Leftover Coffee and Empathy: A Wake-up Call for trump supporters


The government shutdown (which does not directly affect us) has made me think about the stereotypes of people who live in poverty. An awful lot of people who demonize(d) people on SNAP and Medicaid, or “welfare,” are now doing the same things that the poor and working poor do.

They’re pawning things. I imagine it’s a huge trauma. My wedding rings, which I care about only for their monetary value, are in the pawn shop right now. Once, I had to pawn a ring that my mother bought for me and a ring that belonged to my grandmother. I sobbed in the pawn shop and swore I would never pawn them again no matter what. I haven’t. I don’t care if I fucking starve to death, those rings will be in my jewelry box.

Oh, that thing that seems so valuable to you? It isn’t. Two rings that each cost over $100 brought me only $50 when I pawned them. That’s why pawning things is really a shitty idea.

Selling things online. Good luck. Everyone wants a bargain. You won’t get half the value of that item. That’s why I’ll never sell my dolls. I’d never get anything approaching their value, and the shipping and fees would leave me with a few dollars and a lot of regret.

Garage sales. Wrong time of year, and the time and effort are not worth it unless your real aim is de-cluttering. (WTG U.S. Coast Guard, telling your service members to hold yard sales to pay their mortgages.)

Bartering with your landlord for chores in place of rent? Oh my God. I hope your landlord is a saint or independently wealthy. Otherwise, they’re relying on your rent to pay their own bills.

One thing that you can do is ask at your doctor’s office for help in finding out if the pharmaceutical companies that produce your medications offer patient assistance. If they do, someone at the doctor’s office will print out a form for each medication. You have to fill them out, take them back, and pick up the medication at the doctor’s office.

Go to your credit union. Take your bills. Talk to one of their financial counselors. We got a small loan that was just enough to pay our water bill after the monumental leak. We wanted to clear our account with the water department, and the monthly loan payments are less than the water department’s proposed payment arrangements. They also factored in the plumber’s bill. They cut us two cashier’s checks, one for the plumber and one for the water department.

Hilariously, the day after we paid the plumber, the handle popped off the kitchen sink hose and went down the drain and we had to call the plumber again. On the plus side, he did install our new toilet seat.

I’m not trying to discourage you if you’re furloughed/working without pay. I’m just telling you the truth about those of us who live every day the way that you are suddenly living now because a giant orange toddler had a hissy fit about a non-existent border crisis. Oh, does the fact that I’m an anti-trump Dem make you want to stop reading? Your loss. I know more than you do about survival.

The panic you feel will wax and wane. You’ll wake up and just for a few seconds, before you open your eyes, you’ll feel like things are normal. Then reality will kick in. Resist the urge to self-medicate, but toss the cigarettes. They aren’t actually helping you calm down. Nicotine is a stimulant. And you can’t afford them anymore.

Yes, my tone is harsh. It’s harsh from years of being mocked and belittled and disbelieved and treated like less than human because crappy things happened in my life nonstop for the last 20 years and I ended up poor. For the moment. Am I bitter towards the people who voted for trump? You betcha. Here’s why:

“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”

Who does this woman think trump should be hurting? Me? Because a series of unfortunate events left me and my mom living in poverty? Whatever. The only reason that I wrote this post is a thing called empathy. It means caring for others and their troubles. Even if you don’t know them.

When you suddenly get poor, you may develop what I call “poverty empathy.” If you’re still supporting trump despite the fact that he used your paycheck to feed cold fast food to a football team, you probably won’t develop that empathy. But I still feel empathy for you because we’re both human beings with the same basic needs and you don’t know how to meet yours. Maybe you’re lucky enough to have family to help you. I wouldn’t know what that’s like. My mom and I just keep slogging along, existing from one crisis to another.

Try to imagine that your crisis will never end (it will, but you’ll be left with some debt and trump ain’t gonna pay that for you.) Do you remember Faux News telling you that 94% of poor people have a refrigerator? Well, at this moment, they’re putting you in that group of lucky fridge owners!

I hope that you find comfort in your faith (that you may or may not have tried to force on others) and that your church has a food pantry. If you ever thought, “Well, they must not be very poor or they wouldn’t be so fat,” I suggest avoiding your scale as you downgrade to Wonder Bread and Ramen. Coffee and sugar are luxuries. My mother saves leftover coffee in coffee cans in the FRIDGE.

Please, please beware of auto loan lenders. They are salivating right now, waiting for you to walk in and sign some paperwork that will ensure you never, ever pay off your car lien. Fun fact: I’m a paralegal. I worked for a bankruptcy attorney for three years. Name a lender. I’ll tell you how evil they are.

I’m tired and hungry (gonna eat a ham sandwich before bed, been so damn depressed for the last three weeks that I’ve had about six real meals) so I’m going to wrap this up by telling you something you don’t want to hear.

Do you remember all your single-issue votes? Abortion/birth control/Obamacare? Things you wrote me off as evil for supporting the right for everyone to access those things? Social safety nets? All that stuff that drove you to vote for an admitted sexual predator who filed bankruptcy nine times and said he’d totally date his daughter if she wasn’t his daughter?

I can’t help but feel empathy for what you’re going through because I know how terrifying and hopeless it feels and I sort of hate myself for that because I could be pointing at you and laughing, but I’m not. No one should have to go through what you’re going through. NO. ONE. Including all the “others” you still hate. You harmed people with your votes, and maybe this is karma (the result of an action, not revenge from the universe) but I don’t like to think that because it affects so many of the people that you demonize.

You’re part of the human race. You’re still human even though this crisis may have you feeling that you’re less than. Guess what. The rest of us deal with that feeling of being less than every day. You’re a victim (of your own hate) a politically motivated (by hate) shutdown that will end. Yeah, you’ll suffer and worry and struggle and as I said before, you’ll be left with debt. But the shutdown will end. It doesn’t end for us. You’ll go back to work.

The moral of this post is:

Will you continue on the same hateful, self-destructive path when you start getting back on your feet, or will you remember how you felt when you lay awake all night last night wondering how will we make it? Will we make it? What if we don’t make it?

If you do remember that, and if you change your attitudes towards “others” after what you went through, welcome to the human race.

P.S. For God’s sake don’t dump your pets at the pound. You made a commitment when you decided to get a pet and you better damn well honor it.


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