I watched one of those tourism videos about the place I live, the quaint shops, the famous people who visit, the history, the beauty all around us, and while all these things are true, my cynicism soon began to kick in and I so wanted to make a video of my own. The other side of the story, the wrong side of the tracks, what life is actually like for 80% of the people struggling to survive here.
Everybody has these videos, right? The one’s that say come visit us, come to paradise……bring your money. We’ve been busy gentrifying the area for some time now, so people see the facade, the fun, the retirement potential, this thin veneer laid over the truth and reality of most people’s lives that I so want to poke big holes in.
I question my own motives sometimes, I wonder why this all matters to me, what I want people to see and why, and part of it is because I don’t think people really understand how significant the gap between the rich and the poor really is, what it looks like in America.
People actually live without running water, without electricity, with tarps on their roofs, whole families packed into campers, tents. People often don’t have enough to eat. Working people, people with paychecks, still barely able to survive. Go to the city and I can show you the same, extension cords running down the hall, the one shared outlet powering three apartments, the toilets not working, how we wash dishes in the bathroom because the kitchen drain goes to nowhere.
It’s not really about money, it’s about this gap, this disconnect, what it feels like to be left behind and forgotten. Completely invisible. What it’s like when you do everything right and yet you still can’t get out, you can’t escape this trap you’re in. All around are all the others who seem to have figured it out, so it must be you. You must be doing something wrong.
It’s not really about the money. I say that a lot actually, and I guess what I mean is that you can’t just throw money at it and make it all better. It’s not a money problem, it’s a heart problem, it’s a spiritual issue deep within this country. Injustice, I feel that sense of injustice just screaming out at me, an idea, a concept that has evolved into the popular notion of “social justice.” People starved for justice, without even really knowing what “justice” is, what it really means. What it would even look like if justice ever showed up? I get it though, I know what it is like to always be on the receiving end of injustice.
Nancy Pelosi of all people, said something last week that really stuck in my craw. She said with all due horror, “You want grandma living in the guest room? You repeal the Affordable Care Act.” What’s the greatest horror Americans in Pelosi’s world could ever face? You might have to look after your own Grandma.
What’s it like to be that Grandma? That unwanted house guest? A woman so unloved, so despised, we’ll move heaven and earth, we’ll spend billion of dollars keeping her out of our homes. We’ll petition congress, we’ll pass laws, we’ll build gated communities, we’ll do whatever it takes to keep THAT woman firmly on the outside looking in.
We don’t want to “help” grandma, we don’t want to have to love her, we want to make darn sure she never winds up in our guest room. And grandma, does she sense the injustice there, does her heart cry out like mine does?
That is the essence of the heart behind the cries for social justice. Somewhere in our spirits we know we are owed something, that something has been stolen from us. Our humanity perhaps. We’re all Pelosi’s grandma now, that unwanted house guest.