Monthly Archives: December 2016

7 posts

Worshipping the White Working Class

ill-will
2016 is the year during which we rediscovered the white working class.

 

I will not genuflect at the altar of the white working class. I will not pray to this new god.

For I am the daughter of a woman who at age 14 strapped on high heels and slapped on lipstick so she could appear older and find work in New York City. I am the daughter of a man who bought the bulldog edition of the newspaper at 11 p.m. so he could get a jumpstart on the next day’s employment classifieds. So he could work in a box factory and other lines of thrilling work. Day after day.

People like me know what it’s like to be laid off. We keep going. It’s not just about the white working class. Ain’t we deserving, too? Had the drug and employment crises hit black and Latino communities hardest, would the response be the same?

Oh wait, these problems usually hit us hardest. “Get back on your feet” and “Pull yourselves up” are the common responses.

Get Back

Each time someone utters this new mantra about the white working class I hear,  “Get to the back of the bus.” Or, “Get back to where you once belonged.” Or, “We’ve been paying too much attention to you.” Or, “It’s time to move on.”

Do you hear what I hear?

That’s a lie. A big, boldfaced lie. Let LL Cool J tell it:

I’m sick and tired of the stories that you always tell
Shakespeare couldn’t tell a story that well
See, you’re the largest liar that was ever created 
You and Pinocchio are brotherly related
Full of criss-crossed fits, you lie all the time
Your tongue should be embarrassed, you’re a threat to mankind
That’s a lie

I cannot help construct this new altar for the coalition of the know-nothings who think they can explain it all after the fact, except they cannot because they still know nada. They suffer from a poverty of ideas and cannot contain the thought of you and me in their heads at the same time.

The Poorest Counties

Empathy has its rightful place in a society of thinking and feeling people. Where’s everybody been? It’s not like the white working class lacks political capital or representation at local, state and federal levels.

The poorest counties in the United States in median household income are nearly all in the ascendant South, growing in population and Republicans. Surely, there is power in that.

They are counties like Wilcox County, Ala., population 11,000, 72 percent is black. Half the population reports household income either above or below $23,750, according to the census. It has 0 percent foreign born. Republicans Jeff Sessions (nominated to be attorney general) and Richard Shelby represent Wilcox in the Senate. In the House, that responsibility falls to Democrat Terri Sewell. Where have they been?

Kentucky, in particular, dominates the list of poor counties, claiming three of the top five. Owsley County is the third poorest in the nation. Population 4,460. Median household income $20,985. It’s 98 percent non Hispanic white, foreign born 0.3 percent. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Sen. Rand Paul, both Republicans, represent Owsley in the Senate. Its Congressman Hal Rogers is the “longest serving Kentucky Republican ever elected” – currently in his 18th term. What’s he been doing all?

In the 2016 elections, Kentucky “became a Republican trifecta” or single-party government, much like Florida, according to Ballotpedia.

Florida

Closer to home, Putnam appears to be the poorest county in Florida – over 72,000 people, 77 percent non Hispanic white, 4 percent foreign born. Median income: $31,700. Senators Bill Nelson (D) and Marco Rubio (R) represent  Putnam, while Ron DeSantis, a Republican who was just re-elected by 63 percent of the vote, speaks for Putnam in Congress.

Why haven’t elected officials advocated for their voters? They are not blind but they may be blinded by politics and cultural wars that place only scraps on the table. They have been busy raising money so they can win re-election or run for another elected office.

Help for the White Working Class

Now we hear,  “Oh, snap! We have to help the white working class.”

If I hear that from the lips of a person I helped elect, I will never vote for that person again.

And to you whom I hardly know – and who hardly knows me: Go ahead. Build your altar.

I am going to save the wear and tear my knees.

˜˜Maria T. Padilla, Editor

Remembering Pulse Six Months Later

pulse-six-months-later
Pulse is a rather inappropriate-appropriate name of the event that woke up the city to the horrors of gun violence, leaving the heart of the City Beautiful throbbing in pain. / Maria Padilla

Central Florida paused this week to remember the Pulse shooting six months later.

Florida is known the world over for retirees, beaches and theme parks. To that list is now added Pulse, the gay nightclub in which 49 people were senselessly gunned down six months ago in the wee hours of a Sunday morning.

Today, many visitors to Orlando make the pilgrimage to the now shuttered and fenced nightclub in which a three-hour standoff took place between police and a lone shooter who loaded and reloaded his weapon, snuffing out 49 lives. Discussion are ongoing between the city and the club owner about its future. Will it open? Will it move? What will happen to the site?

Pulse is a rather inappropriate-appropriate name of the event that woke up the city to the horrors of gun violence, leaving the heart of the City Beautiful throbbing in pain. Orlando has not been the same since.

Embrace Difference

In that instant, Orlando – indeed, Central Florida – opted to beat as one: embrace diversity and difference even more, even tighter.

“We reacted with love,” said Orlando City Councilwoman Patty Sheehan, who is gay, adding that on the Pulse anniversary the City Council voted to maintain open the emergency operations center to continue to assist victims and their families.

Six months later, about one-third of residents understand that Pulse was an attack against the LGBT community, according to an Orlando Sentinel poll. Another 21 percent thinks it was a combination of terrorism, an attack on gays and on Hispanics, who made up about half or more of the Pulse victims. It had been Latin night at the club on the evening of the shooting.

Poignant and Heartfelt

At the ceremony at the Orange County History Center, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs was poignant and honest. Pulse “forced people to think hard about where they stood on these issues of equality,” she said.

It is fitting that the six-month anniversary fell on the day of La Virgen de Guadalupe, the patron saint of Mexico who also is considered the Virgen de las Américas. Just as her image was present on many candles at the impromptu sites that popped up around town, she is there today at the original club site and other locations guarding the souls and the stories of that night and the weeks that followed.

Forgets the Victims

Because it very much seems that the story of Pulse is passing into officialdom, becoming pro forma. Mistakes happen at public events. We tend to overlook them. But at the Orange County History Center ceremony there was a particularly glaring omission. Ceremony host Terry DeCarlo “forgot” to acknowledge the Pulse victims. Yes, he did.

Instead, we heard a litany of the names of the elected officials present, all sitting in the special section behind the podium. No Pulse-related family appeared to be sitting in that area.

“I was remiss in not mentioning the families, survivors and staff of Pulse,” said DeCarlo, executive director of the GLBT Center of Central Florida , almost in passing and looking straight at the audience.

How do you forget the very thing for which you have gathered to remember? How do you forget to recall the lives and presence of the Pulse victims and survivors, remember their pain, remember their passing? The rest of Orlando hasn’t suffered at all in comparison. It just thinks it has.

Grass Roots Is Buried

The only way to forget is if Pulse has become enshrined in officialdom, that the grass roots causes that emerged after the tragedy are being lost, being buried – in favor of naming all the elected officials present, in favor of what may or may not happen to the club with only a superficial nod to families and survivors.

I was relieved that city and county officials had the sense to include Hispanic staffers to read the names of the 49 victims. They did an excellent job. Otherwise, we would have had to endure the unbearable mangling of the beautiful Latino victims’  names, and that would have been another sure sign of the carelessness in the handling of Pulse as time goes on,  as government and others take over.

Oh, and by the way, don’t forget to catch the Pulse exhibit at the Orange County History Center, as DeCarlo said at the end almost in passing.

UPDATE 12-14:  The Orlando Sentinel reported that the state Department of Agriculture and Consumer Affairs is “investigating [two] complaints about how The GLBT Community Center of Central Florida handled a flood of donations that came into the not-for-profit group after the Pulse shooting.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor

The Two Wings of the Same Bird

two-morros-w-words
The two wings of one bird.

Puerto Rico and Cuba are the two wings of the same bird, wrote Puerto Rican poet Lola Rodríguez de Tió eons ago in a pean to the twin Caribbean islands.

We are mirror images of each other except that we are not.

Your star is on sangre roja. Ours on cielo azul.  We are cojitditas de mano except that you took the Platt Amendments and we got la ley Foraker.  Cuba walked la Revolución and we stayed with the patrón. You are decrepit and corrupto on the outside, while we are decrepit and corrupto on the inside, each with little oxygen flowing to the little people hasta no poder respirar.

We are el mismo pájaro that was killed with what looks like one stone in hard hands. Una piedra en manos duras. Lame-brained politicos too many to name and Tío Sam for us;  Fidel, Ché and Kruschev for you

Wendy Guerra writes in The New York Times, “What will become of us without that person who will think for us…” after Fidel?

In Puerto Rico a fiscal control board will do the thinking for 3.4 million people after a $72 billion economic botching mostly of little local caudillos’ making. Meanwhile, the big kahuna Donald Trump threatens to undo renewal of ties with Cuba in a move so retro it throws besitos at Fidel.

Tío Sam has arrived at Puerto Rico’s doorstep bearing gifts of austerity that threaten to shrink the island down to even smaller size, while the same Tío Sam dressed in different clothing is dreaming in Cuban of  a new era of Batistismo so large a corporate stampede awaits, one that even the big kahuna’s little fingers cannot restrain.

Raúl is tempted but will the ghost of the gigante who was carried through the streets of La Habana in an itty bitty box allow it? In Puerto Rico the fiscal board already rejected the last flaccid budget by the governor who cut and ran.

What will life be like after Fidel? What will life be like under la junta? ¿Qué dicen los babalúes?  What say the babalús?

We are the wings of el mismo pájaro,  unable to take flight, to feel the wind beneath our wings. Volar, volar.

Here’s to the next 50 years.

˜˜Maria Padilla, Editor