A woman should not leave two children in a truck in the sun with the window partly open and the keys left in the ignition. Not even if she’s homeless, has no one to watch her kids and chooses to take an awful risk so that she can make the job interview that just might be her path out of poverty and desperate decisions.
When you’re faced with nothing but bad or terrible choices who wouldn’t try to choose the least awful option? Shanesha Taylor shouldn’t have done it, but she did it and all it got her was a week behind bars, her children taken from her and the scorn of every morally superior idiot who never committed a sin and is armed and ready with a pocketful of rocks.
So much cynicism. So little heavy lifting to prove this story isn’t every bit as tragic a damning indictment of both bad personal decisions and an American society that doesn’t give two slimy shits about poor people as long as they stay out of sight and die quietly in their hovels.
Is anyone really giving Shanesha Taylor a pass for the bad decision to leave two infants in a locked car? No, but nobody has nominated Taylor as Mother of the Year material either. There are plenty of creepy politicians like Paul Ryan happy to exploit the most helpless while accepting back-slapping praise for guns, not butter budgets.
Contemporary conservatives like Ryan backhand away any concern for someone like Taylor. His ilk are determined to punish people like Taylor for her sins. The sin of being a poor Black woman with children who probably doesn’t vote the right way.
I understand Ryan’s lack of compassion for and inability to identify with Taylor’s plight. They have never been an impoverished, homeless and desperate Black woman with two kids facing a bad choice and a worse choice. Any indignation I feel for Taylor’s irresponsible decision is tempered by sympathy for the dilemma that drove her to make it.
“I have no mercy or compassion in me for a society that will crush people, and then penalize them for not being able to stand up under the weight.” Malcolm X said that. I second it.
Like me, he was a Black man who could see the connections and contradictions of Shanesha Taylor’s story and those whom self-righteously penalize her for being too weak to carry the weight of a system that fails poor women and children with disgusting certainty.
How many Wall Street executives are sleeping on a thin mattress with their backs to the wall lest they receive a midnight visit from a Nazi skinhead with a swastika face tattoo? Think of all those corrupt Congresscritters who resign to “spend more time with their families” as well as their mistresses and boy toys on the side. If leaving infants in a truck in the heat of the Arizona day is grounds for legal sanction then what should be done with a president, vice-president, National Security Adviser and Secretary of Defense who lie an entire country into a phony war and kill nearly 5,000 U.S. troops and possibly a million Iraqi citizens?
If George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld don’t deserve to be arrested for war crimes, can’t they at least have the goddamn decency to hide in their holes like the criminal scum they are? Why hasn’t someone performed a citizens arrest yet and marched the lot of them into The Hague or at least a Supermax prison?
Putting Taylor behind bars may satiate the need to make her pay for her bad judgment, but it glosses over how states like Arizona balance the books on the backs of their least affluent and most needy citizens eventually creating “solutions” as dire as the original problems.
Criminalizing poverty is insane. Conservatives have made it their mission to slash and gut social programs designed specifically to assist women like Shanesha Taylor. Welfare, daycare and childcare, food stamps, homeless shelters, jobs programs, WIC, and anything else that isn’t a sacred cow like tax cuts and military spending.
A tax cut wouldn’t have helped Taylor and neither will Paul Ryan’s latest punish the poor Congressional budget. The Republican Party wants people to learn how to catch their own fish instead of sitting around and waiting for someone to give them fish to eat. They forget how hard it is to catch a fish when you can’t afford to buy a pole or bait.
Probation, jail time, and the other suggested corrective measures for Taylor show the disdain of the well-fed and markedly unsympathetic for a woman who doesn’t look like them, doesn’t belong in their circles they travel in and whose circumstances they can’t begin to conceive.
Conservatives like the idea of poor people working, but they want them to suffer a bit for whatever little help they receive and if they can be humiliated and have their dignity peeled away from their body in strips, that’s always good for a laugh.
When they actually break down in tears as Shanesha Taylor did, then it’s downright hilarious.
Taylor is, we are told, a bad mother. A loser. A dope who probably made dopey and bad decisions all her life so we must hold her up to contempt and compare her to welfare cheats and con artists.
But race has nothing to do with it. Gender has nothing to do with it. Poverty has nothing to do with it and how do we know this? We don’t. We just say we do because then its all of the individual’s fault and society is blameless.
Taylor lives in an America most Americans don’t see because she cannot claim “affluenza” to escape responsibility. Pleading she would not fare well in prison is not a defense available to her. Any society that has no fairness, understanding or compassion in it for desperate people is a society with no goodness or mercy in it and is not a society that can be defended.
“This is America’s opportunity to help bridge the gulf between the haves and the have-nots. The question is whether America will do it. There is nothing new about poverty. What is new is that we now have the techniques and the resources to get rid of poverty. The real question is whether we have the will.”
One day we will have to stand before the God of history and we will talk in terms of things we’ve done. Yes, we will be able to say we built gargantuan bridges to span the seas, we built gigantic buildings to kiss the skies. Yes, we made our submarines to penetrate oceanic depths. We brought into being many other things with our scientific and technological power.
It seems that I can hear the God of history saying, “That was not enough! But I was hungry, and ye fed me not. I was naked, and ye clothed me not. I was devoid of a decent sanitary house to live in, and ye provided no shelter for me. And consequently, you cannot enter the kingdom of greatness. If ye do it unto the least of these, my brethren, ye do it unto me.” That’s the question facing America today.”
~ Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “Beyond Vietnam — A Time to Break the Silence” delivered on April 4th 1967