(Published in MEANDERINGS in the BUTTE WEEKLY March 22, 2017)
I had hoped to return to the US from Thailand much rested and purged of those things that were ailing me, namely all things related to the last election. And to some degree, an international cleansing happened. But there’s only so much a steady diet of Thai food can do for your health.
While abroad I kept an ear to the tracks back home. Each day I would wake up with the same question in mind: What chaos have President Trump and his surrogates created today?
My question was not born of idle curiosity, but from my genuine concern over the potential global consequences of the President’s inevitable future missteps while my daughters and I were in southeast Asia. The conversations I’ve had with people from across the globe suggest that we all wake wondering: What next from the leader of the most powerful country on the planet?
During a 9-hour layover in Tokyo I happened upon American TV playing in an empty corner of the airport. A town hall style meeting on CNN with Health and Human Services Secretary, Tom Price. My initial visceral response to the man himself was immediate. To me he seemed some kind of whitewalker serving as harbinger of a long cold winter to come.
Benjamin Franklin believed there was an art to condescension. One must humbly step down and empathetically share space with someone who may be at a different place in personal growth. But nobody told this to Price. He was condescending in the worst way. Through a thinly veiled and transparent smile, he feigned common cause and understanding. He sneered as he looked down his nose, speaking slowly and repetitively so as not to confuse our simple minds about how the loss of health insurance for up to 24 million Americans over the next 6 years is really what the American people want and need.
Winter is coming.
A few hours later the next of the harbingers visits: Budget Director Mick Mulvaney. He casually explained the logic behind cutting block programs that are often used to fund after-school care and feeding programs. By their logic it’s easy to justify cutting funds that support such programs because there’s NO SCIENTIFIC EVIDENCE that suggests they work.
Mulvaney said, “So, let’s talk about after-school programs generally. They’re supposed to be educational programs, right? And that’s what they’re supposed to do, they’re supposed to help kids who can’t — who don’t get fed at home, get fed so that they do better at school. Guess what? There’s no DEMONSTRABLE EVIDENCE they’re actually doing that. There’s no demonstrable evidence they’re actually helping results, helping kids do better at school.”
(NOW the Trump administration is making appeals to EVIDENCE? But to suggest that humans might have contributed to the unstable climatological changes afoot, and the mountains of international science that back the interpretation, well, we don’t need THAT evidence.)
As a young person who relied on government peanut butter and cheese, and food stamps, and feeding programs of every form, I am thankful that funding for my nourishment was not dependent upon my grades.
And as a young person I ran a Summer Food Service Program for the Human Resources, District XII. We used these kinds of funds to feed children in the Silver Bow Homes and the Legion Oasis during the summer months when school was out. If we had not fed them, many of those little humans would not have eaten. We didn’t check their report cards before we fed them.
Isn’t it good and right to help feed those who struggle to feed themselves because we are humans sharing common cause, not because they earned it by this or that measure?
I was a late bloomer. Things didn’t start clicking for me until I was about 15. If access to nourishment was cut-off because I struggled in grades 1-8, I would’ve never been given the opportunity to achieve in grade 9. My Silver Bow History teacher, Jim Street, will attest to this, as he was told I was a punk with little chance in life as I transitioned from 8th to 9th grade. He’s expressed to me over the years that those who warned him about me were wrong. For this kind of mentorship and lifelong support, I’m forever grateful.
And thank you to my community--national, state, and local--for funding support services for vulnerable populations like the Summer Food Service Program and Meals on Wheels. Thank you community for not tying my family’s access to food to our academic performance, or physical wellness, or mental health. Between my brothers and I, we would’ve starved for sure.
Unfortunately, those funds, of all the cuts they could make, are proposed in the President’s budget.
The value systems of those who lead us now frighten me for they are so far from my own as to seem alien. If they don’t represent you either, it’s time to prepare to do what’s necessary to create the world we want to live in, one that takes care of those who need a hand up instead of simply cutting the vulnerable loose and letting them struggle to their bitter ends.
Winter has passed. Spring is coming. Plant something that will take root and be flowering soon, and flourishing come 2018.