Poverty Lessons from Ben Carson

Cover your ears, Ben Carson is talking again. I am serious, someone has allowed him to speak and it’s painful.  It wasn’t  enough to talk about slaves taking an odd journey of sorts to pursue happiness and prosperity in this land, now he is opening his mouth to discuss poverty. By the way, the slavery language is not a direct quote, but that’s pretty much what the man said. Oh, even better, remember when Obamacare was the worst thing to happen to this country since slavery? Oy vey. He’s got to let the slavery thing go.

Well since Mr. Carson’s speaking privileges were not revoked because of those other dimwitted statements, we now have the opportunity to hear his views on poverty! Ok, you ready? Here it goes. Apparently, if only people had the right mindset, they wouldn’t be poor. Moreover, if people grew up with Mama Carson as their mother, they definitely would not be poor. That’s it folks – the solution to the issue of poverty for millions in this country. So simple, who knew!

As a reminder, Mr. Carson is the official in charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). I am glad he loves his mama, but it cannot be the policy of the United States of America to say, “if Mama Carson were your mama you wouldn’t be poor.” That cannot be policy.

I just can’t. I miss the times when we only trotted out all the kooky African-American Republicans for laughs, and no one took them seriously, let alone put them in a position to make policy. Remember Herman Cain and his 9-9-9 plan. All of America’s problems were going to be solved with that 9-9-9 plan.  Iraq – 9-9-9. Teen pregnancy – 9-9-9. The Kardashians – 9-9-9! Ah, the good ole days.

But now we have Ben Carson, a celebrated neurosurgeon turned political loon, spouting off ludicrous statements every chance he gets, who is now actually in charge of housing policy.

I will say this, I will not dismiss one’s mindset and, of course, the role of parenting in helping people to become good, productive citizens who ostensibly won’t be unfortunate enough to be poor. I also know some very strong willed people, who had good parents, who are still poor. Actually, some of the strongest people I know probably could be considered working poor. I am not sure what Mr. Carson is getting at here.

It is sad that this country has a habit of demonizing the poor and the less fortunate every chance we get – from discussions on welfare to education, to healthcare – those that are less fortunate did something to get there, so screw them.

Mr. Carson’s statements are just expressing this sentiment in cute folksiness, as he is essentially saying poverty is a matter of will and good parenting. Somehow, in Mr. Carson’s world, poverty isn’t cyclical and actual government policy and the choices our country makes and does not make policy wise, apparently, play no role in this poverty.

Yes, Mr. Carson, there are stories of people who rise out of poverty. I am surprised he didn’t mention Oprah. Everyone always loves trotting out Oprah. But for every Oprah, there are millions of struggling people without adequate housing, healthcare, access to quality education in a safe school who are probably doing the best they can with the tools they have and most likely are not going to own Harpo Studios tomorrow.

Have these black-hearted holy rollers ever heard the expression, “there but for the grace of God go I?” It is truly unfathomable to me that people can be so dismissive of others, and I don’t even consider myself Christian.

So I am glad Mr. Carson had a good mindset and believes poverty is just “a state of mind” and that his Mama was the best Mama in the whole world and universe for that matter. That’s all well and good, but that’s probably of little solace to someone who is poor and in need of decent housing.

Good grief. Is it 2020 yet?

 

 

The Day I Failed To Yield To An Officer

 

I was pulled over by a cop on Sunday.

This was not my first run-in with the police, and this encounter was much more positive than the first. A few years ago, I was with a friend who was in a commercial vehicle and, being lost, we ended up on the Taconic State Parkway – which prohibits commercial vehicles. The GPS we were using, I believe on my phone, had us take this route. We did not have a commercial GPS on us (I didn’t know that was a thing), We were pulled over by a state trooper who apparently trained, studied, and perfected the art of being a world class asshole.

We were admonished, ridiculed, and talked down to. We apparently pissed this trooper off. He said everything but, “who do you think you are and who do you think you are being in this neighborhood?”

The person I was with was an older black man, his early forties, and this clearly was not his first police encounter. While I was secretly seething and incredulous, I got the sense my friend was clearly indoctrinated to the fact that in his experience this is how the police behaved. The police do not help black men when they end up in places they presumably don’t belong, like the Taconic State Parkway well outside and North of New York City.

When I apologized and attempted to explain that the app on my phone mistakenly routed me this way, his snarky response was, “if your app told you to jump off a bridge, would you?” I didn’t say anything. After the rambling chastisement, I finally reminded the Trooper, as kindly as I could, “but we’re still lost. Is it possible you can direct us around the parkway as my GPS keeps leading me back to it.”

My friend seemed unphased, as it was not his first rodeo. For me, it was a life-altering experience. I always knew that it really didn’t matter how well spoken I was, or the fact that I wasn’t wearing a hoodie, that I had a certain income, and am college educated – now I had received confirmation.

It was as if part of me wanted to cry out,  I pay my taxes, and I am a good citizen!  I am respectable damn it – why aren’t you treating me as if I am?! The trooper basically responded to me, you’re black – no one gives a shit.

In a very different interaction with the police, I also have been broken down on the Long Island Expressway with a female friend, at night, and I happened to be on the passenger side of the car at the time – as I planned to walk to the nearby gas station.

The truck made it to the shoulder of the expressway, but barely. When the police officer arrived, he was blaring some order from his car. I was not in the vehicle, and I couldn’t see (because of his headlights and others) or actually make out his words because of the noise of the traffic whizzing by. I thought my best bet was to reveal myself with my hands above my head. I also realized I was also not where he expected me to be coming from, as I was outside the vehicle, wearing dark clothes, and on the wrong side of the car. But should I have had to have thought about all of that?

To this day, I still don’t know what he was shouting, but once he realized we were broken down, he was extremely helpful, and the inaudible commands stopped. I couldn’t help but think that interaction, too, could have potentially been very different.

So flash forward to Sunday, I was once again encountering a cop with a million thoughts.

The cop approached the car, I rolled down the window. “This encounter is being recorded. Do you know what you did back there?” I replied I did not. “Did you realize you didn’t yield? Now, you don’t need to yield to me because I am a cop, but you need to yield because if you don’t yield the people in the left lane will get stuck in the middle of the intersection waiting for you to go. There are some signs coming up that ramp that you’re supposed to yield.”

Let me just say I don’t know if I would agree with the officer’s version of events. However, and most importantly, he was respectful and set the tone from the beginning of our encounter. He introduced himself, explained himself, spoke calmly and even though he later gave me a $125.00 ticket, he behaved respectfully and in a manner of which I would expect an officer to treat a citizen. I, in turn, treated him with the respect in which I believed a law enforcement officer was due and not to mention I didn’t want any issues.

According to The Washington Post, as of May 17, 2017, 363 have been killed in the circumstances similar to those of Michael Brown in Ferguson (there description not me). The database was started in 2015. So far, apparently, two fewer people were killed same time last year, although the data is a few days old so we may have caught up to killings in 2017. It would appear that nothing has changed. The database does not take into account deaths in police custody, fatal shootings by off-duty officers, or non-fatal shootings.

Simply put as a law abiding citizen, I don’t think you should feel as though you’re rolling the dice while interacting with the police.

As a black man, I should not have to wonder if I might be shot today just because an officer may be less patient with me because of the color of my skin, or have an irrational fear of me because I am black.

Citizens should be respectful, but I firmly believe the police have a responsibility to protect and serve and to do all they can to fulfill that promise, not shoot, kill, and ask questions later because they were frightened or hold biases about black people that effect there work.

The cop I interacted with set the tone. He set the tone – not me. I responded in kind and to be honest, I was too nervous and fearful to have gotten his name, but he was a wonderful officer, and more should take a lesson from him.

It also was not lost on me that the interaction was being recorded. I also, unlike my Taconic State Parkway experience, was in the car with my white husband, Asian girlfriend, and Panamanian friend from Brooklyn. We’re denizens of New York City, so we’re like the United Nations! But several times I thought to myself, there are too many witnesses and other people who are not black for this to go horribly wrong – and that’s a shame that I had to think that to make myself feel better. The Taconic experience was also not being recorded.

I believe there are good officers, but there are bad officers too and some seem to become trigger happy when interacting with people of color. It also appears to be the main point that opponents of the Black Lives Matter movement seem to not realize. There are some bad cops out there with racial biases, and when the situation is life and death, one bad apple is too many.

For those who don’t know the fear of worrying about being pulled over by a cop and wondering if they will come out alive, God bless you. For the rest of us, we can only hope for a day when in America there truly is equal treatment and justice for all. For those of you who think this is not an issue, bless you for being fortunate enough to be steeped in your own privilege that you haven’t noticed.

 

Breaking News!

America girl! Girl! GURRRL! You still have not got your s*it together! Trump is still here, and he is still a hot putrid mess! America is currently like your best girlfriend who is dating a broke bum with no job, no job prospects, no manners, and he treats her like crap.

You keep telling your friend that she can do better, that she’s worth more, but to no avail – he is still there. Well, America is your low self-esteem girlfriend and Trump is her boyfriend! We talked about this America! He has to go! Ugh, alas, he’s still here. One can always hope.

When’s the overthrow party occurring? I’ll bring the pitchforks if someone else promises to bring the torches!

I suppose I was only partially kidding when I wrote, before my Egypt vacation and writing break, that who knew what would happen next regarding the political drama within this country. I assumed there would be news, however, I did not anticipate the daily deluge of scandal. Any one of these stories about the White House would be scandals onto themselves in normal times.

Consider the following events this week:

  • Trump fires Comey.
  • Trump’s team lies about the rationale for firing Comey, presumably to defend their boss, but Trump never to be outdone goes off script and admits he fired Comey because of Russia. He also adds that he was going to fire him regardless of any recommendations from the Justice Department.
  • The Trump team was told about Flynn being under investigation before they hired him for National Security Advisor (which means they have lied previously, including Mike Pence). However, as of this writing, they are publicly denying this story.
  • Comey apparently keeps love notes about his conversations with Trump, which apparently show Trump pressuring him to drop the investigation into Flynn. Ok, I couldn’t help but throw a bit of shade at Comey. I am glad he has apparently kept detailed notes.
  • Trump associates apparently had 18 contacts with Russia prior to the election, which were previously undisclosed.

And that is not everything and the week is not over. It’s just Friday morning, so there is still some time for more breaking news, for some industrious reporter to do the work that folks in Congress seem to have an aversion and allergy to conducting. Although, the appointment of a Special Counsel makes me happy. That’s right up there with a slice of chocolate cake in wonderfulness and joy for me this week.

Yeah, so the breaking news within the breaking news is a bit much. After all, I can only read so much and watch so much news on a daily basis. I do have Real Housewives of Every and Any U.S. City to watch, study, and gossip about. But seriously, how are we supposed to keep up with all of this? I can’t even go to get a haircut and a shampoo without breaking news occurring about Trump while I am already watching the news and he is already being discussed! Sheesh!

I am going to have to start grabbing a V8 or getting some B12 shots to sustain the energy necessary to keep up with the trainwreck that is the unraveling of the Trump White House. Oh, wait, a relative just told me the other day and I quote, “this Russia thing is nothing. The media just won’t give him a chance.”

So, there is that perspective. Oy vey! That story, and how every piece of glass subsequently broke in my apartment from the shrieking I did after hearing that sentence, will have to wait for another blog post on a different day!

 

 

The Six P’s

Prior planning prevents piss poor performance. Those words were uttered to me long ago by a college mentor turned dear friend, and they have been proven salient at multiple times in my life.

It was a lesson that Hillary Clinton must have learned too. In what feels like a lifetime ago, during one of those trainwreck debates, Hillary remarked to Donald that, yes, it was true – she prepared and practiced for the debate, and she was proud of that fact. She also memorably claimed she “prepared to be President.” Ah, preparation!

Clearly and painfully, blue America and red America saw those debates differently. Oh, and the anyone but Hillary or Donald crowd saw it differently as well as the “Bernie or Bust” crew. But as someone who appreciates prior planning in his own life, I relished the sentiment and her preparation. To me, America had a choice and we had to choose between an adult and a child – between someone who could construct sentences and someone who could not. Between someone who read briefing books and someone who was proud they did not.

Well, America chose – in various ways, and so here we sit. Donald Trump became President but never learned the lesson of the Six P’s. Finally, that choice to be unprepared and to consistently wing it like a hungover college student stumbling to class determined to take his midterm anyway has come back to bite him in his gigantic orange ass.

I won’t make this post about Hillary. Hillary, I am sure, feels disappointment, but she is off in Chappaqua counting her millions and will still go down in history for several accomplishments and “firsts.” I am sure she is also overjoyed that while the Republicans were great at coming up with silly chants like “lock her up,” jail time is clearly not in the cards for her and as things stand now that can’t be said for the Trump folks. Where is Alanis Morrisette to bust out into a rendition of “Ironic?”

And another thing…

FLYNN TOLD YOU FOOLS HE WAS UNDER INVESTIGATION BY THE F.B.I. before YOU HIRED HIM!!! BEFORE! BEFORE! BEFORE! The absurdity of this is equivalent to the scene in Mrs. Doubtfire when Miranda, played by Sally Field, learns at the restaurant Bridges that Daniel has been parading around in her house dressed up as a woman, Mrs. Doubtfire, and screams the “WHOLE TIME” about three times. It’s just that shocking for poor Miranda.

Sorry, for that digression and lack of a proper transition but, yes, it’s that sort of nonsense that seems to be leaking out daily that could spell doom for these people! Prior planning people!

What is the matter with these people? Let’s be clear – NO ONE DOES THIS. Not Obama, Bush, Clinton, H.W. Bush, Reagan, Carter…NO ONE. President’s don’t hire National Security Advisers who they know are under investigation and then give them the highest levels of security clearance. Sheesh! The insanity of that is almost unbelievable, but what did we expect?

Who can come and check my blood pressure?

Anyway, back to the Six P’s. So Mr. Trump personally asked Comey to drop the F.B.I. investigation into Flynn. Now, anyone who knows their history or THE LAW – knows you can’t do that. Obstruction of justice is a thing, and it does not fall into the fake news category. You cannot do that! But Mr. Trump doesn’t know this because, as I mentioned, he does not like to read and certainly is no student of history. He doesn’t know this because he is incapable of believing that he could be at fault and that his performance as President could be, well, piss poor!

I mean someone could have told him talking to Comey was a bad idea back in February. Hell, someone could have told him that firing Comey this week would have been a disaster as well. A little preparation, a bit of reading, a discussion, and healthy dose of discipline could have prevented this.

Prior planning prevents piss poor performance, Mr. Trump. It is usually never too late to learn, but I am not sure you can teach a 70-year-old dog new tricks.