Posts Tagged ‘inequity’

Slipping Through the Safety Net

January 6, 2013 1 comment

Slipping Through the Safety Net

Plastic bag in hand, ready for any bilious torrent produced by the next round of respiratory fits. I couldn’t tell if her moaning was due to the racking cough which shook the two chairs she had pushed together to make a bed or to the moonshoe protecting her tibia from trauma. Please don’t puke, please don’t put me in a situation where I’ll have to decide whether it’s more polite to pretend I haven’t noticed or to find some way of fetching water. The self-service malady station offered tissues and barf bags and hygienic hand gel but no cups. I should spray my neighbor down with the provided antiseptic.

I never would have taken the seat, alone against the wall of an examination room, had I know the woman was retching. She waited for the raging drunk falling out of a wheelchair to lurch after a pregnant woman and her young daughter, leaving the sanitation kiosk unguarded. The drunk’s sudden departure alarmed reception and a stray nurse who debated going after him until they became distracted by the viscous black fluid he had left to seep through his former seat and onto the floor. A call to maintenance was interrupted by a girl in pajamas who was angry at having her pathetic groans ignored. Yes, you’ll be seen after the gaping head wound who swears he’s not drunk but can’t remember his name, the guy with chest pains, the woman who can’t walk on her own, the five or six people who sleep here when it’s too cold and wet on the street.

These people aren’t sick, the triage doctor told me after I waved away her apologies for the wait, they just think they are. Her bitterness clashed with the spunky hair and Chuck Taylors, and with her adoration of the little girl who had hit the panic button. A SWAT team burst into the lobby all body armor and light weaponry, peering through windows and signaling each other across the room. Little girls are cuties. I’m tired of telling the staff I’m not a junkie. Read more…


Whose Streets?

June 8, 2012 Leave a comment

Excitable boys and girls marched merrily along Broadway, destination unknown. They could have slipped under the radar but some hapless cop found a bullhorn thrust into his hand: Please stay on the sidewalk. A simple request, asked with all the defeat and fatigue of a broken father left alone with the kids for the weekend. The malcontents must have obeyed if the absence of scuffling and breaking glass was any indication. I couldn’t be bothered to leave the couch I was calling a bed for the week to peer out any windows.

Another first of May and another May Day march. Vegan anarchists used to invite me along. What do you do on May Day? Dance around the maypole and smash the state, they would reply. I always declined graciously, the same way I would whenever babysitting Food Not Bombs who, at the halfway mark of their meeting, would run through a rousing rendition of the Hokey Pokey.

Anarchists love to dance. Read more…

The Best and the Brightest

January 23, 2009 Leave a comment

An amazing opportunity is afforded to a bright young man living in the small coastal village of Andhra, India. Although his father is a traditional healer and he is expected to follow in the family footsteps the local school administration, recognizing his academic talents, have the boy fill out some forms. Soon he was sitting through his grade examinations and, after having passed, was granted admission to the Navodaya Vidyalaya, a national network of schools set aside for talented youth who would otherwise be stuck in underfunded and underachieving institutions.

A Navodaya Vidyalaya is a school which is staffed by carefully screened instructors and populated by high scoring and intelligent students. It is a free service which provides room and board, supplies and stipends for travel by bus and rail. There’s just over 550 such academies spread throughout almost every state of India and have been operating since the mid-80’s; three-quarters of all admissions are reserved for children being brought in from rural conditions to afford them the opportunities they could never find back home.

Presumably this system of advanced education is funded by the government, which is probably why Shantanu Dutta of Around and About finds reason to praise India for this achievement. For such a troubled country with massive poverty, racial strife, an incredible economic gap, wide-spread corruption and temperamental utilities he wonders why anyone would bother paying taxes and finds some solace in this unique branch of the national education system. A part of me shares his enthusiasm– of course it’s great that some kid from the sticks who shows promise can be catch a lucky break and land placement in a good school. However, another part of me wonders what happens to a school when you strip the best students to be raised in isolation, and save the best teachers for these high-performing institutions.

One of the mission statements of the Navodaya Vidyalaya Samiti is to prepare and then encourage their rural students to return to their homelands and make what improvements they can with the benefit of their superior education. I wonder how the kids left behind, growing up under hardship with little of the amenities granted their more learned peers, feel when the prodigal sons and daughters return to try and revolutionize the home village. Is it at all fair to abandon the hopeless slow-learners to their fate and rescue the bright bulbs, teaching them privately how to shine for the future good? Obviously with the investment in these specialty schools there resources not going to the standard regional schools and those making the sacrifice, the students left behind, suffer the most for their former classmates success. Read more…

Pay to Stay

October 29, 2008 6 comments

Something else to consider this upcoming election when you vote on three separate law and order initiatives. I’ve already explained to the best of my ability the reasons I oppose Propositions 6 and 9. I support Proposition 5, the attempt to improve the mechanizations of imprisonment when the convicted are non-violent drug addicts. Drug addiction is a mental disorder, nothing more or less. It’s better to help people overcome addiction so they can get out of the system and do something with their lives than to keep sending them back into the system. It’s cheaper than repeatedly imprisoning them and it’s obviously more humane. It also challenges a status quo which sees harsher penalties for possession of crack (minority) over powder cocaine (white) and the delusional society that airs commercials for alcohol dependency treatment in resort getaways during episodes of COPS where people strung out on Meth get tazered.

Photo by Monica Almeida, courtesy of the New York Times.

But it gets worse, as I’ve just learned after reading another cry from the dark. Prison Photography just blew my mind yet again. I had never heard of the “pay to stay” program where non-violent offenders can apply through the courts to, for a moderate daily fee, upgrade their prison experience to a kinder, gentler, whiter and safer one. The New York Times breaks this down in a succinct manner with a comparison price chart (circa 2007); more stunning is the City of Santa Ana official web page where prospective “clients” can learn more about skirting the system. You think the best way to deal with crime is longer sentences, more severe punishment, bring back the labor camps? You think that rehabilitative measures are too soft, we’re just letting murderers and rapist escape their just desserts? Really?