Volume 17 • Issue 30 | Dec. 17 - 23, 2004

The Penny Post

Did the poor disappear?

By Andrei Codrescu

A whole year nearly gone by, and what of it? Time is a river, you can’t step in it twice, but here at the Mississippi you shouldn’t even step in it once. And yet, some things have stayed with us, curiously unchanged. George W. Bush, for instance, and his endless war. The city of New Orleans, not blown away by Hurricane Ivan. The poor who, like Jesus said, will always be with us. Funny thing about the poor, they only show up at Christmas, and not as much as they used to. Jesus didn’t finish his thought: the poor will always be with us because they have nowhere else to go, and one day they will be invisible. That day is here: you won’t see them on TV, you won’t hear about them in political speeches, you won’t find them in new laws (except for new incarceration ones). Years ago, Anselm Hollo, a poet, wrote something to the effect that poverty will be eliminated in its most obvious form: the poor. I don’t know which Republican genius first thought it up, but it was brilliant: it’s cheaper to make the poor invisible than it is to feed and shelter them. Even words like “feed” and “shelter” are old-fashioned: we’d rather use “lift up.” Since Clinton the poor were “lifted up” so they would no longer be poor. And “lifted up” they have been, some of them lifted as high as minimum-wage at Wal-Mart. And guess what? They are still poor. Only now they are the uplifted poor and are not allowed to think of themselves as poor so that nobody else will either. If the poor have a job, they don’t look poor, and if they have a TV (and who doesn’t?) they can see for themselves that the poor don’t exist. So how can they be poor if they don’t exist? If these nonexistent poor get sick, they might have a moment of doubt. But even then, just another look at the TV that they watch constantly (and who doesn’t?) should suffice to convince them that new drugs will fix them even if they can’t afford them. Being poor isn’t possible and being sick is only temporary. I’m surprised that our Christian Congress hasn’t yet revised Jesus to say, “the poor are no longer with us.” They need a new translation of the Bible because what they’ve got isn’t fundamentalist enough. They could also have Jesus say that the path to heaven is no longer through the eye of a needle but through a four-car garage. They can change that while they change the Constitution, but otherwise nothing has (or will) change. We also still have Donald Rumsfeld with us. And we will never be told how many Iraqis we’ve killed. That hasn’t changed. And the popularity of I-Pods shows no signs of abating. Wal-Mart stock is slightly down. One has to wonder: are there any poor people in China?



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