Thursday, September 21, 2017

Handout Mentality



Captain’s Note: The Captain began writing this blog post yesterday after an exceptionally bad day on Tuesday. Things got progressively worse last night, so I am amending and revising what I had planned to post.

One part of my weekly responsibilities includes spending one morning at a community ministry where I write checks to assist people with their past due utility bills.

This is not the Captain’s money, so it should be no big deal, right?

There are limits to how much I can give, so it’s a no-brainer, right?

And it’s only one morning per week… three hours. And on some days no one comes in, so I can get some other work done instead.

How hard could that be?

But on Tuesday – which also happened to be “International Talk Like a Pirate Day” – I was in a foul mood.

A Blackbeard mood!

And the four clients that came in didn’t improve my mood.

Now, each client is given a standard form to complete. Many just fill out the top page and hand the clipboard back to me.

“I’m sorry, there are four more pages there.”

I want to know more about them, about their lifestyle, and about the community in which I serve.

Almost all admit to smoking. None have ever admitted to drinking alcohol.

Odd.

One of the questions on the form asks why they need financial assistance.

“I ran out of money” is a frequent answer.

I just let that one go.

Less than half of the people I see have finished high school.

Many are widows whose husbands left them with nothing.

Few attend church, but they apparently don’t mind relying upon the kindness of church people.

Sadly, most are beyond the age of being able to improve their situations, and many look decades older than their driver’s license indicates.

So I write the check.

But yesterday, one woman in particular stood out. She is relatively young.

Let’s just say younger than the Captain.

She has two children in elementary school.

And she presented an electric bill for over $600!

Several excuses were given.

“That’s two months worth!”

“The utilities recently switched to automated meters and everybody’s rates went up.” (That was a year ago.)

When I pointed out that her usage more than doubled over the previous month, she claimed that the pump on the well broke and she hadn’t noticed it right away so it kept running.

Ah, country living.

And then there’s the electric fence that keeps her son’s horse in the yard.

She has a horse?

Yes, and she has cable and internet services at her house too.

But she ranted about the electric company: “How do they expect me to pay that? I’m a single mom!”

And unemployed, I might add.

Now, many of the clients I see are either physically or emotionally unable to work. They have paperwork to prove it.

And this woman?

Oh, she is physically able to work, but she does not.

“Because the kids…”

And so she counts on a meager government assistance check and food stamps and any charitable organization she can hit up to pay her bills for her.

Somehow having children gives her the “right” to not work.

Somehow having children grants her the privilege of having others pay her bills for her.

That bothered the Captain. Deep down.

When the Captain’s father died at an early age, he left the Captain’s mother with four children to raise. She had a high school diploma but hadn’t worked in the 20+ years they were married.

But she got a job! Because she had a family to take care of. Eventually she even took on a second job to help put my sister through college.

Yes, all four of us went on to college and beyond!

Having children is not an excuse.

But that’s not the end of this rant. Oh, no. Not even close!

Last night, while perusing Facebook, the Captain came across a news article about how the Red Cross had stopped helping the people of Houston.

Now, if anyone had actually read the article, it said there had been a computer crash.

But did anyone read the article? One couldn’t tell by the comments that followed!

Trolls! Trolls everywhere! Bashing the Red Cross!

“Where’s my money?” they cried.

“We were in a flood a few years ago and all the Red Cross did was put us up in a motel for one night.” they wrote.

“Sure, there are Red Cross shelters and food and stuff, but they aren’t helping us!” they whined.

“All that money we donated just goes to pay their CEO’s salary!” they ignorantly assumed.

And then, from Key West, the cry went up, “Where is Jimmy Buffett? Why isn’t he down here helping us?”

Because, you know, Jimmy is rich. "He should be giving us money helping us out!"

And they turned on him! The Captain was amazed at the venom hurled at the man who helped make Key West what it is today!

Captain’s Note: Jimmy Buffett is currently in Paris preparing for an upcoming concert. He did issue a statement explaining this and offered encouragement to the people of Key West; he promised he would do what he could from afar. And I believe him.

And finally, there is a guy apparently active on Twitter who goes by the name "Sassy Gay Republican". He was once very outspoken against President Obama, particularly the Obamacare insurance program. 

"As a young adult in perfect health, why should I be FORCED to pay for insurance I don't want and likely won't need?"

Well, last week Mr. Sassy Pants was involved in an automobile accident. And guess what! No insurance!

So now he has set up a "GoFundMe" account begging for people to help him pay his hospital bills. 

Whaaaaa?

You see, the Captain wants to know, when did mainstream America take on such an entitlement mentality? Now that has long been an insult hurled at the poor, but these folks who are whining and complaining now are middle- and upper-middle-class folks.

The Captain wants to know why these people didn’t make better plans, knowing that they live in a hurricane zone. The Captain wants to know why they don’t have the necessary insurance to recover. The Captain wants to know why they haven’t put back a nest egg to see them through a disaster like this.

The Captain can be an S.O.B. sometimes. I own that. Nonetheless, I want to know how in hell we got to this point?

“How do they expect me to pay that? I’m a single mom.”

Where did we go wrong?



Monday, September 11, 2017

Who's In Control?



Captain’s Note: With apologies to those in the Northwest who are watching thousands of acres of forestland burn out of control. We know about it, but right now we’re dealing with our own problems down here.

Yep, there's three of 'em!
This past week has been quite the wild ride!

Fresh off a hurricane that flooded the greater Houston area, Hurricane Irma roared through the Caribbean as a Category 5 and set her sights on Florida.


Mandatory evacuations were declared, and we watched (from a safe distance) as friends boarded up their homes and bugged out in advance of the storm.

We sat transfixed, watching the Weather Channel, wondering where exactly the storm would strike next and how much damage she would wreak.

Want a good deal on a boat?


We’ve got dozens to choose from!


(Too soon?)

A couple of the islands were 90-95% destroyed. Irma largely bypassed Key West and struck Cudjoe Key farther north, then entered the mainland on the western edge of the state at Marco Island.


I swear the Captain’s blood pressure rose just watching the news reports!

“A catastrophic storm!”

“185 mile-per-hour winds!”

“The Eye Wall! The Eye Wall!”

“Catastrophic!”

“Devastation!”

“Catastrophic!”

“Hunker down!”


Friends who actually “hunkered down” in the storm made a drinking game out of watching the Weather Channel!

Meanwhile we are safely nestled away on The Tiki Hut at Kentucky Lake, hundreds of miles from any weather concerns.

Captain’s Note: The remnant of Hurricane Irma is expected to arrive here on Tuesday, with wind gusts up to 30 mph, bringing maybe an inch of rain to our parched landscape. The lake is being held at four feet below summer pool in anticipation of what Irma might bring.

But what has really raised the Captain’s blood pressure are all the good religious folks who want to blame the storms on God’s wrath upon “the gays” and those who tried to “pray away” the hurricanes.

It is embarrassing sometimes admitting that I am a Christian.

I am not ashamed of Jesus Christ.

But I am ashamed of many of his followers!

Let’s begin with “the gays”.

If these storms are your god’s wrath against “the gays”, as so many Evangelical Christians claim, then why flood entire cities?


And conservative Republican strongholds at that!

Can’t your god find a more selective way of punishing those he hates without so much collateral damage?

I mean, even in the Old Testament Flood Story, God found Noah to be the only righteous man on the face of the earth and saved him and his family from the flood.

If it was your god’s wrath against “the gays”, why did Key West survive? 


In fact, thinking back to Hurricane Katrina in 2005, much of the New Orleans area was flooded, but Bourbon Street remained dry.


Perhaps your god has poor eye sight, or maybe just bad aim?

Are you familiar with the scene from 1 Kings 18, where Elijah, the prophet of the Hebrews’ God challenges the prophets of Baal?
27 At noon Elijah began to make fun of them. “Pray louder!” he said. “If Baal really is a god, maybe he is thinking, or busy, or traveling! Maybe he is sleeping so you will have to wake him!” 28 The prophets prayed louder, cutting themselves with swords and spears until their blood flowed, which was the way they worshiped. 29 The afternoon passed, and the prophets continued to act like this until it was time for the evening sacrifice. But no voice was heard; Baal did not answer, and no one paid attention.
But the Captain will be nice and not taunt you… too much.

And then there were those who were going to pray away the storms.

Sadly, they didn’t decide to pray until the hurricane had already destroyed those Caribbean islands.

But not surprising.

In the Captain’s recollection, there has only been one instance of a Christian televangelist supposedly redirecting a storm. Back in the late 70s, Pat Robertson claims he prayed a hurricane away from his Virginia Beach headquarters.

Which is a pretty selfish prayer, I must say.


“I don’t give a fuck about any of those other cities, God. You’ve got to protect my TV studios though… in Jesus’ name. Amen.”

“And Jesus wept!”


So last week a group of “true believers” gathered on Jax Beach to publicly pray away the storm.

Jax Beach is on the upper northwest corner of Florida, which made it an unlikely target to receive much damage from a hurricane raging up the Gulf Coast. So this group probably saw a good chance that their god would answer their prayers.

Or not.

Jacksonville is flooding this morning as the outer bands of the storm bring rain to that sprawling city.

Then there was the TV evangelist who waved her magic scepter – no, seriously! – and “commanded” the storm to dissipate.


“I make a ruling that storm will leave this area, will leave the coast. I will not tolerate its presence anywhere on the coast of Florida. And I’m commanding it to leave and get back out in the ocean. At the same time, it’ll dissipate. So I command the millibars in that hurricane, you RISE right now. You keep rising, and rising, and rising till the storm will be downgraded, downgraded, downgraded!”

And social media was filled with “powerful prayers” to say for protection from the storm.


And what do all those “true believers” say when the storms come anyway, as such storms are want to do?

“The Gays!”

Um-hmmm.

As scientists have demonstrated time and again, hurricanes are a natural function of our planet’s weather. The hurricanes that strike our East Coast originate from weather conditions off the west coast of Africa. Hot, dry air blowing off the Sahara Desert mixes with the warm moist air of the Atlantic Ocean and stirs up trouble for us.

It’s science.


As such, God does not send them – especially directed at the people WE hate – nor does God call them off at our request/command.

In fact, when it comes to weather phenomenon…


Ahem…

When it comes to weather phenomenon…


Stop it!

When it comes to these… catastrophic weather events, humankind’s only contributions are in the creation of global conditions that spawn such storms.

Yes, climate change is a thing.

And like Pandora’s Box, once we have opened the lid, it is likely too late!


And we Americans don’t like to take that for an answer, do we?

We want to be in control… of everything!

And if we can’t be in control, then we want our god to be in control.

And we want to control god.

Well, mates, that’s not going to happen.

We are SO NOT in control.

So the best advice the Captain can give you is to be prepared. Batten down the hatches, point the bow into the storm, and “hunker down”!