Barbarism in the Digital Age

We need to get beyond this shit

Amber Fraley

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Photo by Matt Collamer on Unsplash

I distinctly remember the first time I ever saw a homeless person, or at least, the first time I understood the person I was looking at was homeless. I was about seven or eight years old and our family was going to a local art gallery to see my mother’s paintings there, because both my parents are artists. We parked in back of the gallery, and on the way in, we observed a man curled up next to the building, asleep on the ground.

My dad stopped short and pointed. “It’s a bum,” he said, as if the man wasn’t a person — just a curiosity. Then we walked into the gallery without a second thought. (Well, he did anyway. Clearly I didn’t.)

That’s how my conservative dad taught me to view the world. When those commercials with hungry, dying kids would come on the television asking Americans to sponsor a child in need in Africa, my dad would often say something like, “What’s the point in sending money over there? Those people are going to die anyway.” As a child, believe it or not, it made sense to me. “Those people” were far away and abstract, and if you didn’t think about them, it was almost like they didn’t even exist.

My dad raised me to see the world as winners versus losers, bums versus those who pull themselves up by their bootstraps and make their own way in the world. Losers didn’t deserve grace or kindness or pity. Just indifference. After all, they were probably the cause of their own misfortune, one way or another.

When I left home to make my own way in the world — because neither of my parents bothered to help me with anything once I turned eighteen — I quickly learned my dad was full of shit. Hard work didn’t guarantee anything. The truth is you can work your ass off in this country and still end up dirt-poor or dead. I learned these odds increased if you happened to have been born poor, female, Black or brown. If you’re white, from a middle- to upper-class family and aren’t a total fuckup, you’ll probably live a fairly comfortable life and be able to retire. If not, well, whatever befalls you is your problem.

We are now a full two decades into the twenty-first century, and for the first time since the Great Depression, huge tent cities have sprung up all over the United States. In many large…

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Amber Fraley

Writing about abortion rights, mental illness, trauma, narcissistic abuse & survival, politics. Journalist, novelist, wife, mom, Kansan, repro rights activist.