They’re kinda ugly-the Pintos, that is. And it’s been a long while since one has rolled off the factory floor-thirty years or more? So you have to imagine if one is still being driven it has left much rubber, many years, and many miles behind. It’s the type of car Jay Leno probably does not have in his warehouse-of-cars collection-nestled between one of the McLarens and a Jaguar (I now know its pronounced Jeg’-yoo-ahh…but maybe that’s only on the other side of the pond).
But should we pass judgment on a car that might be good enough to get someone to work and back, to get their kids to school and yet is not good enough to make it into the Leno collection? When you see a Pinto parked in a neighborhood in decline, or in front of a home that looks as if it’s in disrepair; or if you see a family piling into or out of one (rust around the wheel wells and a bungee cord holding down the hatch-back trunk, maybe even a piece of cardboard duck-taped over the space where a window used to be), cigarette dangling from the mouth of the man climbing into the driver’s seat with a fistful of scratch-off lottery tickets in one hand; four kids, all looking a little unwashed, squeezing and climbing into a backseat that has room for only three…No-you shouldn’t pass judgement.
While knee-jerk judgments might be made about people who spend money on smokes and scratch-offs while their kids skip breakfast entirely, eat bagel bites and boxed mac and cheese for dinner, and hope the “free and reduced” will fill the hunger and nutrition gaps…it is the impact (not the details) of living in poverty that needs to be considered-not how you feel about the people living in poverty and the choices they make. We can’t pass judgment on the decisions people make because they have to, or feel like they have to.
We should, though, counsel those who ignore forces feeding into poverty, and those who dismiss the impacts of poverty-especially if they do it to suit an agenda. I will call them the swollen ticks on the ass of society, for want of a better term. Take, for example, Walmart. Lauded for the willingness to employ, for its profits, and for the founding family’s willingness to support the undermining of public education, the corporation is often overlooked in terms of its genius business model. They have found a way to have taxpayers subsidize their fabulous profits as well as their mission to create more poor people and keep them poor. Their wages are so low that workers often need food stamps to survive. That absolves Walmart of the guilt that would gnaw at your average non-nightstalker because: “Hey…the taxpayers will help feed their babies!” The good news is that you can get real cheap stuff at Walmart-which makes keeping people poor less of a burden on your soul, I guess.
Do nightstalkers have souls? I guess that’s writing for another day.
Where it becomes suspicious, even dangerous, is when the approach to things like education reform is formed and framed carefully by those who live comfortably distanced from poverty. This means they are unfamiliar to any practical degree with the jobs and situations they comment on, and are also protected from the agenda they promote. So while some applaud, for example, Campbell Brown’s efforts to highlight an imagined army of pervert teachers using tenure to protect their sicko inclinations as well as their professional ineptitude, I view it with a mixture of caution, regret, and a pinch of sympathy. This approach is the mac and cheese of the privileged; their cheap-n-easy go-to. That’s all they have because they can’t/won’t and don’t want to do the real work; because they don’t really know what it’s like to have your choices limited to “this” car and “that” food; because they make their money within the very system benefiting from poverty to begin with! If education reformers were to participate in a more truthful and comprehensive examination of what is behind the “reform” movement, and why reform is really needed; if they committed themselves to finding a cure: they’d be undermining their purpose (which is avoiding those cure-conversations and focusing instead on an efficient and marketable prescription-thereby protecting the system that is and pays them to protect it).
But in time, strategies that lean in to profit and away from people are exposed. Consider this description of how Ford negatively impacted their own reputation with their private take on customers:
Much of the negative sentiment toward Ford was in response to their use of an economic risk-benefit decision making analysis which found that the cost of a recall would outweigh the value of the lives it would save.
So for the same reason you cannot pass judgement on the Pinto family, you can’t justify judgement on the nightstalkers. It’s economic risk-benefit. It’s what they know. They move from one unsuspecting endeavor to the next, and as one host is bled out or fails, they are promoted to/shifted to/ pop up in another opportune location with a formula, a sure-fire plan, a consulting position and some talking points to buttress their value… It’s like soulless immortality in a way-and the ultimate in job security. But sooner or later, people who know better find out.
And Pinto owners are people.