I’ve read a lot of articles this week about the people and towns most affected by the current government shutdown, including this one about a small town in Florida where one of the biggest employers is the prison. The prison was shuttered by Hurricane Michael and many of the prison employees were already driving 400 miles for shifts at a prison in Yazoo City, Mississippi. Now they are doing so without pay and without reimbursement for travel expenses. It’s awful. These people are suffering and there’s no end in sight. But what struck me hardest about this article was this observation from one woman:
“I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” she said of Mr. Trump. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.”Crystal Minton of Marianna, Fla. as quoted in the article: ‘It’s Just Too Much’: A Florida Town Grapples With a Shutdown After a Hurricane — by Patricia Mazzei, The New York Times (Jan. 7, 2019)
Ah, yes, the “people he needs to be hurting.” Are you one of those people? Am I?
The article doesn’t delve into what Ms. Minton means by that statement, which is too bad. Maybe she didn’t mean it the way it sounded, but the implication is that she believes she shouldn’t struggle to pay bills or live a decent life, but someone should. I think this sentiment is the crux of our current political disaster. Voting has become a vindictive act. It’s ‘Us’ vs. ‘Them’, with ‘Them’ being anyone who doesn’t think, worship, dress, or look like ‘Us’. Those people are the ones who ought to suffer.
Look, I sometimes have dark thoughts about the fates of specific people. This morning, for example, I fantasized about kicking a guy who seemed determined to prove that yoga can be both performative and competitive, but I try not to let those thoughts take over. Instead, I imagined all the things this dude might be dealing with that would cause him to breathe like an aggravated hippo and let his tree grow into my personal space. Maybe he’s dealing with a bad relationship. Maybe he’s frustrated with his kids. Maybe he’s taking yoga to get past a medical issue or sports injury. Maybe grunting through every chatauranga helps him be a better husband or coworker or parent. This sort of thinking helps me let go of angry thoughts.
When I first read that quote from Minton, I had some angry thoughts. I don’t even know this woman, but I didn’t like her words or the sentiment that seemed to inspire them. Then I focused on the other parts of the article. Minton is a single mother with seven-year-old twins and the caretaker for her ailing parents. That’s a lot to deal with when everything is going well. I can’t imagine what it’s like to suddenly be thrown into a situation where your job is a seven-hour drive away and the paychecks aren’t coming. I wouldn’t wish that on anyone.
I hope things turn around for Minton. I hope her kids have enough to eat. I hope her parents get the medical care they need. I hope her paychecks start coming soon and I hope her job comes back to her hometown. Most of all, I hope Minton comes to understand that the problem is not that the president is hurting the wrong people. The problem is that so many people are hurting and he doesn’t seem to care.