As anyone who has been paying attention-and has even a lick of common sense can see--American society has been devolving into a social darwinist, dog eat dog sort of cesspool for some time, mostly as a result of the right-wing ideology and religion that has been foisted upon the people of this country as "family values." Values, that, incidentally, serve the interests of the rich much more than they serve the interests of families.
Among these "values" are an intense hatred of poor people. Poor people, it seems, are the lowest form of scum. According to the stereotypical right wing view of the poor, they are all drug users, alcoholics, criminals, child abusers, and so on...anything and everything derogatory one can think of. And they are all "stealing" from somebody--the taxpayers, their employers, their families--in order to get by.
The way poor people are often stereotyped and discriminated against can clearly be seen in a recent story about a young man who was arrested in Harlan County, Kentucky for allegedly endangering his mother. According to several media sources, they had recently been evicted from their home, and apparently, the young man, 28 year old Brandon Beull, set up a tent in the woods for them to stay in. The weather in Harlan County last weekend was very wet and cold--a miserable experience for anyone caught out in it.
On Monday, when Sheriff's Chaplain John D. Gross allegedly went for his stroll in the woods and found the tent, and the woman inside, he claimed that Buell refused his offer of help and left. According to news sources, he then contacted the sheriff's department, and the woman--who it seems was confined to a wheelchair, as well as being "incompetent" was taken to an area hospital. The sheriff's department later arrested her son.
In all of the news media articles, Brandon Buell was painted as a monster for bringing his mother into a tent to stay in the woods--but nobody seems to want to talk about why they ended up homeless. Or, for crying out loud, what else they were supposed to do if they didn't have a place to go. Apparently, they were well known in the community, judging from the fact that John D. Gross knew them both, and according to the comments attached to some of the articles, many people knew that they were struggling prior to the time they lost their home.
Many of these articles--in addition to scapegoating Brandon Buell--who may have been doing the best he could under difficult circumstances--display a very hateful and discriminatory attitude toward people who are homeless. The stories highlighted details that would make Buell look as though he was abusing her. For example, the media reported that she was crying when she was found--but if she was mentally "incompetent" then of course, being taken from her home and comfort zone would be very upsetting to her. The property owner who evicted her should be ashamed for putting someone like her out on the streets with no where to go in the middle of a winter storm.
While the media was busy vilifying Brandon Buell, apparently none of them asked why a person would just be out for a stroll in the woods on a morning like Monday was in that area (wet, rainy, flooding). As a native of that region, I can tell you that most people would not choose a morning like that to go for a walk back in those woods--Gross had a reason for going back in those woods. Did he know they were back there? If he did, why did he tell the media he just happened upon them? Given this sheriff department's history of corruption--and even arresting their political opponents--why didn't somebody in the media try to look at their story a little more closely? And why didn't anyone contact their landlord to find out why they were evicted?
As a result of the biased and one-sided reporting in the media, many folk, it seems, are ready to hang Brandon Buell for the crime of being too poor to be able to afford to care for his mother. The comments attached to some of these articles are terrible--people who live in counties far away from where this actually happened are all too quick to assume this young man was a "drug user", and that he was "taking her check." When he gets out of jail, he will likely have to leave the area in order to see any peace.
Meanwhile, his mother will be placed in a nursing home--where it will cost much more to care for her than what it would at home. In Kentucky, she would have qualified for subsidized housing, food stamps, and many other programs, such as the Michelle P. Waiver, which would have helped her live at home. If it was known out in the community that Buell and his disabled mother were struggling to survive prior to their eviction, why didn't anyone offer to help them access any of these programs?
Because the culture of hatred toward poor people has become so intense, many people would rather see a poor person suffer, die or go to prison as see them actually get any help. I know from my own experience in trying to obtain services for my disabled daughter Ashley just how hateful people can be toward people with disabilities and their caregivers. I recently had a millionaire tell me that it is "unfair" that my daughter gets help from the state for her disability, since she had to pay for her own son's medical care for a temporary illness.
I can only imagine how hard it must be for a young guy like Brandon Buell to access services for his mom--in order to get the Michelle P. Waiver for my daughter, I had to cut through many months of bureaucracy and red tape. It took months to even find the right agency to contact about it, and many months more before we finally got approved. It is also the same for many other public assistance programs in this state--people who need the help get subjected to so much red tape, run around, and downright hatefulness that many of them simply give up. I wonder if anyone had even bothered to tell him what kind of help might have been available?
And on another note--I don't think this young man deserves to be prosecuted for the crime of being poor. Does anyone know of a good lawyer in Kentucky who might be able to contact him in jail, and take his case pro-bono?