I know I said I’d take things a little lighter and easier here. I’ve got to quit saying stuff like that because this isn’t a light and easy read. Maybe when I get my grove going on my hard books I’ll be able to do light and easy. But today is not that day.
I tell people in my almost four years (yes, it’ll be fours years as an Uber driver at the end of this coming March), I’ve probably been in every part of the city. I’ve been in the wealthiest enclaves with multi-million dollar homes. And places where the homes are worth a fraction of that.
I had a passenger one evening say to me as we came into his neighborhood, “Sorry for bringing you to the ghetto.” I told him this wasn’t a ghetto. I said it was a working-class neighborhood because people there worked for a living. I then told him I grew up in working-class neighborhoods and that I’d never had a bit of trouble in any of them. He told me I was alright and gave me a big tip.
I meant every word I said to him. I sometimes feel more at ease in a working-class neighborhood than a rich one. I like looking at the big nice houses but I also see the extreme conformity of those high-dollar neighborhoods where everything has to be in its’ place or you’ll be called a low-rent slob. I see the extreme pressure to look and act a certain way in high-dollar neighborhoods. I’m not saying there aren’t busybody assholes in working-class neighborhoods but you can ignore them a lot more than if everyone on the block is like that. In fact, I had a passenger grousing to me one morning about how all his old fart neighbors used to give him the stink-eye whenever he let his lawn grow out a little.
I also see the homeless encampments under the freeways, the people sleeping in doorways downtown, and the ones panhandling at intersections. And I’m glad the mayor of San Antonio recently told off some dumb-ass reporter when she asked him about what the city was going to do about the homeless tent cities popping up. He told her the problem was much more complex than anyone realized and he’s right. There’s a severe lack of funding for transitional housing, social services and mental health and substance abuse issues.
What I’ve seen on the roads and streets here in this city is the huge income disparities and an eroding middle-class. The term ‘affordable housing’ is a dirty word to so many people, even church-going Jesus freaks. Yet to me, Jesus Christ is in those tent cities giving out food and comfort to those people. If all the wealthy churches were torn down and sold off and all the proceeds went to helping the homeless, the city would be a better place. I love the beauty of our old churches, but when I see new mega-churches and new apartments and houses for people only making money I get sick of looking at them.
Before I hit the road with this job, I thought I was a compassionate person. Now there are days when that compassion hurts like hell. It hurts because of what I see some days, and because I can’t keep my mind from thinking about it so much. Then I come home and read so much fucking bullshit on social media about right-wing nutjobs who don’t give a flying fuck about anyone but themselves. Assholes who turn every freaking issue into a ‘partisan’ issue.
Since Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal legislation began in 1932, helping people has become a ‘partisan’ issue. It’s like an ‘us vs. them’ kind of thing. Or some bullshit about how to pay for it all, which is bullshit because the money is there. Now that partisan bullshit has just become deadly as hell with the covid-19 pandemic and tremendous income inequality and systemic racism.
From my perspective on the road, it’s not ‘us vs. them’. It’s not about poor people wanting to raid the suburbs and take them over. It’s not about giving people a ‘handout’ and ripping them apart for accepting what little help there is. It’s about the need to put resources to work where they’re needed to help every person we can.
Most people don’t really go outside their own little enclaves past a certain point, not like I do. I know that all too well. But that doesn’t give anyone the right to judge and deny other people their fundamental human right to not only exist and live in peace, but to not be cold, hungry, and alone.
If you are someone who has to see shit like this up close and personal, or that you have to suffer yourself in order to have compassion and fight for what’s right and help people… all I can say is ask yourself why. Why do you have to make someone’s else misery yours before you’ll do something about it?
What am I doing, you might ask? I vote for leaders who are working to use resources and policies to help people. And I have vowed to use my small little voice here to tell it like I see it, and to try my best to treat people with compassion and kindness. And to those who disagree with me: you know I feel so as far as I’m concerned, the ball’s in your court now. Because today, I’ll be back on the road.