Merigian Studios




News Flash! Greater Memphis has regained its distinction as having the highest poverty rate of any metro area in the nation populated by at least one million people. At the same time, median household income for the Memphis metropolitan area rose 2.6 percent to $49,809.00.

What seems to keep people landlocked in poverty in our area? The answers depend on whose worldview you trust. Many believe it is related to poor public transportation. No one can get to a job unless they have transportation to get them to the worksite. Others believe it is the abundance of potential employees who have criminal records. After all, employers do not want to hire criminals. Some blame it on drug problems. I suspect that means drug addiction. Drug addicts tend to focus on their next fix, not their next paycheck. So, if we add the number of all of the known drug addicts in our community who are employable but are not working, to the number of people who have the ability to work who cannot due to transportation issues, to the number of ex-criminals who want to work we should be able to explain the increase in poverty in our community as a whole. Poppycock!

What keeps people impoverished? Or at least people having an income below the poverty level? Is it hopelessness? Is it a lack of government intervention? Is it a lack of empathy for those who are less fortunate? Is it a lack of spiritual commitment? Is it a lack of education? Is it a lack of motivation?

First I ask, what does the word poverty mean? It means being poor, and hence is relative. It does not mean being destitute. To those who study poverty, it simply means being uncomfortable but not having a lack of funds for absolute necessities. Those who were hit by hurricane Irma or Harvey may be immediately destitute, but the majority of victims of destitution were not impoverished before the hurricane. Their poverty is sudden and complete, but not everlasting. Indigence tends to mean those who had something at one time but were rendered poor by some unforeseen circumstance such as a stock market crash or a Bernie Madoff scam.

Poverty does not just apply to those who have less money. Poverty applies to everyone who lacks the ability to keep an open mind about our American inalienable rights of life, liberty and pursuit of happiness. Money and wealth to each citizen was never a guarantee of the U.S. constitution, however it has become one of the most studied aspects of our society in the modern era. Poverty starts at the top of our government, spiritual and educational institutions. Poverty starts when Americans fail to recognize that other people matter, not just our kin folk through trust funds; poverty starts when only a few have access to the best healthcare (American healthcare is not the best care); and poverty starts when ignorance becomes acceptable in education, business, government and churches. I have meet hundreds of people who are impoverished but are wealthy. I have also met hundreds who are by the census bureau standards poor, but have great wisdom and enlightenment as well as dignity. The meek will inherit the Earth.

Why does poverty strike an accord with me? I was impoverished during my childhood and young adult life. My grandmother guided my spirit to stay hopeful and focused on the possibility of future success. What is missing from these statistics is the data showing the lack of commitment on the part of parents on children's lives in both inner city and rural country zones where crime and misfortune find almost every person in the area. If inner city gangs and rural motorcycle clubs were good natured and encouraged personal self growth and authenticity, poverty would decline precipitously.

Why should anyone of no means strive to make life better by becoming more materialistic and economically imprisoned? They have been accustomed to having very little all of their childhood, perhaps to them, material things are less valuable than food and/or safe shelter. I propose that anyone who has lived poor can live rich, but those who live rich could never live poor. Those who collect the census data are typically well off and educated. Those who use the statistics to justify civil action tend to be on the wealthier side of the economic rail road tracks. How can anyone help change the economic inequalities people face that arise from a society based on capitalism? The truthful answer is simple: you can't.

When I grew up in the inner city of Detroit, there was a sense of dignity amongst the poor or disenfranchised. I remember community based pride. It was not what you owned that made you valuable, it was what you contributed to the overall health and welfare of people in the community that mattered, especially one's own family. There were opportunities to engage in crime, but there were more opportunities to engage in community activities. Federal, State and City monies were allocated to teenagers to mow yards and reduce blight in both neighborhoods and common city areas.  Students learned to read and write, something that seems to have gotten lost in our world of computers and social media. School teachers mattered. They motivated us separate from our parents. Sure, some of my classmates went down the wrong path, but so did the classmates of my children as they attended public school in wealthy suburban Shelby County. Many of my children's classmates could not read efficiently, their parents were too busy with their own lives to care. The same holds true for inner city children and parents working two jobs to make ends meet to keep their kids well fed in a safe environment.

Do not let the socioeconomic pundits persuade you into believing that drugs are one of the greatest factors creating poverty or is it a social disturbance of the first order that they are willing to work on to stamp out. As a society, we sure do not act like it. I testified in court recently to have two children removed from a mother who is addicted to prescription narcotics and let the father rear them until the mother gets sober. She is forty years-old, so the likelihood of her ever being sober is remote at best. The court has been extremely lenient towards the mother. The female attorney (Guardian-ad-Litem) for the children refused to let the father take custody of them, even though the mother was drugging her children with her prescription medications. The mother chemically restrained her children repeatedly so she could be absolved of parenting them when she didn't feel like it. The father is a Jewish school teacher who keeps Kosher. You can't get much cleaner than that. It's the judicial system, the law makers, the educators and school board, and religious leaders that have failed our community. If we are going to stamp out drug abuse disorders and its effect on our society, we must have zero tolerance for drug addicted mothers and/or fathers having control over their young children.  

We need an infusion of pride and dignity in all of our citizens and a greater commitment to the whole of America. Being poor is not the end of life, it is a stratification of society that will forever be found in American society as long as we embrace capitalism in some form or another. I am in favor of our system as it stands, it just needs work to swing the pendulum the other way a bit. As incomes rose almost three percent in the Memphis area, we increased the gap between the haves and have-nots.

I believe that when we as a society have removed the responsibilities of being a parent as well as a citizen from the members of our population and allow an anything goes attitude as long as someone isn't raped, beaten or murdered, we have lost our way. Greed, corruption, win at all costs attitudes have replaced charity, integrity and the greater good of all, community by community. Poverty is not unhealthy, poor health is unhealthy. One can be poor and have a sense of dignity, self worth, be healthy and have commitment to the whole. But if American society continues to place self worth on stuff instead of humanness, we will suffer the consequences of a consumer driven economy which innately creates clashes between the socioeconomic disenfranchised and wealthy. We have the largest economy in the world and poverty continues to emerge in our society. That is inexcusable.  

And if you think it will not affect your health, think again. It already has!



Posted by Amanda Sanders at 11:01 AM
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