaluating the warnings on booze bottles and cans for pregnant moms to refrain from gestating and chugging.

While I was taking this class on fetal alcohol syndrome/ fetal alcohol spectrum disorder, this boob Williams just yammers on and on about how wine might be good for gestating mothers — in moderation! All the work we do to show that just a few drops of booze can have some interesting and broken effects on incubating fetuses. Brains pickled by one binge. Mom’s hangover finished 12 hours later while placenta-placed fetus is floating in a bath of booze for a week.

The majority of folk with developmental disabilities come from the arena of FAS/FASD. Behavioral issues tied to impulse control. The brain just not wired right. A neurological nightmare.

It’s the most misunderstood, most misdiagnosed, most difficult to deal with. Worldwide.

And yet, those One Percenters and 19 Percent sycophants believe that drinking is not a significant problem for fetuses. Count that – 17 percent of doctors polled think booze is not a problem to the fetus. These guys and gals from those vaunted med schools. What asinine ignoramuses.

And, yet, the funding isn’t there for fetal alcohol syndrome unless four criteria can be met, one of which is proof and witnessing and testimony to the fact that the mother while pregnant was ingesting. That one hardly is every proven in a court of law or to some state governing and certifying board.

So, how many children with developmental disabilities are in the system? Tens of thousands. Millions!

They call the problem diagnostic overshadowing and diagnostic stacking. The problem is that FASD folk are not liars, are not oppositional defiant, aren’t impulse control  people because of behavioral issues.

Their serotonin and glutamate receptors are FRIED. Thanks to wine, roses, beer, peanuts and shots of glory after the nachos.

Just saying, how many adults, teens and children have an FASD factor in their lives. Most women do not find out they are pregnant until four to six weeks into the pregnancy. What does that glass or shot-full of wine or tequila do in the first day of gestation? The first week?

Funny thing is that if you look at old photographs, and in Europe, old paintings in museums, you can see an awful lot of people with some form of outward proof of fetal alcohol disorder. Flaps and folds around the eyes. Wider eyes. Pallet clefted. Ears misshaped. Something. Think of Liza Minnelli. You know, Judy Garland’s kid? Classic FAS.

So how does this all fit? How does the vulnerability of human species, of our war tribe culture fit into the general thesis of magnifying the simple stories of our misshapen communities? Our communities ripped apart . . . the sacrifice zones floundering thanks to a system that has given it all to the One Percent and 19 Percent while the rest of us flounder? Even those of us who have been schooled and self educated, traveled, well-read, revolutionary, deep into community activism, who know how politics works? Many of us are sacrificial rats in the Billionaires’ Trans National Money Scheme.

  • just reading an Asian newspaper out of Portland, Oregon – dog that saved two girls by running into the path of a motorcycle, in the Philippines – flown to California, half its face torn off, now fixed at Berkley, after $27,000 donated, returned home to Philippines
  • how NYC parents are pissed off because their elite little public schools are getting children with disabilities and such placed into these schools – pissed because “valuable” slots taken up by “those kind of kids … everything will be watered down …”
  • oh, heck, I’ll refrain from going on and on about the “stuff” going on in the world that pretty much proves we are cooked emotionally, economically, ecologically, ethically,  energy-wise, because, each nanosecond is proof that the pigs on top, whether in China, India, Russian, Australia, EU, Japan, North or South America, Canada, et al, they are wresting control of more and more of our lives and agency while we grumble, grouse and gesticulate in these blogs, in books, and around the bar of last resort – our feeble minds.

Here’s one shout in the darkness by one guy named Orloski who lives with his wife Carol in Taylor, Pennsylvania

One day in the capitalist life of a rooster and a deadman’s room   

 Late afternoon, Friday, June 21, 2013, final day of Spring, I left work ultra-aware that it was my dreaded “off-week” for getting paid – as a salaried-employee, I get paid bi-weekly.   My 250-cc Suzuki motorcycle needed gasoline, and prior to putting maybe $2.50 in the tank, I first checked-in with wife Carol on our family financial status.   “Well Chuck, things are not good unless you manage to go to Biotest tomorrow and donate blood-plasma…, donors receive $40.00 in return, ‘ya know”

“Yea, Carol.   Biotest is located in Dickson City, right?”

“Yes, Chuck, it’s in the strip mall beside the old Chuckie Cheese.”   

   “O.K…, I’ll go there before Noon.  Do they pay cash?”

“I assume check,” she replied.

Typically, especially on a pay-week, I’d much prefer donating blood-plasma as a charitable act, minus the money incentive, but traditional sentiments had to be considered and cast away, and get job done. And the sole thing I had to do for the remainder of the day was to travel to a local baseball field and watch my son Joseph play in an American Legion ballgame. A “planner” by nature, emergency response supervisor, “ready for all contingencies,” if a ball-player comes around “passing the hat” during 3rd inning, I’d tactically excuse myself, and walk toward Pagnotti Park rest-rooms. Nobody would know I’m broke.

Sixth inning, Joe’s team taking a fierce beating, my company cell phone rang, answered, and it was Carol, emoting an excited and worried tone.

“Chuck, I hope you played the night-time Pa Daily Number ‘550’ like I asked?

“Yea – Carol, I did, and the ticket’s right here in my wallet.”

“O Jesus… we won $330.00! You won’t have to go to Biotest tomorrow!”

Life continued and Carol persuaded me to leave the ball-game and go to the Convenient Market, cash-in winning ticket.  Meantime, she’d get dressed, prepare to go to Price Chopper, stock-up our barren refrigerator. Felt like a millionaire, mounted the Suzuki, donned helmet, tucked the winning-ticket securely into front-pocket, pressed-down into first gear, waved goodbye like Marlon Brando to friends remaining at the ballfiled fence. Within minutes ,I pulled into a Convenient Market lot, also serving as a Gulf gas station, dismounted, heard terrible animal screams coming from the adjacent vegetated embankment. It was a black-dog in hot-pursuit of a rooster. Merely five-feet from my bike, the dog prevailed, and tore apart the rooster’s stomach. I will spare the particulars, but the scene was quite ugly, brown feathers strewn around, rooster down, massive internals, remarkably no blood release, bird’s still alive, the dog ran toward Keyser Avenue, barked at passing traffic, and a bit shaken, I entered the Convenient Market in order to cash-in the winning Pa lottery ticket, number 550.

Outside, money tucked away, I looked at the rooster’s agonizing battle fight for life. Remembering the 1950’s film, Old Yeller, I sensed the  bird should be humanely “put out-of-misery.” I had neither capable knife nor was I “packing heat.”   What to do? Not a good venue for a killing, customers fueled cars at pump island, people in & out of market, one guy purchased a quart of Yuengling beer, walked toward me, said, “Hey dude, where the (expletive) did the mangled rooster come from?” Almost answered, maybe Verdun, Hindu Kush? Better nature took hold, told the guy, “somebody’s likely raising chickens up the hill,” and satisfied, he walked away.

The rooster continued wriggling in agony, and instead of returning home, I returned inside the store, and informed the Indian owners about the stricken-rooster that lay only twenty feet from  store entrance. Did the dog hate the rooster “because it was free,” I thought?  One lady suggested calling the Old Forge police department and try and locate the rooster’s owner.   Customers entered the store, it did not look like anyone would call 9-1-1 anytime soon, and I purchased bottled water and “sunflower seeds” in order to comfort the  dying rooster and perhaps keep it alive until cops arrived. The Indian owners watched me snatch an empty Styrofoam coffee-cup, cut-it to size so that the bird’s beak could reach it. Returned outdoors, a couple onlookers, and I futilely placed seed and cup of water close to the bird’s beak – nothing doing, pain overwhelming.   Regrettably, the Old Yeller decapitation could not fly, the rooster must continue suffering, and I saddled-up for home. Both Indian owners stopped me before hitting the road. One said “that was very nice deed, Sir.” “Well yea, thanks guys,  I learned good lessons from one of your countrymen. Looked back, glimpsed rooster’s condition, it did not touch seeds, water cup knocked over, I departed for home, $330.00  of lottery money secure in front-pocket. My family would feast this week.

Home at last, at kitchen table, Carol gave me a bowl of chicken soup, complete with boiled chicken parts, as I preferred.   I told Carol about the dying rooster, she said, “gosh, I hurt when even an animal suffers.” We considered ourselves very lucky to have won the Daily Number, and I was rather ecstatic that there was no need for donating blood-plasma for money at Biotest tomorrow. Chicken soup had to cool, Carol returned to drying clothes, and I began to re-read the Scranton Times Tribune, front page, June 20, 2013, disturbing headline, “TORTURE.” Neither Gitmo nor Bradley Manning variant, this particular torture was not  ideal-reading while one waited for soup to cool, but I was compelled to read it, again and again. Let the newspaper story bite, until it hurt.

Something terrible recently happened in my hometown, Taylor, Pennsylvania. About 1/2 mile east of our front door, there is a nice trailer-park, located alongside Oak Street. Inside a unit lived a 32-year old man, Mr. Robert Gensiak, who suffered from Down syndrome, died a tragic death on March 19. Not allowed to see primary care Dr. Paul Remick, D.O., in two years,  Robert’s entire world was a bedroom, and that’s where his family “kept him,” so to speak.  Abandoned to extremes, his skin inevitably cracked & bled, and open sores formed from being forced to constantly lay in his CHILDHOOD bed, “covered in feces.”  In such nightmare-circumstance was where Robert wasted away to 69 pounds, starved to death, apparently while, family members occasionally attended “Open Door Baptist Church,” watched T.V.

The Scranton Times Tribune reported “On Wednesday  (6/19/’13) about THREE MONTHS AFTER Mr. Gensiak died, police charged his mother, Susan Gensiak, 59, and two sisters with murder. Official C.O.D. was sepsis, due to  the breakdown of Mr. Gensiak’s skin, “plagued by a widespread infestation of Norwegian scabies.” A  relative commented, “Susan didn’t like her male children.” She would not have done well in Mao’s overpopulated China.

Cryptically, The Scranton Times Tribune reported that, prior to completion of initial police interview, “Mrs. Gensiak asked if she could still receive her son Robert’s Social Security month check even though he died.”  Later, a news report divulged the late-Robert Gensiak collected monthly $1,042 Social Security Disability benefits, and mother Susan received $1,042 in “benefits.” In awe, the Gensiak family revenue-numbers totaled over $2,000  per month, personal envy “reared ugly-head,” that’s more money than I ever made while responding almost twenty-years (24/7) to fuel & chemical emergency spills.

Doubtless, a lot of Taylor Borough  residents shivered at how such novel family revenue-generating methods could exist in such a pleasant community.   Well fed tonight, a clean house, an absurd attempt to comfort an attacked rooster, I tried to forget it all, and moved on to a Times Tribune article about Pennsylvania Senator, Robert Casey, Jr.   He had great concern for guaranteeing the rights of Afghanistan women.   Cynical, I wondered how many Afghan women would starve their children to death and desire Karzai-U.S. government Social Security Disability money?   I wondered how America’s well-kept P.O.T.U.S. slept at night as economic sanctions took hold on targeted-nations, starving thousands to death?   Shall there come a day when American citizens can no longer afford much of anything but basic essentials, and are forced to donate blood-plasma, at Biotest, in order to cover, for example, a County Commissioner diamond health care plan and pension?     Beyond James Joyce Dubliner-world, “The Dead,” I wondered if there’s any hope for roosters & Robert Gensiaks in the coming Anglo-Amerasia Century?

Regrettably, at 61, no magical-talents like Enron C.E.O., Jeffrey Skilling,  having embarrassingly failed at providing adequate hospice-care for a rooster, and having blown other employment adventures, I learned to cautiously curtail “hope” for better tomorrows.   Two thing’s certain though: the Orloski-family winning Pa. lottery ticket would get us through until next payday, and Susan Gensiak & family will probably do jail-time.  Such unexpected but clever caregivers like Susan are ill-fated, born too early, and must live in compliance with Capitalist  Law which (for now) prohibits people from starving one another, and afterward, collect the dead’s Social Security check.   Gensiak clan “sins” stand exposed, universally condemned, and are in stark microcosm-comparison to exalted domestic & global-scale evils routinely inflicted by government policies, designed for -mostly to keep the general population prosperous & safe from evildoers, willing to report suspicious people.  Do you know where your caregivers are?

Charles can be reached at moc.loanull@volrOjdcc.

Paul Haeder's been a teacher, social worker, newspaperman, environmental activist, and marginalized muckraker, union organizer. Paul's book, Reimagining Sanity: Voices Beyond the Echo Chamber (2016), looks at 10 years (now going on 17 years) of his writing at Dissident Voice. Read his musings at LA Progressive. Read (purchase) his short story collection, Wide Open Eyes: Surfacing from Vietnam now out, published by Cirque Journal. Here's his Amazon page with more published work Amazon. Read other articles by Paul, or visit Paul's website.