Thursday, October 23, 2008

Have it Your Way?

An excerpt from God's Politics by Jim Wallis, because why summarize when he already says it so well?

She was working the drive-through window at 4:00 in the afternoon. But whenever there was a lull between orders, the young woman kept returning to a table in the corner of the restaurant. Three kids were sitting there, with schoolbooks, papers, and pencils all spread out, doing their homework. And Mom was helping as best she could while keeping straight the orders for Whoppers, fries, and chicken nuggets. Given her low wages, this single mother was no doubt balancing more than fast food and homework - but also deciding between paying the rent, going to the doctor and affording prescriptions when somebody gets sick, or buying winter boots for her kids. She has become an icon for me. I call her Burger King Mom.

In election years, the pundits talk often about Soccer Mom and how she will vote. Both the Democrats and the Republicans court her. Since the president went to Daytona, there is a new electoral icon; he's called NASCAR Dad, and his support is crucial, especially for Republicans. Also, in the 2004 election, attention focused on Security Mom. But who will speak to or for Burger King Mom? She exists in both the red and blue states, but neither party is much interested in her or her family's issues. She is part of the low-income demographic that is most unrepresented in American politics, with the lowest levels of both voter registration and turnout, and includes a high percentage of immigrants. Many low-income people have a hard time connecting to voting: too complicated, too many other things to worry about, too little confidence that the outcome makes much difference for them.

The Republicans look after their wealthy constituents, and the Democrats want to be champions of the middle class, but neither prioritizes the needs of the poor.* Is that because the problems of poverty are disappearing in America? On the contrary, the poverty rate (including for children) has risen over the last three years, more people than ever are without health insurance, increasing numbers of people can't find affordable housing, and the minimum wage hasn't been raised for eight years.

*-Emphasis mine.

Monday, October 13, 2008


PhotobucketMTV has a reality dating show entitled Parental Control in which parents who dislike their kid's significant other choose two other people for their kid to go out on dates with. After these dates, the kid then has to decide whether or not to stay in their relationships or to continue to date one of people his/her parents selected.

As with most MTV "reality shows," it's difficult to gauge how much of what happens has any basis in reality. The directing and scripting are both heavy handed. And the fact that these are not actors delivering the lines makes it that much less credible. However, the fact that these are not actors is what infuses the situation with a believability.

My problem with this show is watching these kids decide to leave their relationships. A lot of the times, the parents' complaints are silly things: they have an annoying voice, they wear weird clothes, they talk too much. (Occasionally, there are situations of obvious, but glossed over, disrespect and emotional abuse.) The fact of the matter is that most of the time these are 16-18 year-olds we're talking about, and they aren't necessarily in the most serious of relationships. Many of them probably do have dead ends. But basically what happens is that, if the kid goes out on a date with someone who's hotter, the original boyfriend/girlfriend gets tossed aside. This is the part of the show where I've actually seen people look hurt and shocked. Even if it's all a big fake, it's a scary, hard, and dangerous lesson to teach teens: someone who you think you love and who you think loves you can and probably will toss you aside for some better looking fame chaser.