Saturday, August 1, 2015

CRIME AND POVERTY

Picture from a site which sells gang tours of LA. 
Typical media merging of crime and poverty for profit. 

I deeply resent the current association of crime with poverty by rich Neo-Liberals and religious Republicans. Suddenly crime is excused as an automatic result of poverty. This is utter nonsense. 

Despite being White and old, I have also been young and poor. When I rejected my working class family of origin after they physically and psychology abused me for being gay, I was 20 years old and had very little money in the bank. That money soon evaporated due to the scarcity of decent employment during the recession of the early 1970's. I lived from meager paycheck to meager paycheck. But I worked at whatever would yield a paycheck. I did not start selling drugs or robbing convenience stores. 

Many of us in the early Gay Liberation movement were poor, unlike the lobbyist-supporting married gay couples of this time. We demonstrated on the streets peacefully. We did not have money to build flashy floats or corporate-styled banners. We did not fly around to international circuit parties. Despite being persecuted as criminals all over the world throughout history, we also did not exploit the weapons of rioting and looting, even though our brothers and sisters in Manhattan had broken through heterosexual consciousness at Stonewall by rioting. We were poor, but we were not criminals. It took the de facto pardoning of the assassin of one of our greatest leaders, Harvey Milk, to cause a riot. 

Every week there are shootings and stabbings in Boston's minority neighborhoods. Many spokespersons in the political realm are quick to explain this violence as an inevitable outgrowth of poverty. I don't buy it. Why? Because I converse with people who live in those communities regularly. They are the clerks and customers at my local shopping center. They are hard-working people, like the people I came from. And many of them are poor by American standards. Many of them are women, who had children at too young an age. Equating their poverty with the criminal acts of sociopaths is an insult to their hard efforts to make their lives better against massive odds.

The back story of equating poverty with crime in the political realm and in media is simple. Politicians know that Americans will never cough up enough tax dollars to abolish crime or poverty. So, it is self-serving for them to shrug and conflate the two. They can then walk away from the podium and do nothing about either problem. The media are loathe to accept responsibility for the exploitation of crime stories for profits. They are loathe to look at the social impact of their exploitation of gang rap or drug culture for profits. The media love to exploit poverty stories as well. The weeping mother of seven with no teeth at 30 is enshrined like a saint without any follow-up stories about women, poverty, sex education and planned parenthood. It is more likely that her story will be followed by lauding coverage of the birth of quintuplets to a rich women who used IVF. 

Being born poor in America is most often a life sentence. All the touting of entrepreneurial salvation in megachurches only makes the preacher richer and the suckers who pay him poorer. It's an old and proven con game, practiced over and over again on Sundays in impoverished minority communities coast to coast. And who has the ear of politicians and media in those communities? Pastors. Is there any question why the most religious among us are also the poorest, not by choice, but by indoctrination? And is there any wonder why some in those communities turn to enraged criminal violence when they are awakened to the con game? 

Crime is a choice, but most often poverty isn't. They are not intrinsically linked. The greatest crime in a wealthy nation is to ignore the causes of both and do nothing. That is the white-collar crime of the rich and powerful. 

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