Poverty, Christmas Lights, and Dear Prudence


Our Christmas decorations came down today. It was over 60 degrees, so it felt like we left them up until April. I miss looking out my window from my office and seeing the lights come on at dusk. The lights shine a hope that I think we all need each day. I wish it was okay to leave them up all year long. Either way, I have my flag on the house, so I have to look there for hope. And yes, only after someone pointed it out, we did realize that the Christmas lights look a bit like a very elongated pig.

My Country – Thomas R. Hazard, Poverty, and the “Insane Poor”

povertyToday’s entry in An Almanac of Liberty focused on a man I had never heard of: Thomas R. Hazard. On January 22, 1851, Hazard submitted a report to the Rhode Island General Assembly on the treatment of the poor and the insane. In reporting on the conditions, he noted that they were put into dungeons with break and water for fighting or swearing and condemned the practice of “venduing” the poor.

“Venduing” the poor meant that for any individual who could not take care of themselves, the person was placed in a home. According to Mass Moments, a majority of these individuals were widowed women and children. Hazard noted that generally the poor went to the lowest bidder and were treated worse than cattle. He detailed the life of Joshua Babcock, who froze to death after being purchased as on of these auctions. As a sheep farmer, he knew bad conditions. Hazard later worked on anti-slavery measures, in addition to helping the poor and the mentally ill.

Today, we still treat the poor poorly. We also ignore them. Approximately 13% of our country lives in poverty and 33% live close to the poverty lines. Food stamps are a punch line with many arguing they get too much. Minimum wage jobs are still considered the work of after-school teenagers, when 89% of those who would benefit from a federal minimum wage increase to $12 per hour are age 20 or older, and 56% are women.

We may not be selling our poor to become basically property of the wealthy, but instead we ignore them and castigate anyone who may not make enough money to support their family. As Hazard plead, the treatment was “revolting alike to community humanity and to every precept of the Christian religion.”

Daily Briefing – I Even Read About Poverty Issues

  • Day two – and at least five lies at one press conference.
  • A new phrase – alternative facts. Or as Chuck Todd called them: falsehoods.
  • Gaslight isn’t just a movie. It “is a form of manipulation through persistent denial, misdirection, contradiction, and lying in an attempt to destabilize and delegitimize a target.”
  • Trempealeau, WI – today’s game may have upset them; we shall see if the President does.
  • Gregg Popovich makes me want to watch basketball.
  • I don’t think I could ride any of these elevators.
  • Interesting poverty research on what works.


Daily Distraction

This was always going to be the hardest party of this blog style. I have to make time to think of something and put the energy in writing about it. It’s easy to take the Almanac, look up poverty issues, and write down a few hundred words. It’s basically a school essay. But to distract myself…and on a Sunday, where my day is usually incredibly full. It’s difficult. I could write about some comics but nothing jumps to mind. I could write about A Face in the Crowdbut it would be too political.

Instead, while we took down the Christmas tree, Brian and I listened to the podcast we like to listen to together: Dear Prudence. In short, Slate has had an advice columnist for as long as I can remember. And now, it is in podcast form (in addition to two installments per week). Brian and I like to listen to this while we drive because we talk about the issues, ask if the other was the one who wrote the letter, and pause it easily due to its short discussion approach. If you like advice columns and enjoy someone who can make light out of but also take seriously every issue presented, this would be a good forty-five minutes per week.

One Sentence Story

Put the mangled raccoon with the new one so that we never forget.

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