A Lens to View Socialism

Socialism scares me, y’all. And I have been struggling to understand how so many smart people I know think it is what our country, our people, need. As I have tried to understand and consider the individuals I know who are proclaiming it’s merit I realize the problem is worldview and the lenses we see through. Before I anger and alienate you all, please know this: I respect and admire your compassion and hearts for people. Truly. Those qualities are important. I believe they are necessary as we live with and love our fellow man.

I’m going to share my worldview and lens. I’m going to give you more than rhetoric and internet articles, more than speeches that have been written, edited, practiced, and soundbited.

I grew up poor in Clovis, New Mexico. The kind of poor where in the winter we ate breakfast in the tiny bathroom of our house because we had a little spaceheater in there and it was the only room you didn’t need a coat on to be in. Before school, I would sit on the toilet and eat my cereal. I have seen a bare pantry. I never went to the dentist as a child because that was an extravagance.  In fact, what I asked for for my high school graduation gift was a trip to the dentist to try to get my teeth whitened from the stains that came from the water I drank as a kid. I remember when we moved to Lubbock and seeing all the kids with braces and thinking they must all be so rich! I got one pair of shoes every year when Payless had a sale. The same pair of shoes every year, because they would “go with everything”, mostly because they were so ugly no one would really care to look at them. I remember one year receiving a bag of hand-me-downs from my cousin Emily. In those hand-me-downs was a pair of red shoes. Y’all. To this day I remember those shoes and how brokenhearted I was when I outgrew them. Even now, when my mom shows me pictures of those faded red Keds with holes in them and torn laces and tells me they weren’t in much better shape when I first received them, the eyes from my childhood refuse to believe it. I was wearing Ruby slippers.

So there’s a glimpse of being a poor child.

Here is what being poor, teenaged, married parents looked like: My mom worked selling things we could never afford. She clipped coupons, went to the grocery store with a very specific list of meals and needs and tallied every price before putting anything in her basket. She had an envelop with cash and held her breath as the cashier rang things up. She bought things in bulk and divided proportions exactly. She was smart and kept up with every money thing in our life down to the penny. My dad worked every job he could. He worked night shifts in a meat packing plant where he had a knife pulled on him cuz some guy was having a bad day. He put up with ignorant bosses who said ugly things to him because his name was “Neko” and he had darker skin. He worked dangerous jobs, long hours and wanted better for his family than was ever given to him.

My parents did everything they could to protect me from the harsh realities where we lived. Things like gangs, prostitution (our next door neighbor for a time, I remember she would give me french fries and candy through her window), spousal and child abuse, drugs, and alcoholics everywhere. I remember when a child molester moved back in with his family across the street after he got out of jail. I remember because it was the first time my mom ever talked to me about some of the horrors we coexisted with. I can still hear our fat neighbor screaming at her skinny meek husband and their children. Screaming so loud while their yard full of starving dogs tried to out-volume her. They never could.

And here’s a glimpse at the lives of my playmates: many of my friends didn’t have a dad. Or they weren’t sure which guy was their dad. Or they were afraid of their dad coming back, or they just didn’t care. The dads who were there were often there in the middle of the day in their underwear drinking beer. One dad watched the Simpsons in his underwear while drinking beer and would talk to his kid and me about how fat his wife was. I had friends who didn’t go to school. I had friends who smelled bad because they had animals living in their bathtub. I had friends who shared their bed with many siblings. Friends who had disabilities that come from being in the womb while their mom continued a serious drug or alcohol habit. The habit continued while the child struggled to find something edible in the house. I had friends whose parents would give them adult sized clothing that they would then wear for years while their parents always had booze and cigarettes and whatever else. And I had sweet friends who lived things we don’t talk about.

I knew when my friends families got money from the government because their parents bought new stuff.

We never bought new stuff. My parents worked too hard and too much making too much money for us to get anything new. We did not qualify for government assistance. I wonder what if they had just quit? What if my dad decided to bail cuz our life together was too freaking hard? What if they had fallen into ugly habits that would have destroyed their drive? What if my dad decided he was too damn good for a nasty night job at a meat packing plant? What if they had bought a bunch of temporary crap rather than squirreling pennies away? Eventually their scrimping and saving and hard work paid off. My dad, who was a smart, personable guy, was given a job that he was great at. We moved and he was promoted and made important contacts and did well. My mom no longer needed to work. So what did she do? She became very involved in our schools and she volunteered a lot of her time for a local pregnancy center that reached out to women in crisis situations. She loved those girls because she KNEW them. She cared and gave deeply. She loved. My parents taught us to see and care about people.

I only know of one other family who made it out of there.

My takeaway: if you rob someone of their drive, of their need to try, you rob them of dignity and you rob future generations. You step on hard working people to such a degree that it might be tempting for them to give up because why should they work so hard at such hard jobs to pay for other people to have things that they themselves cannot afford?

I have no answers. I just have this lens. And I’m asking you to look through it for a moment. Many of you have had privileged lives though you may not recognize them as such. Many of you believe in socialism because you have only known good people in good situations.

I am not against helping people. I am not against doing for those who cannot.

I am against socialism.


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