a world map made of grains and beans

Why the problems of the little people don’t add up to a hill of beans in this crazy world…but they should

Sometimes the violence in the world around me doesn’t keep itself to the streets. Sometimes the violence in the world around me doesn’t keep itself at arms reach. Sometimes it comes howling through the corridors of the shelter, with it’s flashing neon sign and murals that haven’t been changed since sometime in the late seventies, and launches itself at me screaming retribution for some crime I failed to commit. I am not above those people around me that are also inhabiting the shelter. I am not better than them, I am not different to them: we are all down here on the bottom of the heap, at the largesse of the city, trying not to get denial-of-service or warnings, not starve because of cooking being banned and inadequate meals provided. I have celiac disease, no I cannot eat around the wheat, not unless I want stomach cancer, uncontrollable diarrhea and to sit crying as I vomit. I cannot just pick off the breading, nor can I survive on boiled eggs, shelled by hands that have been touching gluten, and lettuce that is smothered in dressing that I do not know is edible to me. I spent months before smuggling in a rice cooker in desperation, risking a d-o-s, just eating salad and gluten free crackers. I was wasting away. No one cared who could do anything about it.

That is why I am just like ‘them’ – the other people in the shelter. Nobody who can do shit does shit. It is a shame that America is so divided, so in pain, so split by the actions of Trump and the inadequate healing provided by the current administration, that the little people, people like me, turn in on themselves and each other in a flurry of pain that comes from a point of oppression and fear. I guard myself against this as best I can. That is not to say I don’t hate – I hate the agents of fear and oppression, of pain and domination, of authoritarian right-wing jackboot on the neck of the artists, the freaks, and the ordinary guy and gal trying to survive. I find plenty of fury for them, but some guy, fucked up on poverty, deprivation, and misdirected fury, nah…I just can’t find it in me. That is not to say I am not occasionally scared out of my tiny little brain. I am. I am frequently scared, always second-guessing myself, and quite often reduced to tears.

I ran back to my room, half limping (why do men always have to make me run), knocked on my door to be let back in, desperate for the Boy to hurry up and open up, and fell into the room, locking it behind me. Fuck the rules. The deadbolt is going on, and I will unbolt it only if I have to, and here I sit. My heart in my mouth. Outside I hear screams, I hear disruption. I hear the sirens in the distance, and they don’t make me feel safe either. When you are undocumented the help is not helpful, it is potential life-ruining danger. Nothing to do apart from sit here and wait it out, wondering how to make any of this better.

I am not anyone’s enemy who is on the side of liberty, freedom, social justice and fair play. I am not the enemy of the man shooting smack on the corner, or any guy in the shelter, nor the yellow-blanket man with cardboard boots, but society won’t just let me be. I am not allowed to live and let live. I have to wonder if it all has to be so hard, but then again, nothing worth fighting for was ever easy. There is a solution for SF, and it’s not this new push for greater policing in the Tenderloin I am reading about. There needs to be more psych ward beds, a city wide compassionate drug policy that gives the addicts what they need for free, so addicts are freed from the cycles of offending in order to do what they are going to do anyway. Shelters like this one are an amazing resource, and help many families, but the little stuff is leant on heavy, while larger offenses are ignored. Trust me, if I hit someone in the corridor, I would be out of here. If I tried to hit someone, I would rightly be out of here. If my rice cooker gets found, I am out of here. I can guarantee that rule is not universally applied to the men as well as the women of the shelter.

Police and community ambassadors are not going to fix people’s pain. A few more people might go to jail, and how will that help anyone? People need housing, food, compassionate addiction services with safe injection sites. People need counselling, there are so many heavily traumatized humans on the streets, who are living a war in a country where the haves can sleep safely, and the have-nots live in terror in their neighborhoods. The real offenders, the real bad guys they are left to roam, while the low hanging fruit, the easier to arrest and victimize are going to be picked up for what? Smoking crack in public? Smoking weed within 15 feet of an entrance or window? Prostitution? This shit is playing at fixing the city, it is papering over the cracks and not fixing the foundations, and the whole fucking lot is going to come down. Fixing the city starts with fixing the people within it. Ignoring the problems and hoping it all just works out is not helping. A knee jerk reaction of greater policing is not going to help any more than it ever has. This society focuses on shaming and punishment, instead of helping people live better lives. It would be cheaper to help people than to pay for the results of the current inhumane policy.

..and besides…fuck it, I need some peace and quiet, and if I do so does every other homeless person trying to raise their kids in shelters safely. Some humanity will make us all sleep a little safer in our beds. When will those that can wake up to reality? I fear only when it is far far too late for too many of us who are living the sharp edge of the consequences of failing policies and political posturing.

7 Comments

  1. Time Traveler of Life

    This country is so God Dammed fucked up with spouting words of Christian epithets and not giving a dammed about anyone other than their own family. If you ain’t white and have the equipment to pee standing up you don’t count! I do so wish I could change it but I am just like the rest of the “Also ran” that my difference can only be hang in there, a miracle might happen. These words don’t help even a little bit, but I am sending hugs to you and hope you can get housing and medical help soon.

  2. Ariana

    You are absolutely right that we are wallpapering over the cracks instead of fixing the foundations, and that shaming fixes nothing. I was just having a similar conversation with a very good friend yesterday morning. Jail and policing is not ever going to be the best answer to certain things, and they certainly don’t provide support to improve a life to anybody. Nothing I say can fix any of this. Emotionally standing with you doesn’t fix it and I know that. My husband and I were just talking this morning about how our plate is so full just trying to survive caring for and advocating for our children it’s hard to summon the energy to be involved with anything. If we all feel that way then nothing improves, and you’re right that things need to improve. These things you speak of definitely need to improve. May we all find just enough energy to be involved somewhere to improve something. There is as you say so much in need a fixing. I am so sorry πŸ’œ

    1. The Paltry Sum

      Ariana, you have so much on your plate raising your darling children (I hope they are both well?) you really cannot do it all. You should not feel bad about leaving the fighting to those of us without such full plates otherwise. You are aware, you are supportive, and that is enough, as far as I am concerned, for what little my feelings are worth! You are a superstar! Glad to see you, I have been so busy recently, it is good to catch up.

      1. Ariana

        I appreciate your kind words. A superstar I am not though, and I really try to listen to Edna’s advice (from The Incredibles) about not wearing a cape πŸ˜‰ My hands have been very, very full the last couple weeks taking care of the people I love. That is true. And they will continue to be full, but they are also made full by all that love returned. I definitely understand busy and I am hoping and wishing for things to improve for you as you look onward towards the road ahead of you.πŸ’œ

      2. The Paltry Sum

        Thank you so much. I think it is always good to recognise the struggles and efforts of others…so just offering my “wooohoo! Go Ariana!”…Love returned is all any of us are looking for, I think…

      3. Ariana

        I think you are very right Ms. Sum. We all want to be loved in return by others, we all want to be accepted. I am emotionally standing by you in solidarity 🌷

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