Archive for August, 2011

Spy Kid

August 22, 2011 Leave a comment

An over-sized t-shirt with colors faded. Baggy, scuffed up jeans with holes in the wrong places. Shoes with parts literally hanging off. Plus he had a cold. First day of school waiting for the bus to arrive, Eric was doing a terrible job of projecting any sort of strength. “You should have stayed home today,” said Samantha as she handed Eric some paper napkins. Eric blew his nose then put all of the napkin into the pocket he knew didn’t have holes in it, “Thanks, Sam.”

The bus doors opened and Eric quickly found an open seat. Samantha and Eric were actually moving at the same pace, but Elliot, being younger and shorter, looked more hurried in his movements. Put succinctly, she walked, he shuffled. Before the bus began moving, Eric already had his gaze fixed outside his window, not really focused on anything. It was his standby mode, the way he got when he waiting for the next thing to do.


An open milk carton whipped across the aisle and hit Eric in the head knocking him out of his tranquil state. It only had a little bit of milk, and just a few drops landed on his shirt. The laughter coming from the other side of the bus caught his attention. He made eye contact with one of the giggling boys who gave Eric the finger in response. Eric took note and refocused his gaze outside of his window. “Sam,” Eric whispered, “Stop looking sorry for me.” Samantha went back to staring at her nails.

Sam recalled Eric’s words the weekend before, “If I get picked on, I get picked on, but you don’t need to get picked on sticking up for me. Just makes things harder for both of us. When we’re at school, I’m just another kid, okay?”

The 10-minute bell rang, as they got off the bus and began finding their way towards homeroom. “Hey!” It was the same voice as before. Eric didn’t stop to find the source. He didn’t speed up either. “Hey!” The voice grew closer. “Hey!” Then a shove. Eric lost his balance and fell onto the asphalt covered in loose, almost sand-like gravel. “What kind of black kid wears a NASCAR t-shirt?”

Those were the kind of questions Eric’s dad used to ask. The kind that serves as a set up for an insult. “Leave me alone.” Eric was upright now, but still on the ground. He knew he had an advantage there. The kid mimicked Eric mockingly and laughed at himself. A crowd of kids had began to form. “If you’re going to hit me, hit me.” Eric said.

Samantha winced when she noticed Eric’s hands on the ground curl into fists full of loose sand.

Feeling the crowd gather around him, his friends, and Eric, the kid smiled. “Well since you’re asking for it.” He took two quick steps towards Eric and punched. Eric tilted his head letting the punch hit him in the forehead and fell backwards. As the kid began to kneel down and raise his fist up to strike again, Eric tossed the gravel he had collected into the kid’s face then, using the kid’s shirt collar to pull, Eric drove his forehead into the kid’s mouth.

The kid yowled and would have spun off cursing if Eric didn’t roll him over onto his back and began punching. The fight was over as soon as the headbutt landed, and Eric knew it. A bloody mouth and sand in the eyes is usually enough to debilitate most men, but Eric knew neither the guy on the ground nor the kids watching fully understood that.

In order to get peace for the school year, Eric knew he needed to send a clear message. So he punched, and he punched, and he punched. He punched in spite of his runny nose dripping onto his former bully, he punched in spite of his hands throbbing more with each blow, he punched until the sounds of excitement coming from the crowd of kids turned into quiet, scared concern.

It had been less than a minute since the first punch thrown by the child now lying on the asphalt. Eric was on his feet now, backpack back on, notebook and pencils secured inside. He took a breath which reminded him of his runny nose. Standing not more than three feet from the mess he made, he carefully took out the napkin he had used before and began to blow his nose.

The first teacher on the scene, seeing Eric standing there with a bloody forehead blowing his nose, was relieved to see the scrawny kid with the over-sized shirt relatively unhurt, but nearly cursed when he saw the battered child on the floor behind him.

The teacher had been told by the student who fetched him that Dustin was beating someone up again. The student, more uncomfortable with violence than most of her peers, didn’t stand around long enough to see the scuffle unfold so she was as shocked as the teacher who was now crouched next to Dustin .

Another teacher arrived before an ambulance was called. A third began herding the children towards class. A fourth escorted Eric to wait outside the principal’s office. Eric held off on telling them his name and home telephone number until about 10 in spite of assurances he would not be punished because it was his mother’s day off. Depriving her of the opportunity to sleep-in would have made him feel bad.

His mom arrived with a worried look on her face. Upon seeing Eric, she smiled and kissed the bandage on his forehead before entering the principal’s office to discuss Eric’s behavior. She lied a bit by telling the principal that Eric didn’t get into fights often.

He fought regularly until the 6th grade where he learned his first lessons in non-verbal communication. Only one fight similarly ending with an assailant in need of bed rest. He got all A’s that year, the 2nd year since the family had gotten away from Eric’s father, the man responsible for Eric’s proficiency at the martial arts. He was a violent alcoholic and a generally unpleasant person whose name they never uttered.

Eric’s mom and the principal shook hands and finished up their conversation right outside the door next to Eric.

“Eric,” the principal began, “I’m sorry all that happened out there today. There should have been someone watching you kids. I’d hate for you to feel unsafe here. Like we said before, from everything we could tell, it was self defense.You’re not in trouble, but we think it’ll be less distracting for everybody if you just take the day off today.” Eric nodded.

When they got home, his mom gave him some cold medicine and he slept away most of the day until Samantha came back with his homework and told him about her day. She had a made a friend who said she’d save Samantha a seat on the bus tomorrow. Overall, a good day.

Categories: Uncategorized

Transfer Payments

August 19, 2011 Leave a comment

Not much to say.  Government expenditures have grown mostly in the areas of social security and medicare since 1965.  The majority of the people receiving those payments pay little to no taxes because of how low their income is.  So one fair way to look at it is saying that government is taking from the rich and giving to the poor.  You might believe that is unfair because that group of people, poor people paying little to no taxes receiving the benefits of social security and medicare, literally have more money to spend than they earn.  That’s about 50% of Americans, 1 out of every 2. Ignore the fact that they tend to spend that money rather than horde it, effectively putting it back into the economy.  Ignore that. They are getting money they haven’t earned to buy stuff. Some of it to buy stuff they need, and some of it for stuff they don’t need but might give them pleasure or make their lives easier. Simple question. That I think Americans who hate this idea should ask themselves.  How much poorer and unhappier are you willing to let 50% of the population become? How much higher will the rates of crime and homelessness and general disease climb if we collectively decided to stop giving them that money? How much harder do you think a life of poverty in America should be? A cell phone less? Okay? A microwave less? Fine? A refrigerator less? A few hours of sleep because they have to work more to earn money less? Hmm. A meal less? Rough. A place to live less?

Now I know this is somewhat of a slippery slope argument, but you can’t dispute the fact that a large number of that 50% rely on that money for daily necessities. To me it’s kind of obvious by saying that you want that part of government expenditures cut that you’re willing to let those among us that struggle most, struggle more, and you’re not worried about how that might have some repercussions for public health and safety and contentment.  Right now taxing the rich higher in any way has you worried that the rich might leave, but the rich wouldn’t mind having more tired, hungry, homeless, depressed, sick, resentful poor people around.  Now I’m not criticizing the rich.  I’m criticizing the perception of them.

Can we be honest? Most people paying taxes who have no use for social security and medicare won’t all just start supporting their fellow man if you made it so they didn’t have to pay the taxes that support that program.  That’s just not realistic.  Job “creators” won’t just start hiring like crazy because they don’t have to pay those taxes partially because it’s human nature but economically because there will be much fewer people spending money on those services that the job creators make money providing. Instead of thinking that cutting taxes and expenditures are the solution to what’s ailing America we should realize that those expenditures are part of America’s attempt to aid people who are ailing in America.

Picture this. Two guys do manual labor for a living. The labor requires two people, but one is simply better at it than the other and is compensated better because of it. One day the weaker of the two starts having back aches, and knowing neither can get the job done on his own, they go to a doctor together. The doctor prescribes pain medication too costly for the weaker one to afford so, knowing that he still needs him to do the job, the stronger one pays for the pain medication. This works well for a while, but one day the strong man becomes fed up with having to pay for the weaker one’s pain medication. It’s his money and he has the right to use it how he sees fit. Instead of identifying the source of the back pain and having the doctor fix it, the stronger man just refuses to pay leaving the weaker man in more pain and less able to function ultimately making the job harder and less fruitful for the strong man.

To me the only solution that I know of to alleviate poverty long term is education.  Even if we could wake up tomorrow and have a perfect education system, it would still take decades before we saw any progress because it takes time to learn the skills that people would pay you to have.  I think it would take decades of treating school like hallowed ground and teachers like professionals.  What I mean by treating teachers like professionals is to give them the proper tools to do their job, develop an environment that allows them to do their job well, compensate them well when they do it well, and fire them when they don’t.

It’s not a quick solution because poverty is a pervasive problem, and it will take focus and passion and resolve to address it.  Throwing money at it doesn’t fix it, but spending money to aid people isn’t just a nice thing that we should do because I feel guilty about poor people. In my opinion, it’s necessary to keep things from getting worse.  I’m not saying that we should raise or lower taxes during a recession, but I believe that a lot of the money given to people too poor to pay taxes needs to go to them.  We need to stop thinking that the only way America can be great again is by measuring up to some false, glorified memory we have it from before the growth of social security and medicare began in 1965.  Does anybody remember that the government only passed a Civil Rights Act the year before that? We need to realize that American excellence doesn’t lie in the past, and the only way that we can have it is by investing in the future and taking care of our present.


Looking at when spending for social security and medicare took off, I think there’s a strong racial correlation that needs to be explored.  I know correlation doesn’t always equal causation, but it’s interesting to note that. From the article “First, we should note that Medicare didn’t exist until 1965, so a big share of the increase Romney pointed to stems from this single program.” With Civil Rights Act of 1964 the government starts the process of treating people of all color the same. Maybe they noticed that a lot of those people that they weren’t treating well before weren’t doing so well, but now had a louder voice in government so Medicare is enacted in 1965, but the education system still hasn’t done enough to fix the root of the problem or hasn’t been given the right tools to fix the problem.

P.S. 2

I love how we refer to America as a Christian nation when we’re deciding who the government should grant marriage licenses to, who we should wage war against, whether we should teach evolution in classrooms, and who we should support militarily, but when someone suggests that it should be U.S. domestic policy to take from people who have plenty and give it to people who don’t have enough then it’s class warfare.

Categories: Uncategorized