Let’s all raise our voices

North Carolina still won’t expand Medicaid, even though people die every day here from lack of access to health care. Our legislators are playing political games while they have all the care they need and innocent others die.

I haven’t been writing much lately. I think it’s mostly because I’m frustrated that, 14 years after the death of my son from lack of access to health care, I still can’t make legislators care enough to fix this.

I have held rallies, I have spoken in public at every opportunity to explain how we can fix this. I have been arrrested six times trying to talk to legislators. I’ve never been violent, not have I ever condoned violence. Yet the violence of allowing people to suffer and die because of corporate greed not only continues, but is protected.

But I made a promise to my late son to work on this every day. I’ve been busy organizing, registering voters, speaking out … but it’s gotten really hard to just sit down and write, to tell other people’s stories, and then see the same bad actors getting elected again and again, to see things get worse instead of better.

I was naive enough to believe the Affordable Care Act would improve things but it turned out to be just another way to drive customers to Big Insurance, where customers are required to pay thoudsands of dollars before their insurance company has to shell out a dime.

I used to say the ACA would have saved my son’s life, but that’s no longer the case. An insurance policy no longer offers access to care. Deductoibles soar to $3,000 and above for an infdividual, which means if you don’t have $3,000, you don’t have access to care. This is at a time when nearly half of Americans say they would have to borrow money to pay an emergency expense of $400.

In other words, 14 1/2 years of activism has resulted in nothing but further degredation of the “system.” I know it’s hubris to hope one’s work will result in something positive, but to watch things get worse while tens of thousands die needlessly is downright depressing.

I’ve let it get to me, and it’s time to stop wallowing and start shouting again.

I’m busy registering people to vote right now because this is an election we can not lose. Period. Nothing good will happen on any front if we allow the corporate elite to hold power.

If you’re not registered to vote, do it NOW. And then be sure to vote. If we lose this one, we’re toast.

And if you think I’m too radical, ask yourself how the unnecessary death of your child might affect your outlook.

Time to rise up

Protestors in front of the Supreme Court, now controlled by the far-right minority of this country.

Chief Justice John Roberts called the leak of the draft opinion ending a woman’s right to control her body an “egregious breach of trust.” Funny, that’s how I feel about the far-right minority in this nation stealing the court to get this enforced-pregnancy plan through.

I am outraged by this, but I’m not surprised at all. I grew up among these people who claim to be Christian, but who wouldn’t know Jesus if he stood in front of them. They believed it was fine to lie, cheat, steal, even kill, if it’s for their version of Jesus.

They believe all women are “Daughters of Eve,” and are guilty of her “original sin,” which was seduction. It meant we were at fault if we suffered sexual violence. It meant we have to be controlled — really, closely controlled at all times.

I’ll be 70 years old in November. I remember when a woman couldn’t choose. I remember my 16-year-old friend being coerced into a marriage to an abusive boy because she was pregnant. Her baby died when she was 6 months pregnant and he threw her down the stairs. It was called an accident and he wasn’t charged with a crime. But had she skipped the marriage and being thrown down the stairs, she would have been charged with a crime.

In Massachusetts in 1971, the year I turned 19, I wanted to get birth control, but it was illegal for a doctor to presscribe it for me. The law was so paternalistic, he was the one who would be punished, not me. I apparently, was too childlike to be responsible.

So, we had no choices. None. If we were raped, it was our own fault for being women — for being where we were, wearing what we had on, talking to a man, having a drink, letting a man drive you home after a date …

Well, welcome back. Let’s try to think about what they want next.

Back in the 1960s and ’70s, we didn’t just lack access to birth control and abortion, we lacked access to credit in our own name. This meant my next-door neighbor who made three times what my then-husband was making, couldn’t get a credit card. She tried to buy a condo and the bank insisted her father had to co-sign the loan, even though she made more than enough money to afford the condo and her father was retired.

Women could be denied a job if they were pregnant or had children.

White women had it better than women of color, but we lacked rights. We lacked the ability to break free of a bad or abusive marriage.

And we died. We died from botched abortions. We died at the hands of abusive husbands. We died in childbirth.

What the far-right minority is telling us is that we don’t matter enough for them allow us dominion over our own lives.

And if we don’t matter, you don’t, either, unless you’re one of them.

They won’t stop here. They’re determining what your children can learn in school, and because they own the media, they get to tell you only what they want you to know. They’ve been plotting for more than 60 years, and they’ve been playing the long game.

Here we are. What are you going to do to stop fascism? I started by voting today, and I voted against all of them.

Life in the time of chaos

Arlo sleeps on whatever project I have in my lap. This helps keep me sane.

This is how I calm down at night. I knit, I crochet, I quilt, and I snuggle my cats. During the day, I do my best to work on the world. That gets more difficult all the time.

I can’t watch the news anymore, what with a former president and his cronies still trying to stage a coup, and the US Department of Justice still doing nothing about the leaders of the violent coup atempt on Jan. 6, 2021.

The country — no, the world — is being run by oligarchs, and we seem powerless to stop the slide into a global death spiral. The ice is melting, storms are becoming more severe. We have refugees streaming from war zones, who are being joined by climate refugees and the wealthy of every nation that can help are lobbying for closed borders. Their motto is “I got mine, get your own,” as they monetize absolutely everything.

This is late-stage capitalism. Privatize everything so it’s all owned by the few oligarchs and then keep everyone else in a permanent underclass.

If we don’t start taking the climate crisis seriously right now, we’ll be extinct in a couple more generations. Humans are clever, but not clever enough to breathe methane, which is being released into the atmosphere in increasing levels as the permafrost melts. Even the wealthiest can’t buy their way out of this.

It’s paralyzing. I look at all that’s happening — a madman ruling Russia and trying to bring the world to war so he can control it all, another madman trying to usurp power in the US and several of his co-conspirators still sitting in Congress, economic and ecological systems teetering on the verge of collapse, millions who refuse to believe the science of it all, and no one seeming to notice or understand.

My own “representative” has been caught trying to bring a loaded gun through airport security twice in just over a year, and has been stopped for speeding three times, and for driving with a revoked license. He’s been caught in dozens of lies and he was one of the insurrectionists at the Jan. 6 “rally” that preceded the attack on the US Capitol. As of today, he has faced no real consequences for any of his actions.

I’ve had a hard time even wanting to write about all that’s happening because I’m so overwhelmed all the time. I want to hide from the world and pretend everything is OK because that’s what everyone seems to be doing these days.

We’re going to have to find a way to work together, and we’re going to have to find a way to deprogram the people who believe the lies and propaganda of the extreme right. Even supposedly liberal news outlets and media platforms are owned by huge corporations or by oligarchs like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerburg and Elon Musk, so some things just don’t get the coverage they should. We know what they want us to know unless we know where to look for real information, which is getting harder to find.

There’s so much to do, and that leaves us feeling helpless.

But we all have to stand up and start working to overthrow the oligarchs and save out planet. We need to start talking again and stop letting right-wing media whip us into a frenzy.

Both of our political parties are owned by the oligarchy and our primary elections are set up so they can decide which candidates make it to the general election. If you see a candidate who stands for universal access to health care, a living wage, voting rights, taking real action on the environment, reforming elections … rest assured that candidate likely will lose in the primaries to a very well funded “moderate.”

It may be too late for us to take it back, but we can’t stop trying. We have to shake off this paralysis and work together. There’s just too much at stake to stop now.

13 days

Michael with his hero, my dad. They were quite the team.

On this day 13 years ago, the intake nurse from hospice came. Michael was, as usual, in good form.

“Do you use tobacco?” she asked, clicking her pen.

He held up a half pack of Marlboro Reds. “I’m not gonna quit now.”

“Do you use drugs or alcohol?”

“I did, but I’m sober 11 years now.”

“What was your drug of choice?”

I could see the wheels turning as his eyes lit up.

“Whadaya got?”

The nurse looked up from her clipboard, startled, and Michael laughed.

“I was whatcha call a garbage head,” he said. “Whatever altered my conscoiusness was good with me.”

She laughed and seemed a little more at ease. This was someone who knew what was happening to him and decided he could still laugh. He intended to exit laughing. He had charmed his hospice nurse.

The nurse ordered a hospital bed and tray and a walker, which were delivered that same day. James and Janet arrived in the afternoon with the last of Mike’s belingings, including his gaming computer, which he and James had built. They used to build or refit computers for people who were newly sober and trying to put their lives back together. Some of those people were already getting in touch to visit and say goodbye, and for the next 13 days, our driveway and house would be full. You might think the mood would be sad, but it wasn’t because Mike saw every day as a gift and even though he was pretty much confined to a small bedroom, he was enjoying every moment.

It was a new chapter for us — Mike’s final chapter. I can’t even put into words how it felt to know this, but it was right about this time I decided my heart would stop when his did. That’s how I would cope with my child dying; I’d go with him. It wasn’t reasonable and I didn’t say anything to anyone, I just believed it.

We have a family joke that came from something my mother-in-law said back in the 1980s as my husband and I sat down to watch a program we had taped earlier.

“Oh, I’ve seen this one,” she said. “The guy dies.””

It’s the family spoiler alert.

“Oh, hey, you know what happens, right?”

Yeah. The guy dies.

We had just 13 days left with him.

14 years and it’s still no better

My Mike, clowning around on Jekyll Island. The gorilla is still there, and I have photos of other family members with it.

This day, 14 years ago, started out with my son looking up at me and saying, “I’m ready for this to be over.”

“Say the word, I said. “If you don’t want to do chemo anymore, just say the word.”

I was not ready for this to be over because I knew when this was over, he would be gone and I could never be ready for that. But we had been fighting for three years — actually for much longer than that because we couldn’t get anyone to care for him for years before that because no one would sell him insurance, so he had no access to the care he needed.

“No, I want to keep trying,” he said.

So, I got him in the car and we headed for Duke. As always, we headed east on I-40 and north on 146, and as we got to Durham, we passed the Mangum Street exit. He didn’t disappoint.

“Man gum,” he said. “I don’t know what that is and I don’t think I want to.”

Ask anyone who ever took him to a chemo appointment. He said it every time he passed that exit, and then laughed at his joke.

We thought he might have another few months. Chemo every two weeks might keep the cancer at bay for a short time. Every day — every moment — was precious.

But when we got to the clinic and he stepped on the scale, he had lost another two pounds. He was hovering around 102 pounds. The look on his face said it all. He really wasn’t ready to give up, but the chemo wasn’t helping and there were no more options. I would be bringing him home to die.

He thought maybe he could wait a few days, but the doctor told him it was time. He choked back tears as he said. “You don’t deserve this, Mike. You’re a good person and you don’t deserve this.”

On the way back to the car, Mike looked at me and said, “So, what do you think I have left, maybe two weeks?”

“I hope it’s more than that,” I said.

But it would not be.

His roommate and best friend, James, had cared for him, changing his dressings, making sure he was comfortable, trying to get food into him. But James feared coming home and finding he had died, and he didn’t think he could cope with that. We decided to bring Mike home and call hospice, and James would come to Asheville to be with us. Janet came too because even though they’d been forced to split so he could get Medicaid, they still loved each other.

We got him settled in and had a Hospice intake nurse scheduled for the next morning. James and Janet were just a couple hours behind us with the rest of Mike’s few belongings.

I remember every detail of this day in 2008 because I was very deliberate about remembering it. Time was so short and I wanted to savor every moment I had left with him.

On this day 14 years ago, we would have 14 days left with him. I couldn’t imagine life without him, and in some ways, I still can’t. Everything reminds me of him. I had hoped these anniversaries might get easier, but they haven’t. In fact, it gets harder every year as the echo of his laugh fades and his scent is erased from the leather jacket he wore everywhere.

And then I think about the million or so American families who have endured this same injustice from lack of access to health care and I’m furious that we won’t fix this. It’s not that we can’t, it’s that we won’t. It’s a choice to deny millions of people access to health care. It’s a policy choice to turn the other way and pretend we’re a decent, moral society. We are not.

On this day 14 years ago, I had to face the fact that my precious son was dying and there wasn’t a damn thing I could do to stop it, and now I have to live with the result of our backward, cruel and immoral policy decisions.

Not everyone can afford to replace their gaz-guzzler

I’m seeing a lot of judgement on the part of people whe are quite smug about having a car that doesn’t guzzle gas. Here’s the thing, though — people who drive trucks are not all Trump-loving, mouth-breathing idiots. And even some of the Trump-lovers need their trucks.

Thing is, people who own old pickups aren’t going to trade them in for a Prius. They need them for work or they can’t afford a new vehicle, especially if the truck is 15 years old and paid for.

Nealry half of people in this country live in or near poverty, and higher gas prices are cutting into their food and rent money, and they don’t have a cushion. They can’t just run down to the car dealership and shell out $50,000 for a new electric vehicle. Forty-one percent of Americans say they can’t afford to pay a surprise bill of $400 without borrowing money, so how should we expect them to trade in their $2,000 truck and drive off in a $50,000 vehicle?

To go to social media and post a meme that says, “I’m better than you because I love the planet,” just reeks of privilege. Just because you can afford it doesn’t mean everyone can.

Poor people don’t get to choose whether they drive a gas guzzler or something with a lithium battery that will foul the planet later when you try to get rid of the battery. Poor people can’t cut back on going out to eat because they already can’t afford to go out to eat. They can’t cut back on rent, either.

Maybe you don’t know how expensive it is to be poor. Many haven’t had a raise in a decade or more. But rent and food and clothes and utilities continue to rise. You don’t have a great credit score so you can’t get credit, and everybody wants a deposit — the cable company (if you can afford it, and many can’t), the water and electric companies (because these are now for-profit companies instead of public utilities), and of course, your landlord. You don’t have enough money to have free checking, so you pay a monthly fee plus something for each check you write — and you write checks because your credit cards are all maxed out and you’re paying 26 percent interest because your payment six months ago was three days late. You shop for cheap food at the Dollar Store and you don’t have health insurance. But people think you’re a jerk because you drive a 15-year-old truck — if you can keep it on the road.

But sure, let’s criticize these people for being too poor to buy a hybrid or electric car. They must be stupid and willfully ignorant because they drive trucks, and some people who drive trucks are Trump supporters, so let’s lump everybody into that category so we can feel SOOOOO superior. I even saw someone tell a woman she shouldn’t have had so many kids (four) that she needs a minivan to transport everyone.

I was reported to an administrator in a Facebook group because I called someone out for doing this. I blocked the woman and left the group.

These memes are meant to divide us. They’re meant to get us sniping at each other so we won’t see the oligarchs picking our pockets and getting us drawn into their very profitable wars and foreign adventures.

So, with the cost of a barrel of oil having dropped in the last week, why is the price at the pump still rising? No, it’s not Biden’s fault; it’s greed. The oil companies know they can jack up prices, so they do, and there’s no consequence for them. Instead we attack poor people because we think we don’t agree with their politics.

This is how those in power control the rest of us — with propaganda that pits us against each other, with memes that over-simplify something quite complex.

So, please stop sharing these despicable memes. Sure, there are some folks these memes apply to. So what? Do you really need to feel superior that badly?

‘Keep Your Eyes on the Prize’

Civil Rights for African-Americans has been advanced by centuries of struggle, but we still have institutional racism in every system. We’ll never see equality unless we keep fighting. We can’t just accept this, even though we know we won’t fix it overnight.

It’s so easy to get distracted. There’s just so much going on and it’s hard to keep track of it all.

What’s worse, the more we think about all that’s in the news, the more we want to shut it all out.

We’re in the middle of a deadly pandemic that millions of people refuse to take seriously, and the far-right has stacked the courts to make it “unconstitutional” to regulate lethal behaviors like not wearing a mask to slow the virus down.

We’re looking at a dictator in Russia who’s trying to expand his influence by conquering another sovereign country.

Our own federal government is dysfunctional, thanks to two Democrats who have been bought and paid for by Big Money — fossil fuel interests, banking interests, pharmaceutical and insurance interests — and the courts are not going to do a damn thing to stop them.

We’re a year into life after a violent attempted coup and not one of its leaders is in jail. Not one.

The leader of that coup, the former occupant of the White House, has been banned from social media, but he has yet to be arrested and he still has millions of followers who have been propagandized into believing he’s sent by Jesus.

Voting rights are being attacked in half the states, with gerrymandering and purging, reducing the number of voting machines available in heavily Democratic precincts, the former occupant of the White House is trying to install his own lackeys to count the votes, and we can’t seem to do a damn thing about it — like arresting the former guy for trying to rig the last election before he gets another chance.

We have a president who’s actually done a remarkable job at cleaning up the mess that was left to him. No, he hasn’t fixed everything, but he’s working on it. Is he doing enough? I don’t think so, but he’s doing something, at least. Still, the corporate-owned media is criticizing him as though he were as damaging as the former guy.

That leads us to another big issue that few people seem to be aware of: Big Money owns the media, and they’re not doing the job of an unregulated free press. Instead of being a government watchdog, they’ve become the lapdog of the most corrupting influences. They exist to distract people from the truth. That we even allow Fox to call itself a news company is disgusting, since they peddle an incredible amount of misinformation and outright lies.

Even the legitimate news sources are filled with the distractions of celebrity and lifestyle news and sports instead of focusing on what’s truly important.

So, what — other than posting our outrage on social media — can we do?

Well, we can vote. That’s just the most basic responsibility of a citizen in a Democracy. We all need to read up on the candidates in every election and vote for the person who lines up most closely with our views.

With our primary elections as they are set up, it’s highly unlikely we can get a true progressive into office, but we can vote for people who aren’t blatantly trying to overthrow the government.

The impotant thing to remember is that no matter how hard we work, this can’t be fixed overnight. The oligarchs spent 60 years getting to this point. Read the books, “One Nation Under God,” by Kevin M. Kruse, and “The Family,” by Jeff Sharlet. They chronicle the whole process by with the oligarchy harnessed the energy of Evangelical “Christianity” to capture election after election, starting with local school boards and town councils, and working their way up. Defeating them will take a Herculean effort and it will take time.

Meanwhile, we need to be loud — really loud — in our opposition. We need to collaborate with each other, form alliances and partnerships.

We can’t stop and we can’t be distracted.

The prize is a system that offers a better life for everyone — voting rights, living wages, access to health care, improved public infrastructure, a truly just justice system — instead of a handful of the most privileged and corrupt.

Let’s focus on that, one voter registration, one election, one public office, one court decision at a time, all while remembering our goal.

It’s time.

It’s been a year since the former president tried to stage a coup and he’s still tweeting and screeching from his lair in Florida. His cronies are still roaming free and our Democracy is still in serious danger.

Between the pandemic and the political uncertainty, all of which are made worse every day these people remain at large, anxiety levels are creeping higher every day — at least mine are.

Toss in a flood in my basement last August, the damage from which is still being fixed five months later because of “supply chain” issues (I suspect these are deliberate so prices can be raised), and all I want to do is knit and bake bread. It’s hard to concentrate long enough to read the news in the morning and I can’t watch it on TV.

Like others, I lay awake nights wondering whether humanity will even survive. God knows we don’t deserve to. We’re following “leaders” who beckon us down the path to destruction, burning the forests, over-fishing and polluting the oceans, resisting switching to renewable sources of energy and blithely unaware that the methane we’re allowing to escape into the atmosphere will keep increasing until we no longer can breathe. When I mentioned this to a friend a couple years ago, his response was, “Human are clever.” I had to remind him we’re not clever enough to be able to breathe methane.

We’re living in a failed state. Not failing, failed.

We can’t pass laws that will save the planet, let alone ease the suffering of the nearly half of Americans living in or very near poverty. We can’t raise wages, we can’t offer health care, we can’t even assure people their votes will be counted on Election Day. We can’t stop mass shootings. We can’t manage immigration. We can’t maintain our infrastructure well enough to prevent the shutdown of the busiest highway on the East Coast in a snowstorm, leaving thousands of people stranded in their cars for more than a day. We can’t even work together to stop a deadly pandemic.

All of this because we won’t tax the richest of the rich, but we still spend trillions on the war economy. We still force poor people to go to war in exchange for an education, and too many either don’t come home or come home so compromised that an education is difficult, at best, and we address the issue of veteran suicides with a “Thanks for your service.”

In addition to suicides, rates of addiction and overdose deaths have skyrocketed because people have no hope of their lives getting any better and the Sackler family took advantage of people’s pain so they could increase profits by fueling the addiction epidemic. They’re still free, too, by the way.

The stock market keeps rising, though, so we’re told the economy is blazing hot, and it is — for the privileged. Most people don’t have money to invest in the stock market, and that wealth isn’t trickling down. A decade after workers began asking for $15 an hour, some states and municipalities are offering it, but the minimum wage would be almost $24 an hour now if it had kept pace with inflation, and frankly, it takes that to live comfortable anywhere in the country.

Housing prices continue to surge, leaving nothing for the people who work for a living, especially those in the service jobs we claim are so essential. Homelessness is rising with the prices as investors and corporations buy up more and more of the housing stock. There are more than enough empty housing units to house every homeless person, but we make them sleep in the streets and then arrest them for vagrancy and demolish the small tent communities they build.

We place people in poverty with bad public policies and then vilify them for being poor.

Meanwhile, the leaders of the Jan. 6 insurrection still walk free a year after their coup attempt because we appear to not have a functioning justice system. We have a Supreme Court packed with right-wing idealogues to speed us along the path to totalitarianism. Already, women are losing control of our bodies and voting rights are being stripped away.

I have been quiet lately, as I try to process all of this. It’s time to start speaking up again.

We have arrived at the last minute. We are tettering on the edge of ecological and economic collapse unlike anything we’ve seen in human history. I’m thinking the end of the Bronze Age was just a practice run for what’s on the horizon already.

It’s time. If we don’t move now, it really will be too late.

It’s time for action on poverty

Several years ago, I attended a children’s summit, a daylong meeting of advocates with the objective of coming up with some simple programs that would help families in poverty.

I was in a group with two women who lived in public housing, and two acvocates, both of whom had advanced degrees, one a PhD in education and the others a Master’s, in social work, as I recall.

One of the two women living in public housing said new mothers there, none of whom could afford nannies or doulas, often were overwhelmed. I mentioned a county I had read about a few years earlier that hired a couple of public health nurses to visit new parents and make sure they were coping, offering advice and comfort. Having them visit new parents twice in the first weeks cut emergency room visits by more than half. And the benefits kept escalating. A business that was thinking of relocating, expanded instead because the owners loved the program. The increased taxes that business paid helped fund the expansion of the program. That attraced another employer and another, and soon, more programs for families were added. It was an unqualified success.

The other public housing resident said a single visit from a nurse would have helped her have confidence in her ability as a mom and likely would have helped her to continue to breast feed her baby.

The two women with advanced degrees put a lid on our enthusiasm immediately. This would require a study, they said. I told them I could find them studies that had been done already, and maybe we could get a postpartum doula into public housing. The two advanced degrees rejected that and wrote up our team’s report without any input from the women who knew from experience what they were talking about, and a decade later, there’s still no doula in public housing.

These experienced women came to us with a fabulous idea. I had the research to back it up. But the advanced degrees decided none of us knew what we were talking about,

“Studying” a problem in this way can be the perfect method to not deal with it. We’ll listen to the ideas of people experiencing the problem, people who know what would help, and then study it to death.

Right now, nearly half of Americans live in, or are one small disaster away from, poverty. The minimum wage is about one-third of a living wage, and it hasn’t been increased in 12 years. Rents are unaffordable, and corporate interests are buying up all the available housing stock. We have enough empty housing to offer every unhoused person a decent place to live. But we feed the corporate maw instead of hungry humans.

Right now, climate change is destabilizing the poles, and our entire ecosystem is facing collapse, but we continue to study the problem, allowing the fossil fuel barons to destroy the planet and condemn humanity to extinction.

Right now, we allow tens of thousands of people to die every year from lack of access to health care, and we blame the victims for not having jobs that offer “insurance” plans that pay outrageous profits to Big Insurance and deny the needs of patients. These policies aren’t offered to part-time employees, and millions of employees are only offered part-time work so they won’t qualify for these shitty plans.

We won’t cancel student debt for hardworking Americans, but we will cut taxes for billionaires.

We have phone apps that teach children how to fall into debt, and then we refuse to offer help when starvation wages and predatory lending put people into a hole so deep they’ll never be able to dig out, and then we blame the victims for not being able to manage their money.

We need to tell the truth about poverty:

Poverty is not a moral failing, it is a public policy choice, and it kills some 250,000 people every year.

People can’t save their way out of poverty. In case you haven’t figured it out, you can’t put away any money when all you have still isn’t enough to pay for rent and groceries.

People who have no home are not “housed” by a 4′ X 10′ wooden box without electricty or plumbing. They deserve a home — a place with a kitchen and a bathroom and a space to relax. We should stop commending places that offer these coffin-sized boxes to get unhoused people out of the cold.

Everyone deserves nutritious food. Stop thinking that box of off-brand macaroni and cheese you dumped into the donation box at the grocery store as anything less than a hearty screw-you to a poor person.

If you have enough so that you can drop off your child at school in the morning and then pick them up at 2:30 without losing an hour’s pay, you’re probably more privileged than you realize.

If you can take a sick day and still pay your rent, you’re probably more privileged than you realize.

If your car needs new brakes and you can pay for it, you probably have more privilege than you realize.

If the power goes out and it’s not because you didn’t pay your bill, you are privileged.

And if you have this level of privilege and you’re not screaming that we need to take action so that others have enough, you’re part of the problem.

There is enough. Everyone deserves to live with dignity.

Do something about it. Vote. Advocate. Agitate.

Homelessness is a policy choice

A coffin-sized pod in Germany

In Germany, homeless people are being told this is the solution to their problems. They can “live” in a coffin-sized pod. Every time I see praise for this on social media, I cringe.

Although the pod has heat and is insulated against the cold and wind, it has no toilet, no sink, not even a hot plate for warming food. But we are to believe this is a good solution.

I disagree wholeheartedly, and I have had discussions with several people I know who are or have been homeless. Some of them believe these pods are the only alternative to sleeping in the cold.

They are not.

These pods are dehumanizing and cruel.

In the United States, it’s estimated there are just more than a half million homeless people. It’s also estimated there are some 3 million vacant housing units. That’s six housing units for every homeless person. Some are second and third homes, but in a growing number of tourist destinations, these are short-term vacation rentals, with wealthy landlords who own dozens of units. Having many vacant housing units off the long-term rental market also makes housing prices rise for working people. Some places are banning or regulating these short-term rentals, but not enough.

The United States also has a minimum wage that’s only about one-third what it takes to live comfortably in any US city, so fewer and fewer people can afford housing because their wages don’t rise with inflation.

If your answer is to put human beings into coffin-sized boxes, even while many of them have jobs, you’re missing the point on how to be a decent human being.

A number of the people I know who are or have been without housing also live with a mental illness — PTSD, depression, bipolar disorder … — and they can’t access treatment because in some states, Medicaid doesn’t cover single adults, no matter what the illness. And even though the Affordable Care Act mandates parity for mental health care, laws that allow people to be denied access to care (especially in states that have yet to expand Medicaid), leave many without access to adequate treatment.

Even when people are fortunate enough to qualify for disability, the paultry amount they receive can’t even cover rental on a studio apartment, and if they had been poor enough to receive Medicare, the $750 or so a month often is enough to bump them out of being qualified, and then they have to wait two years to qualify for insurance through Medicare. This loophole affects about 10,000 people a year, and it makes no sense. Congress could close the loophole, but they have refused to do so.

In other words, public policy causes poverty and its myriad consequences, which include homelessness.

And when you say a human should exist in something smaller than a dog pen at an animal shelter, what you’re saying is that you see them as less human as you.

I know people who are homeless are grateful for this as an alternative to sleeping in the cold and wind, but I’m saying they deserve more. This should be obvious to anyone who has enough privilege to be safe and warm every night.

We have more than enough housing units for everyone who has none to get one. If some super-wealthy person who owns dozens of vacation rental units objects to that, I’m going to side with the poor.

If we want to place people in tiny houses, that’s fine, but we need to make sure they’re residences with a bed, a chair and table, a bathroom and a kitchenette. Make them have no less space than 250 square feet. Allow people the dignity of a place they can call home. Every human deserves that much.