Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Got Patriotic?

As the beginning of 2006 unfolds along with the characteristic January rains that occur in California; rains that are not really rains, but more like gallons of water in giant barrels that are dumped suddenly upon one’s head; rains that kill anyone unfortunate enough to be homeless and seeking shelter in the concrete architectural mystery that calls itself the Los Angeles River; rains that cause people’s homes to go careening down hillsides into other people’s yards, only to be rebuilt by the insurance companies so that they may slide another year – I am brought to think about and consider the word of the day that was delivered to my email by the Oxford English Dictionary.

refuse, a. and n.2

Now according to Oxford, who are experts in these matters of words and their meanings – let’s first take a look at the definition that falls under the adjective:

A. adj: Rejected or thrown aside as worthless or of little value; discarded, useless:

Now let’s take a look at the second definition that pops up under the noun:

B. n.
1. That which is cast aside as worthless; rubbish or worthless matter of any kind; the rejected or rubbishy part of anything.

2. The worthless or outcast portion of some class of persons; the scum, offscourings, dregs, etc.

Huh. So the term refuse also refers to actual human beings. Well, our country got a fine example of the treatment of people fitting that definition during various disasters of 2005 – and there’s a lot going on around our great nation that still drives the point home. People in our country who are considered worthless by others will be treated as the “rejected or rubbishy part of anything;” i.e. old tires, coffee grounds, poor children, etc. One way to let people know that they are not of worth to society is exemplified by grocery store chains that refrain from opening stores in poor and depressed neighborhoods. For example, if one drives to South Central Los Angeles, one will find one solitary Ralph’s on Slauson Avenue that services the entire region populated by hundreds of thousands of people – whereas there are three within a one mile radius in the West Hollywood/Hollywood area alone to service the greater buying power of the predominantly white area.

Poor areas have small privately owned liquor and food marts that are more expensive due to the store owners’ inability to purchase supplies at the discounts given to large chains that do their purchasing in bulk. Since the L.A. Riots, there are even fewer of these stores, which were largely owned by Korean merchants who have since left the area.

In St. Louis, Missouri – where I have spent a fair amount of time recently, the supermarket chain “Schnuck’s” has simply closed what few stores they had in the poor neighborhoods – leaving those neighborhoods with only a few small, poorly stocked, privately owned markets to service the entire area.

I guess “Refuse” like the people poor enough to live in these areas don’t spend enough money to make it a profitable venture.

Upon driving through these areas, I am further touched by the condition of the buildings and residences that were, at one time, beautiful examples of creative architecture and craftsmanship. If one looks beyond the broken, boarded up, rat and refuse infested facades, one can actually imagine a once beautiful and thriving area surrounded by beauty. I know for myself that depression makes it hard to do anything to improve one’s surroundings – let alone summon up the energy to take out the trash – so when witnessing depression on a grand scale, it is an overwhelming experience and not one that should be ignored as it is presently. Take a look.

This area I’ve pictured has no grocery store, very few eating establishments and even fewer businesses. It does however, have this billboard:

Here’s an idea that I’d like to run with, and perhaps anyone reading this might jump on board. Let’s drive to our local “bad neighborhood” and take some photos. Since emails to our government officials do not get opened if they contain attachments, this little project would involve printing out said photos and paying for postage. I propose sending a little Shame On Us letter to our state governor, with the accompanying photos, with a proposal that our state implement a secondary form of voluntary service that is non-military. A service that, like the military, will enable those who volunteer to get money for a college education, medical benefits and special loans to purchase homes. There is nothing wrong with volunteering for the military – but there needs to be another choice – and since it is predominantly the people from these neighborhoods that volunteer, they should have another choice of voluntary service that does not necessarily mean they might be killed. These volunteers, for a two-to-four year stint, would be responsible for rebuilding our nation’s neighborhoods – restoring and rebuilding the original architecture to preserve and honor the artistry and craftsmanship that once existed in this country – and, literally, rebuild America. This means that the newly restored neighborhoods don’t get to drive out the existing population to make way for “gentrification” and luxury prices – but they remain affordable to those people who live there so they can remain, open businesses, galleries for local artists, clubs for local musicians, offices, restaurants, etc. . .

Habitat for Humanity does great work – but they are a not for profit organization that can only do so much, and there is a rebuilding effort that goes far beyond the capabilities of one not for profit organization. The Peace Corp doesn’t really do this kind of work - at least not in this country, and bottom line – U.S. businesses and government organizations do not presently see this as a priority, which is shortsighted to say the least. We the People, include those People that are still considered by much of society, to be Refuse.

I consider THAT to be unpatriotic.


Blogger R said...

I thought that house was in Denver for a moment. Then I remembered..the poor were bought out for small sums and their homes flipped for millions. Now thanks to overpopulation and soaring home prices we have sprawl. You have to drive forty minutes out of town to find something in the "half a million dollar" range. I seriously don't know how the middle class is supposed to survive in my town, never mind the poor.

17 January, 2006 12:24  
Blogger Laura said...

I love the send-a-photo-to-your-legislature idea. A picture is truly worth 1000 words. Think of all the homes and businesses that could be financed for the $1billion we spend a week in Iraq.

18 January, 2006 14:50  
Blogger I.M. Dedd said...

That was an extraordinary post.

21 January, 2006 12:18  
Blogger BaxterWatch said...

Very nice post - I agree. But I think service should be psuedo -manditory for everyone - for the years 18 to 20... Like you said, community service, military service, etc... and it qualifies you for all future state/federal aid such as Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Welfare, Student Loans, etc... if you want the benefit, you have to do your time. I know I would have.

24 January, 2006 07:20  

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