Sunday, August 27, 2017

Hold On

 I elected to not see the movie The Glass Castle as the reviews told me that one of my favorite memoirs was not honored and it explains why other stories, such as Mary Karr's Liar's Club has never made it to the screen.  Mary is quite vocal about writing truths in memoir and in turn film is a form that takes advantage of smudging the truth. 

Jeanette Walls book resonated with a young woman whom I met buying a black and white cookie at Publix in Donelson so much that when I said I was heading to the movies, hence the cookie (I bring my own snacks) she said I should see the Glass Castle as the book moved her so much she wrote Ms. Walls who responded to her.  That gesture meant so much and it touched me in a way that I said she must read the Liar's Club as that too is an amazing story by an amazing writer.  But I went to see Dunkirk instead as I wanted Ms. Walls words to touch me in a way that film clearly fails to do so.     There are many stories like these women that are real and have such hard truths they are not easy and truth is never easy.

But truths in the South are stories best told over Iced Tea and in turn they like the tea are always a touch too sweet or too maudlin to be believed.  Ms. Walls heard such criticism of her unflinching portrayal of a family in full dysfunction but to those who loved it it was a book of pain and of truth.  I just finished an appalling book, The Incest Book by Anonymous, that at some point I thought no wonder you didn't want your name associated with this as even I questioned the authenticity.   But read Roxanne Gay's Hunger and then you will hear another story that has one telling the unflinching truth of their youth. 

When I read this article below I thought that again everyone needs to read Deep South, by Paul Theroux.  Until you read the stories and his observations, all the protests, arguments and debates over these absurd Statues (this years Confederate Flag and Building Names and next week Street names) you will never understand the argument or truths about living in the South.

This is not about honoring some racist nutfuck this is about the other telling the South how to live and they are not having it.  But the odd thing is that they are busing in outsiders and others to defend that shit.  The same thing the GOP accused the left of doing at Town Halls. Funny no violence ensued there, well maybe some hurt feelers and a misplaced sign but hey!

Some if not all of the most heinous nutters in Charlottesville came from States that have not one Statue, one building or place of significance marking any hero of the Civil War of the North or the South.  When they are now debating Mayors and Governors honorariums you know we are reaching here as I would really like to know if there is anyone who remembers truly any of these people and if they do what do they recall - three specifics please.

One thing these protests do is offer  a great excuse to smack talk much like the absurd Maryweather/McGregor fight of last night.  I demand Michael Jordan come out of retirement to play a match with Venus Williams to decide who is the greatest dunker of balls across a net in history!   100 Million dollars to the winner and the title of Greatest Net Baller in History!

Poverty, alienation, frustration is what it is all about.  Instead of yelling "Jews will not replace us" Maybe more appropriately yell out "Foreign Outsourced Workers Won't Work We Will"  Okay that might be a little long but that is the point.  We have been outsourcing so much labor and insourcing it via H1B1 Visas that we might actually believe that accented individual on the other end of the phone is named Tiffany.   I would love to have a conversation with someone who lives nearby and it is the first question I ask when I call the bank, the credit card company or other service industry - where are you located?  If a company has no regional service call center I drop the business from my service or write them to ask why and how much is that call costing me to locate this in India.  It is quite amusing to read the responses. And yes Sirius radio I mean you.

Now is that racism? Xenophobia?  Isolationism? No.  Here is the deal: If I fly British Airways I will expect them to be located in some British Commonwealth so I am good with that.  If I own a Chinese made washer well that might be a bad comparison but again the service ironically for said washer is actually located just up the road! Who would have thunk it!  Haier owns GE now and in turn makes many of their products here in the United States. And from them I actually got better service than Home Depot who I bought said machine from.  Well until I called the Depot's headquarters and demanded an Executive to call me back and an Admin Assistant did and quickly resolved the issue. 

But despite the fact that jobs have been filled and more people are working wages have stagnated with more working from paycheck to paycheck with housing costs absorbing most of those wage.  This in turn places more people at financial risk and in turn they are taking on more debt to sustain a  lifestyle.  I gave up a car and rent, car share or use Lyft along with mass transit to take me where I need to go.  My wages largely go to rent and I have not taken a vacation in quite some time, never eat out, shop for luxury items such as books, etc and have used my savings for dental surgery.  So when my neighbor said "you will be retiring soon" I wanted to punch him in the face to allow him to have dental surgery too.

All of us unless you are in the established 1% are at one paycheck risk from losing it.  But until you understand the differences between what defines working poor to that of a state of living in poverty you will find denial a great river in which to float down and not even in Egypt.

I have said repeatedly that poverty is the problem and that within that racism divides and segregates by class and then by color and by ethnicity/gender/etc.   And Poverty in the South is a unique and truly life defining state of being that until I moved here only understood via books and movies.  And even those did not fully explain or teach one about the truths of living in this survival mode day to day for one's life.  It is a trauma that is akin to one Soldiers experience on the battlefield and why you see so many young and poor and yes largely of color carry and use guns to resolve and solve conflicts.  

When you are holding on to that rung of that ladder it is a slippery one and you will do whatever it takes to keep holding on.

Where do we learn that poverty is shameful and dangerous? At the movies.

By Stephen Pimpare August 23 The Washingto Post

Stephen Pimpare is the author most recently of "Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen." He teaches American politics and public policy at the University of New Hampshire.

This week, the well-to-do wife of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, former actress Louise Linton, shared a heated exchange on Instagram over photographs of her wearing (and flaunting) expensive clothing brands, where she appeared to insult another woman for having lesser means. Linton, who once gave an interview about the dozens of diamonds and other jewels she would be wearing to wed Mnuchin, asked the commenter if she had “given more to the economy than me and my husband? Either as an individual earner in taxes OR in self sacrifice to your country?” and concluded with a final barb: “Your life looks cute.”

Linton may not think very much of people who don’t “give” as much to “the economy” as she and her husband. It wouldn’t be any big surprise: After all, Linton and Mnuchin are both creatures of Hollywood, a territory none too friendly to poor people.

It’s unusual to see people struggling to get by on the big screen. By my count, in the entirety of American cinema, there are fewer than 300 movies that significantly concern themselves with poverty or homelessness. When they do, the result is predictable, insulting in ways that not only reflect but propagate unfair stereotypes and misleading prejudices about people who live in poverty.

Oftentimes, movies that seem to be about poor people are actually about rich people. If you know “My Man Godfrey,” “Oliver Twist” or “My Own Private Idaho,” you may remember them as being about, respectively, a Depression-era hobo, a hungry orphan boy, or two homeless hustlers. But in each instance, the central character is actually a rich man in poor drag: Godfrey is a well-to-do Bostonian hiding away in a Hooverville while recovering from a broken heart; Oliver’s true parentage, and inheritance, is eventually revealed; and Keanu Reeves’s hustler, who comes into his own fortune, is the mayor’s son. I think of these kind of characters (and they abound) as Impostor Tramps.

And there’s another way in which movies may care less about poverty than they would have you believe. You may remember “The Soloist” as being about a homeless Juilliard-trained musician played by Jamie Foxx. But the narrative actually centers on the reporter (Robert Downey Jr.) and how he finds new meaning in his work, saves his marriage and repairs his relationship with his son — all thanks to the Important Lessons he learns by helping Foxx. In such films, (think of “The Fisher King” and “Resurrecting the Champ”) poor people are objects, not subjects: They are the means toward someone else’s end. It’s one way in which old doctrines show themselves, counseling us to aid The Poor because it’s a way to achieve our own salvation.

When the main characters are genuinely destitute, they are often objects of fear. “C.H.U.D.” is one notorious case, in which homeless men literally rise up from the sewers to slaughter the upper classes. While many horror flicks with “vagrants” as the villain were made in the 1980s, as widespread homelessness emerged for the first time since the 1930s, the bigotry that inspired them endures: Kevin Drum recently insisted that it is “perfectly understandable” to be disgusted by homeless people.

When they are not monsters, poor people on film are often irredeemable and irresponsible. Take “Precious,” which purports to care about its characters but nonetheless traffics in the ugliest racist stereotypes about welfare recipients and poor African Americans.

Alternately, poor people onscreen are broken and need to be fixed (“The Saint of Fort Washington,” “Being Flynn”), or lost and in need of rescue, as with movies (“Dangerous Minds,” “Freedom Writers”) that feature a Nice White Lady coming to inspire and save black and brown children, who merely need to be motivated to find some reservoir of pluck or grit so that they can improve their lot.

These stories are especially insidious because they teach viewers that poverty, as HUD Secretary Ben Carson said recently, is a “state of mind” rather than a condition we create through our politics and public policy. In the movies, poverty is rooted in individual failure (or one dramatic, tragic event), and the larger political and economic forces that constrain people’s opportunities are absent.

Indeed, the way to escape poverty in cinema is never public aid or even private charity. Accepting help (or, heaven forbid, demanding it) marks characters as undeserving; refusing aid, by contrast, even if it means your children go hungry, is a sign of moral fiber (see Jeff Bridges in “Hidden in America” or “Cinderella Man,” in which the final heroic act is ostentatiously repaying the public relief that saved the family from ruin).

Finally, despite the fact that poverty is higher outside metropolitan areas than in them, and highest in the South, in the movies, it is concentrated in big cities, and especially among African Americans in New York. That gives us a wildly distorted sense of where most poverty is and who experiences it.

“The Grapes of Wrath,” still among the best movies about poverty, is an exception, showing audiences rural families in need. So does “The Glass Castle,” along with better films like “Winter’s Bone,” “Frozen River” and “Wendy and Lucy.” But these conform to their own pattern: When movie poverty is rural, it is white (with exceptions, like “Ballast” and “George Washington”). And this white, rural poverty is much more likely to be portrayed sympathetically. As recent events remind us — from the extravagant efforts mainstream media have made to humanize racist, homophobic, and xenophobic white Trump voters, to violent public rallies by neo-Nazis — we still inhabit a white supremacist culture, so this should probably not be surprising, even it we find it troubling.

The newly released “The Glass Castle,” based on author Jeanette Walls’s memoirs of growing up poor, offers a fresh opportunity to watch whiteness work, given how much it deviates from the book to make the alcoholic father blameless and the neglectful mother merely eccentric. It softens this family’s poverty in a common way, too. In Walls’s memoir, the children spend much of their time hungry, cold, and dirty. But in Hollywood’s version, they are never too cold, too hungry or too dirty.

American movies often pull their punches in this way, avoiding giving filmgoers a realistic sense of what deep poverty is like, thereby making it easier for people like Linton and her husband to dismiss and easier to deny the need for policies to reduce it. “The Glass Castle” takes a brutally unsentimental, clear-eyed accounting of growing up poor and turns it into a maudlin movie about a woman’s troubled relationship with her father and their reconciliation. And another opportunity to show movie audiences something about the reality of poverty in America is squandered.

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