Years ago a colleague promised to move to Canada, “if George W. Bush is elected President of the United States.” Hers was not the only promise heard. Others made a similar screed – promising, promising, promising to move, – flat out leave. When she (Debora Perkey) drew her proverbial line in the sand, I questioned her decision, not at all looking askance to the Canadians; mind however was a different concern. “How on earth are you going to survive during the cold months?” Her tale of why she moved to the Houston area from Pennsylvania burdened my memory, forever ingrained as the core of my question. She cared little for my concerns, curtly responding, “I will tolerate it.” I must admit however, Debora differed from others, making good the promise, changing professions, moving after the Canadian government approved her papers.
I always wondered, but never said it, what would moving accomplish? I saw what she saw. I heard what she heard. I lived her frustrations. Fearing the continual assault the election results wrought, seeing the nation move to the right, then backward; seeing the familiar mask, masking true intent, talking in code, invoking class and race. Compelled to take flight, taking flight she did, moving from Galveston to Vancouver, changing professions, tolerating Mother Nature’s differing breath. Always questioning, always wondering, what did the move accomplish?
There have been a number of stories reported recently of celebrities making similar declarations – Lena Dunham, Samuel Jackson, Molly Cyrus, Whoopi Goldberg, Eddie Griffin, Cher – are some I remember reading making declarations. Declaration designed to make a point, at times the speaker seemed deadly serious, a few casts humor with their declaration, others seemingly made their statement to direct attention their way. Each capable of moving, each blessed with the fruits and rewards of their industry, promising to flee while ignoring societal truths and life’s persistent dance. Whether one, two, any of them moves or not is not why I muse. The gnawing which existed when Debora said what she said still exists, wondering still, what will the move accomplish?
“All politics is local” has been assigned to the late Tip O’Neill. I always interpreted Speaker O’Neill’s adage to mean that no matter the office occupied, the position held, the issue before his body (United States House of Representative), politics reduced to its most basic level percolates locally, extending, reaching and touching the daily lives of each of us – you, me, them – friends, enemies.
Recently a British publication (Independent) reported that Texas’ infant mortality rate is the highest in the developed world. An article published by Mother Jones described Texas as “one of the most dangerous places in the world to have a baby.” A New York Times’ article assigned the increase to drastic cut of funding for Planned Parenthood by the state, “The study did not offer a clear cause for the dramatic increase, but the spike coincided with a 66 percent slash to family planning funds in the 2011 state budget. The cuts forced 82 family planning clinics to close — a third of which were Planned Parenthood clinics — leaving Texas women’s health programs able to serve less than half the women they served previously.”
When reading, I again saw what Debora saw. I also found myself repeating her frustrations. Seeing politicians obscene aversion to the poor, refusing federal dollars for health care; seeing her State government send back to the federal government money designed to address housing for the poor (both urban and rural families); seeing abortion made a political position, watching the shifting, turning which takes place when the fetus is birthed, pretending the State possesses a magic wand that allows it to meet the needs of its citizens solely with volunteers, prayer, Texan mojo and waving the wand at a ninety degree angle.
Texas’ Low Income Housing and Information Service in a December 2009 report entitled, USDA RURAL HOUSING SERVICE IN TEXAS: TURNING AWAY FROM THE POOR explained: “In 2008 and 2009 Texas was one of only a handful of states to return unused federal funding for the 502 Direct loan program. We estimate Texas returned as much as $14.2 million of funding in 2009 and is on track to return additional funds allocated to the state through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Texas ranks between Rhode Island and North Dakota in spending Recovery Act Direct funds.” The report further provided: “[t]he purpose of the Direct Rural Housing Service single family housing loan program is ‘to provide low- and very low-income people who will live in rural areas with an opportunity to own adequate but modest, decent, safe, and sanitary dwellings and related facilities.’ This is referred to as a ‘direct’ loan program because USDA Rural Development funds the loan directly from its appropriations and directly services the loan. The program is often referred to as the ‘502’ Direct Loan program because it was authorized in Section 502 of the Housing Act of 1949.” We can pretend Texas has no poor, and that since 2009, the problems has been solved – it has not. We can also pretend that decedent, safe and sanitary housing exists in the State for all of Texas’ citizens – we can also pretend Harry Potter is real.
The second societal truth can’t necessarily be assigned to anyone. It is a life lesson. Run – move – quit – the problems will still exists. Babies will continue to be birth. Life, time, fate means we will continue to die – ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Somebody, somewhere will say something, do something, take an action designed to insult the most of us, while pretending to be one of us. You will be able to see their clothes under the wool – other may not, seemingly blinded – and no matter how many times you scream wolf, they will ignore you.
With births and deaths, we are permitted, if we are lucky to continue the fight, no matter the consequences, no matter the results of a given election. So that you are clear, this muse is not designed to hate on anyone capable of moving, nor is it designed to express a position seeking to prevent ones right of right of free movement. No, no, no, I dare not be so short-sighted.
The status quo will continue to be the status quo unless we extend a foot preventing the door from shutting. Absolutely, we are free to place one foot in the front of the other (instead of the crack of the door) and flee, moving from one particular locale to another – even to the supposed safe confines of Canada; apparently the favorite country of attribution. Proclaiming, declaring, exculpating the wrong, stating our intent to move post-haste – fleeing. Yes, we can.
The last of life’s lessons – some can’t move, deprived of the freedom of movement – history, class, race – trapped. For some moving is outside of the world of possibilities – satisfied, blinded by their station in life, seeing nothing wrong, sublimely content. Then there are the others – flat-out refusing to move – unwilling to acquit the sins of life, and history because of an election loss. Continuing to slip a foot in the works; pointing, screaming, participating, yelling, calling a sumbitch a sumbitch when they see a sumbitch, hearing Tip O’Neill’s admonitions ring in their ears as they wish their fleeing compatriots well.
So I muse.