Follow-Up: The Importance of Water

I recently wrote a blog post about a woman who was washing out her underwear in the sink at the Y in downtown Seattle. Then this article appeared, and the content struck me as related.

The city of Tacoma, just about an hour south of Seattle, has recognized the dire need for water accessibility for their homeless population, and has taken concrete steps to provide it.

I suppose it’s a question of human decency. Do we recognize the homeless among us, and at least make some attempt to provide them with the basics of a dignified existence at public expense? Or do we look the other way.

Paul Ryan and the Republicans are hell-bent on stripping away any funds for people on the bottom rungs of the economic ladder, their moralistic belief apparently being that if you make poverty miserable enough, people will get up and go to work.

Living without access to clean water, sinks and toilets on a daily basis already sounds sufficiently miserable to me.

Post-Alabama Election: Not the Republicans Who are Changing

As giddy as some of us are about Doug Jones’ victory in Alabama, it’s important to note that Republican voters have not changed. They are still voting for their man, in this case for their accused pedophile, in overwhelming majorities. The Doug Jones victory simply means that Democrats and Independents are turning out to vote in larger numbers.

The fight for control of Congress in 2018, and for the presidency in 2020, can’t hinge on expecting Republicans to take a stand for decency. The fight is to turn out the vote among people who already value decency in our elected leaders, in our American culture, and in our day-to-day  dealings with each other.

That is clearly not the party of Trump, Ryan, McConnell, the Koch brothers, Sheldon Adelson, the Mercers, and the rest of the Republican fold.

Post-Alabama Election: White Women Without College Degrees

There’s a lot to process in Doug Jones’ stunning defeat of Roy Moore for the Senate seat in Alabama. One of the voter statistics that fascinates me is that white women without a college degree voted for Moore by a margin of 50 points. I think that’s the same group that forms part of the core of Trump’s support. I’m wondering why? Do Trump and Moore remind them of their husbands, fathers, brothers? Are poorly educated white women used to be grabbed and groped, humiliated, disregarded, and do they identify with men in public life who act toward them as the men closest to them act? In other words, is Moore-Trump behavior in this part of the culture “normal”, and does it follow the principle that we vote for what we know?

I know a few college educated white women who are Trump supporters, and their motivation is different: they are drawn to patriarchal, authoritarian men. They like Trump, they tell me, because he makes them feel safe.

I get that, although I can’t imagine anyone objectively feeling safe with such an erratic, thin-skinned, and intellectually limited man who regards women as nothing more than eye candy. But when white women without a college degree are told by women like Senator Gillibrand that unwanted groping and kissing is not acceptable in any setting, and especially not in a public servant, and when that cohort of women fiercely resists the message, my curiosity is piqued.

What in the world goes on in the minds of these voters?

NAFTA and the Obesity Crisis

We think that exporting American values — at least the pre-Trump version of American values — is a good thing. For Mexico, the freeing up of the fast food trade via NAFTA has not been so great. The result has been a spike in obesity.

I’ve noticed the same trend in Panama. Back in the Peace Corps days, the late 1960’s, no one in the village had enough to eat, but what they did eat was fairly healthy: rice, beans, fish, bread, fruit picked from back yard trees. No vegetables other than starchy, root vegetables like yucca. No dairy. No junk food. No soda. Now, it’s not uncommon for kids to eat a bag of chips and an orange soda for breakfast. Men drink more beer, because their construction jobs give them more money to buy it.

This is Roberto Delgado, the father of five of Minga’s children, in the late 1960’s. He’s thin as a rail, which was common across the board. I won’t post pics of people now, so as not to shame anyone. But there aren’t many people as thin as Roberto any more. And it’s not a muscular bulking up; people are simply overweight.

Is Hot Dog a Sandwich?

I want your quick gut reaction: is a hot dog a sandwich, or no?

A neighborhood coffee shop offers a modest menu of lunch items, like soup and sandwiches and salad. As I got coffee and a bagel one morning during last week, the server manning the register asked me just that question: Quick reaction, yea or nay. Is a hot dog a sandwich? She said they were taking a poll.

Apparently the place is considering adding a hot dog under their sandwich offerings, and regulars are giving them the business over it, presumably tongue-in-cheek. A hot dog, say the majority, is not a sandwich.

I doubt that what patrons think one way or another will be the deciding factor. But I was happy to weigh in — no, I don’t think of a hot dog as a sandwich. I can’t tell you why, because it is legitimately a chunk of protein encased in bread and with condiments. That probably fits the definition of a sandwich. Regardless, a hot dog is a hot dog, and not a sandwich.

Your vote?

Conscious Aging: Washing Out Her Undies

I worked out yesterday at the downtown Y, and while I was washing my hands at a sink in the women’s locker room, a grey haired woman who might have been around my age was washing out her undies. She had a two-wheeled hand cart with her — the kind New Yorkers use to bring home their groceries — and it looked filled with dirty clothing. I suspect she was going to hand wash it all.

Likely the Y gives complementary memberships to a certain number of homeless women, or those who live in SRO’s with limited laundry and bathing facilities. The Y membership would help a lot. The women’s locker room has a whole bank of hot showers, ditto for sinks. The woman could spend quite awhile washing out her things and not interfere with anyone else using the facilitiies.

I wonder what she does with the wet laundry? They have huge industrial dryers on the same floor, to handle the towels that are provided for those of us who use the exercise floor. But I doubt they let members use the dryers for their wet clothes.

This was a small reminder of how hard life is for people who don’t have some pretty basic things, like access to hot water and a sink and soap. Winter has come to Seattle, and it’s now in the 30’s or low 40’s — reasonably cold. I wonder where this woman goes, when she leaves the warm lobby and bounces her cart down the half dozen stairs, with her cart full of wet clothes.

Christmas Generosity

One of my friends here in Seattle still sends print Christmas cards — these days I only get a half dozen, not the 60-70 that I used to get some years ago. Far fewer people send print cards, I don’t send any at all other than to my sisters and their husbands.

But the friend’s card arrived, as it has in past years, with two fifty dollar bills designated for Minga’s family in Panama. My friend has never met Minga, or any of the clan. My friend is simply a generous woman, and these fifty dollar bills are her way of making a difference. She leaves it to me to decide who the recipients should be.

This year, I’m going to give both fifty dollar bills to Minga, so that if she comes out of dialysis too weak or tired to take the bus home, she and whoever accompanies her can call a taxi. That will make a big difference. Minga has to leave Ita’s house by 7am to get to Dr. Arnulfo Arias Madrid Hospital, where the ambulatory dialysis center is located, by 8:30am. Then she gets her — hopefully — low number, so she gets in with the first group of fourteen. The first group is usually called late; when I was there, the 10am group began to be called at 11:30am. By then, Minga has had a long bus ride, a walk up the hill from the bus stop, and three hours of waiting. Then she has a half hour or so of being hooked up, then four hours of dialysis, then she gets unhooked, then she sits for a few minutes in the corridor outside and has something that her family has brought her to eat. Then she gets up and begins the trip home. A taxi, once in awhile, would be a great gift.

Thank you, Lisa, for your kindness and generosity.

The Alabama Special Election: A Sliver of Hope

Alabama voters pride themselves on making up their own minds according to their own values and culture — which, for Republicans, brought forth an accused pedophile to be a candidate for U.S.  Senator.

Roy Moore’s Alabama is George Wallace Alabama, the Birmingham Church bombing Alabama, the Montgomery bus boycott Alabama, lynching Alabama, Brown v. Board of Education Alabama. Doug Jones is the Alabama of the future.

Improbably, Democrat Doug Jones appears to have the win in this ruby red state. But the good old boys of Alabama are not conceding defeat, are demanding a recount. The law in Alabama requires a recount if the margin of victory is within .5%, but the margin here appears larger. The Moore campaign can ask for a recount in any case if they pay for it.

I think it’s called being a poor sport. I also think it’s a preview of what Trump will do if Robert Mueller finds cause either for indictment or impeachment, and the Congress carries out the latter. I think Trump would simply refuse to honor the findings.

These people are truly nihilists, willing to burn down the house if they don’t win.

I’m still cautiously optimistic and elated about Doug Jones. I say the victory sticks. It’s a sliver of hope in an otherwise dark time.