Tuesday, 22 SEP 2015 :: Immigration, Poverty, and America

It is hard to concentrate on a blog post right now... I have the local PBS station on (OPB) and the program I am watching is highlighting the lives of four young people in Salinas, CA, which is near very rich communities and called the "salad bowl" for agriculture.  The young people being explored are all Hispanic.

The first thing I noticed is the average income level cited ... less than $12K a year... which I understand.  In my life, with all my different efforts, I don't think I have even reached that level of income.  In harvest season, one worker stated that they work long hours all seven days of the week, and that there are no white people in the fields.

This is why I don't understand the use of government funds for people who make five to ten to twenty times the amount that really poor people survive on.  The political cries for the "middle class" included people making $250K a year.  That is not poverty.  Our government does not want safety nets for the most needy, but they do want safety nets for people with $250K to spend each year.

The next thing I noticed was that living in remodeled garages seemed to be the norm, at least for the agricultural workers.  Some farm workers were living in parts of motel rooms, paying as much as one would pay for a small apartment in most cities, with no kitchen that I could see. 

Lately, in America, I have been hearing the term "gentrification" in reference to housing issues.  I understand it means that affordable housing is being replaced with high-rent apartments, leaving low-income families without any options for decent places to live.  I don't know if poor people really understand the words that are coined for conversations about them.  I know that my own search for housing alternatives that low-income families might be able to BUY, instead of rent, makes me wonder what the goal of our society is.

In one short hour we were given a brief look into the lives of four people who are trying to create a different life for themselves, in America.  It is always important to share the hope that exists in serious problems.  That is done with people who find a way through, even when their family members don't.

The problems mentioned, most associated with poverty, some with the devastation of addictions, are the same ones we are hearing more and more news stories about ::
  • gang cultures
  • addictions
  • single-parent families
  • lost educations
  • few opportunities
  • feelings of futility
One of the voices of authority in the film mentioned that you don't see gangs in affluent areas... that wealthier areas may still have crime, but not gangs. (I'm sure that will change as gangs get wealthier.)  Two of the families in the program, that I noticed so far, have lost one of their siblings to gang violence.

The tears that come with memories are hard to stop... farm worker families hurt, too.

Families with faith in GOD held on to their faith in midst of the hard times they had to endure, and it helped them to cope. I know that connection, too.  Without something bigger than yourself to believe in, the world can get very discouraging. 
We have to see a connection with the future to make it through
the very rough paths we have to cross today. 

I cannot imagine where my life might have led if I didn't have my faith to keep drawing me back to what was right and what was good and what mattered most of all.  I don't think we understand the benefits of faith in America.

When I watch the news, I see a confusing mix of ideas about religion.  Most of the media staff don't seem to have any basis of faith in their own lives, so they can't really report on the faith of others.  Instead of understanding the lives of those in their reports, the news becomes a way to advocate for their own prejudices, the agendas they want to "win."  The serious issues that are becoming a turning point for America and the world are lost to the social battles at stake in their lives.

Immigration is associated with welfare and food stamps, not people who work hard and struggle just as much as we do.  Religion become child sexual abuse, moral failings, violence and war, territorial disputes, discrimination, a women's rights issue, and other politically-heated topics, not the reason for most of the improvements in our world, or the source of mercy and goodness, or strength, or law-abiding citizens.  A budget crisis become a war on the services offered to poor people and the lack of tax incentives for the "middle class" instead of being an opportunity to create a permanent path for all poverty households in the future... and accountability for the choices government has made.

I didn't plan to be poor all my life, but there were issues that wasn't prepared to deal with so I had to find a way through.  It was my faith that helped me keep going, and led me to a purpose bigger than me.  I just hope I can get it started before I die.