“Why Don’t You Just Leave?”

Watch this first please, so you have a reference:

“Why don’t they just leave!”

“How f*%#ing stupid do you have to be to build in a flood plain?!”

“Move out of the state!”

“I bought a greyhound ticket out of my hometown and never went back. It was easy and cheap, don’t tell me it’s too expensive to move. I did it.”

(these were collected from many comments from different Hurricane Florence posts that showed what was happening in Robeson County NC during and after the hurricane)

They say never read the comment section of posts. If you do, you will be sorry. I suppose they are right.

Poverty is not something that everyone can understand. Part of me is glad that their are people who don’t know what it’s like to be so hungry you can feel through your entire body. People who have never had the power turned off for months, or who have bathed using a large plastic container and a water hose out back. I can’t even claim all of these, though I know people who can. So I am glad that not everyone can say they’ve experienced it. At the same time, their are millions who can say those paltry examples and more are everyday life.

I teach in the county where the woman in the video lives. I have for 7 years. When I file my taxes with my married husband who is also full time, I am just below the poverty line because of my job. When I have to pay back the government (even though I claim nothing on my taxes), I always get granted low income repayment status. Two, college educated, salaried state employees live below the poverty line. We are not allowed an assistance. We make too much, and I get that. People make less than we do, we remember our lives before our salaried jobs.

Two years ago I was offered a job somewhere else. My husband was offered a job in the same town, right across the street where I would work. We spent weeks looking for a place to live. We spent money traveling to this new town in order to view properties and apartments. We couldn’t even if we saved all of that traveling money, moved to this new town. Why? Because we couldn’t afford the $3,000 to move.

Why $3,000? Well you have to rent the U-Haul, do a security deposit (that yes you should get back but the money is still “held” until the vehicle is inspected), pay for the gas you use, pay per mile you travel on the vehicle, then fill it up with gas before you drop it off. Then you need first and last months rent for the new place’s deposit, and any pet fees you may need to pay (I’m poor though so I shouldn’t have any pets, right?). You need to pay to turn on utilities in your name and that takes a deposit (at least it did when I moved here 7 years ago).

When I moved for work the first time, I had to borrow that from a beautiful person who did not take interest and allowed me to pay her back over a year or so. Why? Because I was a cashier and my husband was a waiter and no, we didn’t have kids yet. We made together under $20,000 a year. We were floundering. There was no work past what we had.

Then we got here and discovered what it was like living an a place that rarely floods but if it does, woowee! But though I make much more now, I have pets, and a child. We made other discoveries that encouraged us to try to move away two years ago and once again, couldn’t afford to. We couldn’t find affordable rental/housing. I couldn’t get extra money together to afford to make the move itself. So I had to decline the offer.

It was horrible. Here we were making twice what we did when we moved here 7 years ago and we still could not afford to live where we wanted.

If someone offered me a dream position out of a flood plain, I couldn’t go. Debt is a big part of it. Sure there is credit debt but it’s nothing compared to what I’ve heard people can rack up! I went to college because when I was a kid my parents together made $25,000 a year if they were lucky. I wanted a better life, and a better life meant college and loans. So there’s student debt to consider too. Don’t forget medical debt. No one expects to be told they are going blind at 21. Then find out 5 years later they have a brain tumor. Do you think finding out what’s wrong, is cheap and free? And it continues to this day. My first 2 MRIs were $17,000. I paid more than half before changes in medical billing saved me. I was required to pay it back too, at the tune of $3,500 a year.

I work a salaried job. I work 5 days a week, hours and hours. I take work home. I have a second job after school for an extra 3 hours each day and I sell Tupperware on the side. I like to think I am a good person. I go to church, I pray, I volunteer; but life doesn’t care what you do. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard you try.

Now imagine someone making less, single, working 10 hours a day for peanuts. Imagine hey can only live in one of the poorest counties in NC because, newsflash, that’s what they can afford. And you judge them? Do you know why they are poor? Do you know their motivations? Tribal land sits in that county. Just give that land up? Have the Natives of this country given up enough? What if they have cancer, health problems, a sickly family member? What if they too have debt from trying to get an education to better their lives.

But you presume that a bus ticket can solve all of their problems. That they have family living elsewhere to take them in? Why? Because certainly they would leave that place? Really?

There are good people there. Strong, intelligent, hardworking, proud people living they and you just tell them to move. With what? What can they get else where? Do you have ancient tribal lands for them? Will you pay for their ticket to leave? Set them up with a job interview? Can they sleep on your couch until things get better when they move to your town?

What about children? Should the parents just hop a bus with them and without a job lined up go? Is that how we do things here? Can we do that here? Just leave. It’s that easy in our country?

No, it’s not. But it is easy to sit behind your computer and type any damn thing. It’s easy to think your life is the only life you should measure all others because that’s your frame of reference. It’s easy to get on your soapbox and tell everyone how they can do better and live better.

But what about you? Why do you feel the need, in your perfect life, to sit behind a technological mask of obscurity and judge these people? You aren’t offering solutions, you are condemning choices you haven’t had to make. I am stuck at home right now because all of the roads out of my town, in the county next door to Robeson, because the roads are flooded. I lost power. I lost all my perishable food for the rest of the month. I’m not sure how I will replace it. I don’t live on a flood plain. I don’t live on the coast. When I moved here the last big event was in the 90’s. I cannot even pretend I understand what these people are going though and I wouldn’t presume.

And yet, you (these folks who are blaming the victims) have the unmitigated gall to decide what a person can and cannot do based on your different life circumstances.

I too had a choice. I shouldn’t have read the comment section. We all have a choice on how we impact this world. Are you an overwhelming changing force of good? Or are you a toxic, malignant thing attached to the idea that stagnation and hatred are acceptable? If you choose the latter, reflect on why, because I am afraid the mental poverty you have cannot be cured with a bus ticket out of town.

4 thoughts on ““Why Don’t You Just Leave?”

  1. The comment section is becoming a rather toxic place unfortunately. It’s very easy to sit behind a keyboard and and make judgements when they have no clue what the situation is. We couldn’t have moved if The Bloke’s parents hadn’t have lent us money, bless them…

    Liked by 1 person

    • They sound like wonderful people! I blows my mind what people assume we should and shouldn’t be able to do. I can see what the comment section could be, if people took the thought that they put into face to face interactions into online ones… but it’s just like when people don’t think online friends are real friends, online gaming buddies are real buddies, blogging friends aren’t real friends… the internet may not be something we can walk through but it’s very real and so are the people on it. Thank you so much for your understanding:)


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