I was standing on the Flyer's loading dock last week when I heard a noise coming from the dumpster near the alley. I walked over, looked in, and saw a man going through styrofoam food boxes. He had a plastic bag, into which he'd put a few items of food he'd scrounged.
He looked up, startled, and said, "I'm just looking for something to eat."
"It's okay," I said. I turned to leave, then stopped. I stuck my hand into the dumpster and gave him five bucks. The guy looked at me in surprise, paused for a moment, and said, "Thank you. Do you have a car I could wash or something?"
I said no. He climbed out of the dumpster, thanked me again, and walked off down the alley.
We are in a recession, the experts say. But as Congress and the president diddled their way into creating a "Satan sandwich" deal to raise the debt ceiling, several other ceilings are being breached: There are a record 45.8 million Americans now getting food stamps. That's one in seven Americans who need public assistance in order to eat.
In Tennessee, 1,276,000 people get food stamps. Unemployment is around 10 percent. The economy is in the crapper, pure and simple.
And what do we get from our legislators? Proposals (which have passed into law in Florida and Missouri) to drug-test anyone receiving public assistance. Proposals to strip public unions of their bargaining power. Proposals to make voting more difficult for poor people via voter photo ID laws. Proposals to weaken public schools and fund private charter schools with taxpayer money. Proposals to cut funds from environmental and consumer protection agencies. Proposals to cut Medicare and Social Security, two of the vital safety nets for average Americans.
The middle and working classes in this country are under assault. Corporations have our legislative bodies under control. The deal is simple: If legislators pass laws that favor unbridled profit — including the right to move operations overseas to cheaper labor markets — and keep tax loopholes in place, the corporations assure their reelection with campaign contributions. It is a Satan sandwich.
The Republicans don't have a soul. The Democrats don't have a spine. The president doesn't have a clue.
At this rate, we're all headed for the dumpster.
Oh would some power the giftie gie us, to see ourselves as others see us. — Robert Burns
Scottish poet Robert Burns wrote the line above in response to seeing a louse on a high-born lady's bonnet at church. The point being, of course, that while we might think we're looking pretty good, someone else might be noticing a flaw we've overlooked.
Time moves in one direction, memory in another. — William Gibson
This week, an old friend sent me a photo of myself, circa 1978. In the picture, I was thin, long-haired, and standing barefoot on the porch of an old farmhouse where we lived, just outside of Columbia, Missouri. It was a shock to see it. I don't remember my friends and I taking many photographs, and I didn't remember this moment ...
The rain is coming down, slow and persistent from a low gray sky. It soaks the grass, fills the gutters, and falls hard on the flowers left on the Beale Street sidewalk outside of B.B. King's club ...
In the 14 years I've been the Flyer editor, I've gotten lots of hate mail. It mostly used to come in envelopes filled with pages of scrawled handwriting. I read them and put them in the wastebasket, chalking it up as a natural by-product of writing for a liberal paper in the conservative South. Lately, the angry folks have switched to email, and it comes in waves ...