Preying on the Most Vulnerable

 

 

When I was fifteen, my first summer job was selling magazines door-to-door. Except there were no magazines. It was extortion, theft, and slavery. I never got paid, even though they told me I was their best salesman. Sleazy adults took a group of us kids who had been foolish enough to respond to their help-wanted ad to remote, all-black neighborhoods in St. Louis, where we went from house to house, offering subscriptions to magazines geared to a black audience, Ebony, Tan, Whirl, for a mere five cents a week. The profits would send a boy in their neighborhood to college. That was the sales pitch they had us memorize.

 

As way of encouragement, they kept telling me how much money I stood to make once my “orders cleared.” It turns out not only were there no magazines, but it was simple extortion. A “collector” came to their house a few hours after my visit and demanded payment up front for all the magazines they’d ordered. If they failed to pay he would go to the police.

 

It wasn’t sex trafficking, but it was trafficking, and the way such things usually work is the adults in charge take the kids far from home, house them in cheap motels, give them little freedom and no money, but reward them with pizza and soft drinks at the end of a long day. They also dish out loads of false encouragement, pie-in-the-sky promises of substantial money someday soon. The police are well aware of these operations, but have a hard time keeping track of them all. When one is shut  down, another opens in its place. There are a lot of kids hoping to land a summer job.

 

I feel like Trump and his multi-billion dollar wall are the modern version of this dilemma I once found myself in. Fortunately, I had an attentive father who advised me to quit immediately, that this was no legitimate enterprise but a scam. If it hadn’t been for his advice, I probably wouldn’t have had the nerve to quit. I probably would have been taken far from home, where I would be even more vulnerable to their lies. As it was, my handlers were mad at me for bailing out.

 

I’m now five years older than my father was when he died. Who will advise our nation on how to quit Trump and his empty promises? Who will stand up to the bully who has made a career of boasting and brow-beating? Who will free the vulnerable and trusting who still hope for what was promised?

 

In the Disney cartoon Pinocchio, many boys without good parenting found themselves turned into donkeys on Donkey Island, a place that at first seemed too good to be true, and later was found to be just that.

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A Fable, A Parable

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The ship had no captain, so the storms terrified the crew. They were already evenly split on believing that the navigator knew his job, but with no captain and no time or inclination for democracy, they were perpetually terrified. They were lost and a storm was raging all around them.

If only they could find respite from gale winds and crashing waves long enough to elect a captain they might be able to rekindle hope, but for now that seemed impossible. With each minute that passed, despair grew, until it was a palpable presence.

The crew began to fight among themselves. In the face of impotence, they ascribed blame. It was easier than doing nothing at all. Someone must be wrong, someone must be punished. Being right while others are wrong makes not knowing what to do slightly more tolerable.

In the face of all this uncertainty, some passengers and crew simply threw themselves overboard. Better to meet a certain end than a drawn-out one. They rather resigned from the debate than argue their point.

Preaching to the Choir

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Everyday on social media I see all sorts of attacks on our current President and his cabinet, and I wonder why we haven’t had a popular revolt yet. But then I remember, all my Facebook Friends think like me. That’s why they’re my friends. So I’m not talking to a representative populace. I’m talking into an echo chamber, staring into a hall of mirrors.

 

The people who voted for him aren’t the least bit scandalized by his behavior. The more outrageous it is, the more they like it. He’s stirring  things up. That’s what they hoped he would do. They hated the Clintons, they were tired of elitist, well-spoken college professors in government. They wanted a Wal-Mart manager for a boss.  Now they’ve got one and they can relax. They know how  this works, where they stand.