A Quick Religious Comparison: We’re Not So Different

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Remember when we were all kids who fought over whose mom made the best cookies, whose uncle belched the loudest, or whose dad was actually a super man? As we grew, we learned those petty points of contention were never going to be solved; everyone’s own mom, dad, or uncle were the best, at least by their own perception. It’s also likely they were probably all quite similar, just as many of the things we fight about as adults. Unfortunately, we no longer work out our angst with do-overs on the ballfield to prove who’s the best. Instead, we wage literal war against one another not only with words, but also real military weapons, fighting over whose god is best, or who is the most righteous.

While these deadly battles play out in villages and towns torn to shreds while children look on, the looming question is: what does any of this matter? Just like everyone’s dad was a superhero in his own right, each religion has their own important figure who is probably wonderful. Moreover, just like all the dads were similar in that they held similar positions: worker, father, provider, protector, each religion is strikingly similar.

Admittedly, this comparison leaves out a great many religions. It will not cover eastern or pagan religions. It completely excludes atheists and agnostics. The focus here is on the big three: Islam, Christianity, and Judaism. Why? The answer is pretty simple. We don’t see many wars fought over Buddha, nor do many Wiccans commit terrorists attacks in the name of a sacred crystal. That statement is only recognizing fact. It’s not meant to say any religion is superior.

Having an attitude of moral and spiritual superiority is what causes us to fight in the first place, so let’s put that aside to investigate how three religions are similar rather than constantly pointing out why one is right or wrong.

I’ve included a nifty Venn diagram I found on the net to help compare some of the bigger components. It’s not my own, but I think it’s fairly accurate. I also think we can add to it.

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As we can see, great parts of the beliefs are the same. Only a very few are different. There are some other similarities we can add:

Head coverings—
All three religions include some component of females covering their heads. Catholic nuns wear the habit, which includes a white coif. Married Orthodox Jewish women wear the tichel, or mitpachat. Lastly, Muslim women wear hijabs.
We tend to micro-focus on Islamic religions requiring head coverings for women, but as we can see, they are not the only ones. Furthermore, none of them feel oppressed when they wear them. It’s simply a part of their religious tradition.
We should also recognize it is not only women who cover their heads. Although the traditions vary and may not necessarily be religiously required, Muslim men may wear a prayer cap called the taqiyahs. Jewish men wear the kippah. Although men in Christian religions do not normally cover their heads, Roman Catholic cardinals regularly wear head coverings called the zucchetto and the biretta.

Beards—
Another common denominator betwixt the three is beards. No matter Jewish, Islamic, or Christian, beards can be required. Because of the media, we are more familiar with the Muslim beard, but the Old Order Amish also require beards, as do Orthodox Jews.

Modest Dress For Women-
While it seems Muslim women are the focus of many discussion concerning their modest form of dress, all three religions may require women to be covered and dressed in a modest fashion. This may include sleeves to cover elbows and dresses long enough to cover knees in the Orthodox Jewish and many Christian religions. It could also be a complete covering from shoulders to ankles in the Muslim and other religions. Regardless, the Islamic religion is not the only one to require women to cover themselves, especially if they are married.

• Raising Devout Children
Although we often hear words like “brainwashing” used to describe the way children are raised in the Muslim community, all three religions begin teaching children from birth, specifically when they are old enough to attend school, in the ways of their respective churches. The Catholic Church, in fact, provided all the education and educational materials for most of Europe until secularism gained popularity during the late 19th and early 20th century. While secular teaching was used as early as the late 17th century and was the subject of many philosophers like Locke and Voltaire, church-led education was still the standard until well past the Enlightenment. Yet today, if one so chooses, they might send their child to a Christian or Hebrew school. Muslims do not own the market on educating children in religion.

• Conflict—
There has been no shortage of conflict between the three religions. From the earliest crusades to now, the three have had obstacles between them. The Jewish and Christian communities do not have the long-lasting war we see between the Muslim and Jewish communities, but we cannot overlook the fact Hitler used religion against the Jewish community during the genocide he and others committed in WWII.

To say we have all been peaceful in our religious practice would be what we might now call an “alternative fact.” However, I’ve only listed a short amount of similarities here, omitting the similarities between these and other religions not listed. Why we continue this battle between whose religion is best astounds me. We’re all great in our own ways. We all have downsides. Most importantly, we’re all humans trying to attain the same thing.

It shouldn’t matter what word we assign for “God”. It shouldn’t matter on what day we worship. It shouldn’t matter what book we read the message from. All that should matter is if we would all stop killing each other, we might actually be living the way all three texts expect us to. If we all quit fearing one another, maybe we can see we’re more alike than we ever imagined.

( Since this is not meant as a scholarly paper for publication, I did not cite the information in this piece. All the data and facts are easily searchable, and most is basic common knowledge, anyway. The source of the diagram is watermarked inside the graphic.Thank you for reading. I’ll include a couple links in case you’d like to fact check me.
The history of secular education: http://science.jrank.org/pages/11240/Secularization-Secularism-History-Nature-Secularization-Secularism-1914.html
Islamic Male headcovering:https://www.reference.com/world-view/muslim-men-wear-heads-1cdc44449fd15f2f
Traditional clothing for Orthodox Jewish women:http://www.orthodox-jews.com/jewish-clothing-for-women.html#axzz4XS3f9gRB
)

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A Direct Response to Those who Say Women Had No Right to March:

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Social media has been abuzz with opinions in the past few days, mostly involving the women around the world who chose to march in response to, what many assume, is the election and inauguration of Trump. While I would never deny many of us are left feeling disenfranchised by the surreal reality of what’s transpired, let’s get one thing clear, he is not important enough alone to warrant these marches. He’s just gasoline on a pile of smoldering discrimination many experience every day.

For those, including women, who say women are not discriminated against in the US, there is apparently a disconnect between realities. It’s undoubtedly some level of privilege that allows some to say “I’ve never seen this or that”—a privilege many would love to live. However, to be clear, one person’s reality does not mean it is the realty for all. We cannot know what every woman in this nation experiences by glancing through our own windows. To be understood fully, we have to look through all the windows from every level—a task only possible by listening to the qualitative data—the voices—so many like to deny, or worse, squelch. Maybe some have never been mistreated or disrespected as females in the US, but some have. To say we American women have it made as a whole is a damaging misconception at best, a despicable lie at worst.

Here’s the truth many would like to shove off the playing field we call protest:

If you have never been humiliated, belittled, or damaged by the process of reporting a rape within the US, you do not get to say women & women’s rights are important here.

If you have never been slut shamed for wearing the clothes you choose, or worse, been blamed for your own sexual assault because of them, you do not get to say women are held in high regard.

If you have never been denied a medically necessary abortion because a group’s religious beliefs interfere with the process of medical care, you do not get to say women always have the right to choose.

If you have never tried to attain a promotion or raise in a male-dominated field without being told to “get in the kitchen, “ being forced to flirt, or being forced to perform sexual favors, you do not get to say women are treated equally.

If you have never had to fight your insurance company to cover preventative tests, like pap smears or cancer screenings, while insurance is regularly covering Viagra for impotence, you do not get to tell women their lives matter.

If you have never been forced to either abstain from sex or get pregnant, even in the context of a marriage, because you can’t afford the birth control your insurance won’t cover, you do not get to say women have the same choices as men.

If you have never become pregnant as the result of a rape, and then been forced to give your rapist visitation rights of that child, you do not get to tell women they have the same control as men.
If you have never reported domestic abuse, only to be asked what you did to make him mad, you cannot say women have equal protection.

If you have never had to fight your employer for maternity leave, a clean, private area & the time to pump breast milk for your child, you do not get to say the workplace is “woman friendly”.
If you have never had to tell a man you have a boyfriend to stop his advances because “I’m not interested, “ or “No” were not enough, you cannot say men value women’s opinions.

This is just a short list of the discrimination women face in the US. It doesn’t even begin to touch on intersectionallity, or the discrimation felt by other ethnic and religious groups. No, it’s not Saudi Arabia, Guatemala, or India. No, we do not have honor killings and female genital mutilation, although those things happen in the shadows. However, the argument that we don’t have it as bad as them is as ridiculous as saying someone with lung cancer shouldn’t complain because someone with brain cancer has it worse. It’s still cancer, which is exactly why women rose up to meet the occasion.

We stand and fight because a man who not only openly scoffs at, but promotes the degradation of women and other minorities represents the cancer that has lived so long within this country. Trump isn’t the only problem. It’s everything he represents. Sure, maybe he is a good businessperson. Maybe his failures are fewer than his successes, but it’s how he became successful we should worry about. The way he speaks, the way he openly degrades, women, people of color, Muslims, immigrants, and people who live with disabilities is sickening. To allow his presidency to become a larger reign of terror is to let us all implode.

You see, we don’t march so we can have casual Fridays, free cable, or even because we don’t like the word “pussy”. We march because when he says “grab,” “wall,” or “register,” we know what that connotes: assault fascism, and the end of the freedoms so many of us have fought for—not just for ourselves, but for ALL.

A Cycle of Abuse:Understanding Why Women Might Vote for Trump

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If there’s one thing I know, it’s the mindset of the abused woman: how we get there, why we stay there. I was an abused woman; it’s not just observation that gives me this insight. So, when I read this New York Times article about why women chose to vote for President elect Donald Trump, I heard the voices of so many women, myself included, who have excused an abuser’s bad behavior. Many of the reasons some of these women cite could come straight from an abused girlfriend’s or wife’s memoir.

One woman, Kasia Riddle, used the “good earner” excuse, stating the PEOTUS has “good business sense”. Pam Cornett said the words many abused women say when confronted by loved ones about their abusive significant other, telling others they shouldn’t categorize him: You “can’t put him in a box.” There were other varying reasons, but two were particularly bothersome and telling. Guzin Karide says she believes Trump is “a voice for women,” while Sandy Pearson is quoted as saying Trump is a “good man, deep down.” Pearson, from whom the headline of the article is taken, suggests her choice was easy when she would overlook the bad and “focus on the good.”

Women have been conditioned to “focus on the good” for centuries. We are taught from infancy to speak only kind words and to never mention someone’s negative attributes, no matter how bad they might be. Ladylike decorum trumps being truthful, pun not intended, but fitting. We’re even told to smile through pain and difficult situations; our menfolk don’t like to be uncomfortable due to our disapproving facial expressions. We’ve also been taught we don’t have a valid voice in the world. As Karide’s statement suggests, we need someone to be our voice—someone besides a female, someone who the world takes seriously: a man.

Despite our struggle to escape this unfortunate truth, the word of a man, even an abusive man, is worth far more to the world than the supposedly overly emotional, indecisive, misguided, shiftless voice of a woman, regardless of her level of experience or expertise. Thus the reason women for centuries have married men who mistreated them, stayed with their abusers, and focused on men’s “good” qualities instead of giving them the boot. After all, both men and women describe females who choose to be single as “damaged” and “faulty,” or even as “rabid feminists” not to be taken seriously. We don’t even trust other women, let alone expect men to see us in a different light.

Understanding the fact women still rely on men who leave them battered and broken emotionally, financially, and physically makes understanding why some women can look to Trump, and his plethora of male-centric supporters, as the “voice of women,” the man who will “Make American Great Again,” the “good man, deep down” who, regardless of his repulsive rhetoric and actions, will lead us into a financially and socially secure place as a nation. Men have inculcated women to not only ignore, but deny abusive actions and words in order to protect the patriarchy and its power. Escaping this harsh truth is difficult at best.

American women who speak out about their decision to vote for Trump are reminiscent of the hundreds of women I’ve spoken with who try to excuse their abusers.

He only wants what’s best for me. It’s my fault he has to be so harsh.”
“He’s not that bad once you get to know him.”
“He really loves me. He just sounds mean.”
“He didn’t really lie. He just didn’t tell me the whole truth because he knew I’d overreact. ”
“He’s better than someone else who might abuse me worse.”

I’ve heard the stories over and again—different voices, same plot. Women who’ve decided to vote for Trump are largely the same. Just as we shouldn’t judge a woman whose significant other punches them in the face, we shouldn’t judge the women who choose to support Trump. Instead, this should open a new dialogue. Maybe if we changed the way we taught women to respect men and excuse their abuse, these supporters would have viewed our President Elect through different eyes. Maybe if we taught women not to accept misogyny,they wouldn’t accept it from the man who will be in a position of power strong enough to diminish all we’ve fought to achieve.

Appealing To Fear: A Man Named Trump

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How could anyone be drawn to someone toxic? We’ve all asked that question so many times about people in abusive relationships. As so many people are caught under the spell of all things Trump, I can’t help but wonder the same question. It’s like an entire part of our Nation’s population is bemused by the words of a man who the rest of us want to warn them about. “No. Don’t pick him. He’ll only hurt you.” He doesn’t even hide his abusive nature very well; he makes openly misogynistic, racist remarks on live television for the entire world to hear. The curious thing isn’t that he says these things. What’s interesting is why so many listen in earnest.

Donald Trump has an appeal. He’s confident. His face is stern, fatherly maybe. He nearly sweats masculinity, and he doesn’t mince words. His reputation as a wealthy, successful businessman proceeds him, making him seem like an authority figure. Many look to Trump as a great leader because of his authoritative appeal, but there is something lurking beneath the surface they may not see.

Trump is a businessman. He knows how to pitch a good business plan, even when it’s not so good. He can make the sale, obviously. There is no doubt he has summed up his audience and their desires in order to make the sale. What he found when surveying a group he knew would buy into his pitch were people who had been terrified. They were fed up with terrorist attacks, and they wanted a solid solution. I mean, we all want a solution, right? The problem is that some folks are looking for a definitive solution to an equation without an easy, workable solution. He also found an underground of supporters who love his politics because it aligns with their own racist ideals. No doubt they want him because it helps them implement their own sickening agendas, and further resist the push for equality.

Another part of his appeal is his overtly masculine demeanor. People want protection. They’re looking for a daddy figure to roll in and save the day much like children being bullied on a playground. Trump stands up with his unapologetic “I’ll get ‘em at all cost” attitude, and people are more than willing to buy what he’s selling. Of course his logic is, at the very least flawed, and at the worst racist and misogynistic, but his supporters only see a protector. What they fail to recognize is his “plans” could crumble and divide this entire Nation. The underbelly of our country, ripe with racist agendas, would say the Nation is already destroyed because their white authority has been threatened, but they would say that until every person of color was back in chains. They’d love to have a man like Trump to help them get there, and so far, Trump seems like their fearless leader. At this point, though, he has only suggested  vague policies that are impossible to implement from the outset, and would enrage and alienate a large portion of our population, not to mention the rest of the world, causing increased violence.

He isn’t the first person to run on the guise of triumphing over fear. Unfortunately, so did Mussolini and Hitler. We can all see how those regimes ended, and I don’t think the American people want to follow in those tragic historical footsteps. Avid Trump supporters need to wake up and realize that their Wannabe Daddy will bring more harm than he ever will good. He’s only appealing to their fearful sides, and fueling a fire of racism, discrimination, and hate. Trump isn’t offering working policies for the betterment of the American people any more than the dad who threatens to beat up an 11 year old bully is. He’s no more than a mouthpiece looking to profit from the fears and insecurities of American citizens. If elected, he will without doubt, become the abusive parent from whom we will have difficulty separating ourselves. He’s already shown us the signs with his debasing, pejorative language and overbearing attitude. What Trump hates is logic. It’s his kryptonite. While his supporters call what he says “Truth,” his words are not only not true, they aren’t even close. We do not need to be led by a man who refuses to work in facts and logic. We don’t need a father figure, either. What we need is someone who leads by intelligence. The solutions are out there. Trump isn’t it. The quicker his supporters come to terms with the fact he will only harm them, the better off we’ll all be.

 

(Cover image source: http://www.bustle.com/articles/119046-donald-trump-hair-makeup-tutorials-for-halloween-2015)

Marketing A Culture: Genocide, Racism, and The “Others”

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We want to talk about racism in the past tense like it was something that happened rather than something that is happening. No one likes to admit that while we can send an expedition to Mars, our country still cannot overcome this disease that’s plagued us since the inception of our nationhood. Like smallpox, racism came across the ocean from Europe to infect a land and a people who had never been exposed to its deadly effects. While it’s true the indigenous people of the US were not always peaceful amongst themselves, slavery and racism was as foreign to them as the other diseases brought here by the settlers. Sure, we’d like to say none of that is relevant in 2015. It only takes this one picture to prove otherwise.

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Normally the discourse of racism is centered on either African American lives or the lives of immigrants, and it’s true that those groups are subject to hate even yet today. However, the one group’s voice no one seems to hear is that of the very Native Americans from whom this country was stolen.

It’s a historical fact that Native Americans were taken from the shores of this country as slaves long before any Anglo Saxon settled. It’s also a historical fact that Columbus, while never setting foot in the United States of America, did enslave and kill countless Native people to our south. In fact, the whole idea of slavery hit our shores because Columbus designed the idea of enslaving Native people on the sugar plantations he started. Most of us know Columbus was no hero—he was just an attention seeker, lost in the world, trying to make a fortune. In the process, he committed genocidal acts. Without recounting the entire history of the US, suffice it to say Native people have been treated in the same manner as any other minority: they have been enslaved, forced to assimilate, and made into a group of “others” pushed aside and largely forgotten.

Ask my grandson who the Indians are and where they live. He is in kindergarten, and the only conversation he has really had about Thanksgiving is what he’s learned from his public school education, so he will answer “I think they’re out in the woods looking for food still”. We correct his school-led misguidance at home, but many kids don’t know any better. “Indians” are still portrayed as wild, uncivilized heathens who hunt wild animals under the cover of the forest. It’s sickening. No one tells these children the truth, but the school mascot of my grandson is the “Brave” complete with headdress, so they do learn it’s supposedly acceptable to appropriate the very culture Europeans tried so hard to eradicate. Call them uncivilized. Steal their culture when it suits our needs. That’s the Anglo-Saxon way, apparently.

Which brings me back to the picture. While walking through a Wal-Mart store (a place I despise, but that’s a different article for a different time, but yet another solid reason to boycott them), I noticed this bow and arrow hanging out for display. We’re a small, largely agricultural community, so archery equipment and guns are typical here. That’s not what bothered me. It isn’t the aspect of hunting that bothered me, either. My own family hunts. What astounded me enough that I snapped a picture were the words “Lil Sioux”.  Those words punched straight through my brain into my soul. There they were in big, bold letters as if buying this plastic archery set would somehow transform the child for whom it was purchased into a Native American, and not just a random Native American, but a Sioux. It can’t be lost that many associate the strong Sioux leaders of Sitting Bull or Red Cloud with the picture of what they believe all Native people to be. Seeing this inanimate object hanging there as if one can buy what real Native hunters and warriors spent a lifetime learning made my skin crawl. It was culture for sale. Moreover, it was more false ideas of what being Native really means, as if all Indigenous people are just running around with bows. It wasn’t lost on me that while someone decided to market how great it is to be a Sioux warrior, one great Sioux warrior remains falsely imprisoned as a political prisoner yet today, having been imprisoned since the late 1970s, Leonard Peltier. We will never admit that in a public display at Wal-Mart, though. Nope. We’ll just continue to market a culture for white profit whilst committing cultural genocide on the very people from whom we steal.

I wish I could tell my grandson that racism “was,” but instead I have to tell him that it “is”. I can’t look at a display such as this and think any differently. Had this been a different type of display with pejorative, racist term about another ethnicity, it surely would have been removed. It probably would have never been displayed at all, although that’s debatable. What is glaringly obvious is that we, as a Nation, refuse to recognize our racist underbelly. We hide the seeds of racism in areas many never look, one of which is the Native American community. We let them lie nearly dormant there while we steal away from an entire people what is their own: their identity. Racism hasn’t been eradicated. Hell, it’s not even close to being wiped away. The seeds of racism are still here, hidden away in store displays and mascots, team and school names, classroom discussions and lessons, movies and depictions. One need not search hard to find them. All we have to do is open our eyes to the real meaning behind the words before us in bold print. The very people we owe our success to—we took all the land and resources from them after all, we continue to disparage, and as long as we let these seeds stay buried in our treatment of one people, they will vine out to all people. Don’t think racism matters because it doesn’t affect you?  Just wait. The finger will point at you one day, too.

 

(Cover photo via: https://awakeningthehorse.files.wordpress.com/2014/07/culturalappropriation1final.jpg)

Addiction Culture: Private Prisons & Creating the Addict

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Today I read a disappointing clip in the local paper’s list of arrests reporting a person I remember from school being arrested for heroin. In another section was a huge write up about a local drug bust. Most everyone denounces the former person while applauding the latter, and I suppose there’s some reason, but before we clap too loudly about the sweeping drug arrests, let’s get real.

Living in reality, we must realize the fact that we can arrest a million drug dealers, but it solves nothing. We can lock them away, throwing away the key along with their freedoms, but it doesn’t matter. So long as there is demand you can just know for certain there will be a supply. The war on drugs is, and always was, a façade. It is impossible to implement and win simply because we aren’t addressing the real issue of addiction.

Our country has a drug problem, don’t get me wrong, but it’s more of a people problem. We need to figure out how to help addicts fix their lives so there is no more demand—and jail isn’t the answer. All jailing addicts does is feed an ever growing privatized jail and prison system with an insatiable greed that will only be whetted with more inmates.  Making our system of incarceration profitable made justice in its truest sense impossible. These people rarely get a fair shake, and nearly never have the opportunity to address their addiction issues that are generally wrapped up in comorbidity. They’re these huge multifaceted problems so interlaced only dealing with one cures nothing. Meanwhile, suppliers look at addicts as the customers who keep their pseudo-pharmacies alive. This doesn’t even address the addiction culture we create by medicating young children. Yet, here we are locking people away, creating felons who have difficulties securing employment and housing post incarceration, and will probably reoffend because they can’t deal with their addictions.

No. This country doesn’t need more jails and prisons—especially not private, for-profit institutions. We don’t need to hate and blame addicts for our ills. Our country needs to decide why we hate each other and our own lives so much. We need to realize that of the 355 mass shootings this year, only 4 were committed by those who had a blood feud against Americans. The rest were by Americans who hated other Americans—domestic terrorism. What we need to address is a need to understand why we hate each other so much. We need to know why we hate life so much we’d rather self-medicate than enjoy each day. Maybe it’s the disease of capitalistic greed creeping into our brains. Maybe it’s the fact we’re overworked and underpaid. Maybe it’s income disparity. Or, just maybe, it’s the fact we never deal with problems as they come, but instead blame everyone but ourselves. No matter, criminalizing addiction is like blaming the smoker for his cancer. Yes, in part, it was a choice, but it’s still a disease in need of a cure nonetheless.

 

(Image Source: http://www.freeenterprisewarriors.com/free-warrior-blog/jims-blog/dealingwithaddiction/)

Washing Laundry in The Bathtub

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Being both a writer and a woman who was once a teenage mom, I’m often asked: “If you could write a letter to your 16 year old self, what would it say?”

The answer is always the same: “Don’t worry. You’ll own your own washer and dryer one day.”

No. I never want to tell myself about living fairy tales—whether involving Prince Charming stories or Ugly Duckling tales. I always default to self-reliance, and simply finding that place in life where I’m finally “okay”.  This probably all seems strange, but when you’ve been where I have, you understand the glory of doing laundry.

See, I spent a great deal of my life lying to folks about my financial status. Not because I wanted to mislead anyone, mind you. Just because I was raised believing “Poor” is a self-chosen social disease we should look down upon. When I fell squarely under the heading myself, shame overcame me. I told the tales of my “having” days, but rarely did I speak of when I was a “have not”.

My childhood was privileged with private schools, all the nice clothes and toys, boats, new cars, nice homes, and upstanding parents. This changed during my parents’ divorce when I was 13-14. My mom left with little or nothing. When my father decided it best for me to live with her, I shared in her nothing, and we ended up on public assistance. Shortly thereafter, due to my parents being the typical divorced parents in the mid-1980s who only worried about one-upping each other and who they were dating/marrying, I led a mostly unsupervised life. My son was born 5 days prior to my 16th birthday.

Dad refused to provide any level of support to us, financial or otherwise. Mom moved out, and there I was, son in tow, with absolutely nothing. No phone. No cable. No car. I had my feet and determination, but that was about the extent of our resources.

Our apartment, rented in my mother’s name, but occupied only by my son and I, did not include a washer and dryer. There was a common pay per load laundry facility in the middle building. When you’re living off $3.15 an hour (minimum wage then), even trying to pay the meager amount of rent, electric, and still buy food takes every dime. I really didn’t have the dollar or so it would have cost me to wash a load of laundry. I realize that seems silly, but it’s one of those aspects of poverty one can only understand when they’ve been there. If only I’d been taught this in childhood, maybe the shock wouldn’t have been so bad, but I digress.  Washing laundry, then, was a matter of physical labor only women pre 20th century might understand.

Each night I would kneel at my bathtub, fill it with water and pink, generic dish soap (rarely could I afford laundry detergent) and dump our small basket of laundry in to soak. After they’d set for long enough, I’d begin the job of scrubbing each piece of clothing by hand, rinsing, re-rinsing, and wringing out the water. It was a painstaking process. My fingers often became so dry they’d bleed from doing something that, in 1989, most people did without even a thought, let alone physical effort. On the weekends, the laundry included towels and bedsheets. By Monday, my hands would look like I’d spent a month in the snow sans gloves.

When the day finally came that I could afford the laundry mat, I felt like a millionaire. No joke. I loved going to wash clothes because that meant the skin on my hands would remain, and my clothes wouldn’t be stretched out and sour smelling from hanging on the shower curtain rod to dry overnight.

Eventually, I moved out of an apartment, and into my own home. My very first home purchase was made at Sears with an unbelievable amount of joy: A brand new washer and dryer! Yes. I could simply walk down the hallway, drop clothes in the top, push the button, and trot off to help my kids (3 of them by then) with homework. I could even afford laundry detergent. Liquid laundry soap, even!  Queen of Sheba!

My life has changed so much over 43 years. I’ve gone from being part of a family with more money than most, to abject poverty, to doing okay.

I own my own little piece of the Earth, now. It’s meager and small, but I it’s mine free and clear, and I love it.

I’m doing what I love most: Studying. Momming. Writing.

Although I’ve long since replaced that first washer and dryer, I’m still doing laundry in the manner I’d dreamed. I even have a clothesline so, in the summer, my bed linens smell fresh and nice. My kids are happy, healthy adults. I’m a grandma now. Life in general is pretty great. I’ve even almost finished my college degree.

When people ask me what that degree means to me, I never answer status or fulfilling a family legacy.

I simply say: It means I’ll be able to leave a legacy for my kids—to show them that just because you’re skinning your knuckles today doesn’t mean you always will. With enough hard work and determination, you’ll realize your dreams, too.

Hard work and determination are the two resources we Poor People will always have. They can’t take those from us, mostly because they never believed we had them to begin with.

(image source: http://www.howtocleanstuff.net/how-to-hand-wash-clothing/)