A Lesbian Elder’s Warning
A friend of many decades, who currently depends on federal assistance for affordable housing, sent me her concerns about the current direction of our government. As a lesbian, a feminist, a woman, a senior with disabilities, and a progressive activist, she feels especially vulnerable right now. She needed anonymity, but gave me permission to share her insight.
“As I watch the mechanism of Fascism being put into place in our country, I look for the small back stories that tell the larger tale when the stories are all knitted together. I look for what is happening locally. One such small story surfaced in my life last month.
“Our local Housing Authority (HA) provides rental assistance to low-income people through the Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Section 8 Voucher System, a life-saving program.
“The budget for the HA has been drastically cut over the years. No surprise here. The program has gone from three people working full time three days a week in our small town to one person available to residents three hours a week. One of the aspects of the program is a yearly inspection of the voucher recipient’s home. This is a good thing. Homes are checked to confirm they are safe and healthy places to live. The inspector checks for the basics: working water and electrical systems, safe stairs, secure doors and windows, etc. The inspector also checks to make sure no one is cooking meth in the bathtub and that things look on the up and up.
“Our local inspector covers a very large network of homes for the HA. Budget cuts make this a challenge. He is quick and efficient. He takes about 10 minutes of time and then is off to the next inspection.
“On his way out the door, I asked him how the current government is impacting the HUD program. He said a 13% reduction of HUD is in the works. He also said that a sea change in inspections is being proposed. Instead of a local inspector doing what he has done for years effectively, the government is proposing to do an ‘in depth’ inspection. That entails calling in ‘professionals’ in the field of housing development such as foundation, roofing, and heating contractors, to do studies of the voucher recipient’s home. Once the bevy of contractors (local? we doubt it) completes the inspection, then the results are shipped back to the federal office. Then—and, this is where the story reveals how the current government is overlaying a Fascist template—photographs of the interior of the home will be taken, that is, photos of bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, living room and computer area. These photos will then be sent to a massive database at the federal level.
“Many of us probably saw the outstanding piece of journalism in The Guardian which exposed the financial connections between the United States elections and the United Kingdom’s Brexit vote. I am deeply concerned. The way for me to combat this horrible situation is by understanding it as clearly as possible so I can adjust my responses accordingly. Also, I can help others to understand.
“After the election, I questioned ‘why’ unqualified billionaires were being put in charge of federal programs like HUD. I think I finally got it after reading the piece in The Guardian. Each of our government’s agencies have massive databases. Data is what the Fascists are seeking. The billionaires are simply placeholders in the agencies. They hold the doors open for the Fascist Information Technology teams to collect data and breach data privacy agreements. Today’s technology facilitates mega database collection. And, that includes pictures of my bedroom and computer area.
“As for the gravy train for contractors inspecting the homes, we all know who is in the housing and land development business.”
Unlike my friend, I’m not ready to use the term fascism in reference to the administration, but I think she, and the quoted Guardian article, are not to be ignored. I admire how she brings home the need to understand what is happening to our country that has gripped me, and so many other Americans.
Just yesterday, at a tiny, rural Mexican restaurant, I was sitting with another worried lesbian when a gentleman in his sixties, seated near us with his wife, complimented me on the t-shirt I wore: Elizabeth Warren’s “Nevertheless, She Persisted” shirt. I thought he was going to hug me, he was so demonstrably thrilled to have found a progressive compatriot.
A lesbian elder’s pen, a stranger at the next table, a respected Senator standing up to speak the truth. Our very vulnerabilities make us strong as long as we continue to tell our stories, large and small.