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Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Seriously, America, We’re Not the Enemy

posted by on October 29 at 10:06 AM

This NYT story about how the impact of the economic crisis on families in the small town of Manteca, California, pretty much broke my heart….

As the classified ads put it, everything must go. Socks. Christmas ornaments. Microwave ovens. Three-year-old Marita Duarte’s tricycle was sold by her mother, Beatriz, to a stranger for $3 even as her daughter was riding it.

On Mission Ridge Drive and other avenues, lanes and ways in this formerly booming community, even birthday celebrations must go. “It was no money, no birthday,” said Ms. Duarte, who lost her job as a floral designer two months ago. The family commemorated Marita’s third birthday without presents last week, the occasion marked by a small cake with Cinderella on the vanilla frosting….

When life’s daily trappings and keepsakes are laid out for sale on a collapsible table, sentiment is the first thing to go. “The cash helps a lot,” Constantino Gonzalez, Ms. Duarte’s neighbor, said of the family’s second sale in two weeks, in which he and his wife, Julia, were reluctantly selling their children’s inflatable bounce house for $650, with pump.

Since losing his construction job, Mr. Gonzalez, 43, has been economizing, disconnecting the family’s Internet and long-distance telephone service, and barely using his truck and the Jeep…. The inflatable bounce house is the children’s favorite toy, but the family’s $1,800 mortgage payment is coming…. “We need to eat,” Mr. Gonzalez tells his children about selling off their toys.

And then I got to this paragraph:

This is McCain-Palin placard country, where signs for the anti-gay-marriage state ballot measure, “Yes on 8,” pepper the landscape….

Okay, my heart still breaks for those kids in Manteca who’re having their tricycles and bouncy houses sold out from under them by their desperate parents. And I shouldn’t be surprised to learn, I suppose, that there’s a lot of support for Prop 8, which would ban same-sex marriage in California, in some small town a million miles from anything. But that detail made me want to scream. The religious right goes on and on about the supposed “threat” that same-sex marriage poses to the family. They can never quite tell you precisely how families headed by married same-sex couples threaten the families headed by married opposite-sex couples. But these people fall for it. It’s not predatory lending or lax regulations or weakened unions or loose nukes or an immoral health care “system” that functions by denying health care to those who need that keeps them up nights, or has them gathering signatures, writing checks, and passing out yard signs. Nope, it’s these three that threaten the family:


Hello? Desperate and broke parents of Manteca, California? You’re being played for fools. Same-sex marriage is not a threat to you or your families. The GOP—with its mania for deregulation, its never-ending assault on unions and living-wage jobs, its opposition to a national health care system—is a threat to you and your families.


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No sympathy. Manteca has only one economy and thats water slides. There is nothing else there and pretending Manteca is a bedroom community to the Bay Area is flat out ridiculous. And I bet half those toys were bought with a HELOC. No sympathy.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 10:13 AM

You're not my enemy. but then again I am not a bigoted idiot.

I guess my marriage will fail if someone else dicided to marry a member of the same sex. afterall it is just a weak bond that depends on the good moral values of the entire nation

smell that. it is sarcasm

Posted by mickey in AR | October 29, 2008 10:15 AM

Since Massachusetts legalized gay marriage a lot of the former opponents in that state have come out and admitted that in fact it's no big deal, the world didn't end, straight marriages didn't become extinct. If I were the No on Prop 8 people I would run an ad focusing on that, pointing out that straight people still get married in MA just fine.

Posted by bob | October 29, 2008 10:17 AM

Bellevue Ave is correct. Manteca is pretty much Stockton's asshole.

Posted by kid icarus | October 29, 2008 10:25 AM

Maybe I'm a bad person, but I have NO SYMPATHY for people who bought their kids a damn "bounce house" and have to sell it. I had a $50-at-a-yard-sale trampoline when I was growing up and I don't feel horribly neglected. Shit, they could have bought their kids a set of Mr. Sketch markers and a refridgerator box and they would have had fun.

Posted by Jessica | October 29, 2008 10:27 AM

I bet a floral designer could sure benefit from an increase in people who can and want to get married.

Posted by keshmeshi | October 29, 2008 10:27 AM

@3 And Masssachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the nation.

I grew up poor. My parents could never have afforded a $650+ toy for me. Is the economy really the only thing to blame here or have these people been living well beyond their means?

If so, it appears that their decision-making abilities are seriously deficient in many different areas.

Posted by whatevernevermind | October 29, 2008 10:28 AM

"Morality is a luxury only the well-fed can afford" - MacHeath, "The Threepenny Opera"

This is what it's come down to Dan; as the economic crisis deepens, as more and more middle-class Americans find themselves without jobs, without homes, without the most basic necessities required to insure their very existence, the "values voters" among them are suddenly confronting the sobering reality that all of their moral certitude means nothing in the face of struggling on a daily basis to put food on their tables and keep a dry roof over their heads.

In the past, it was easy for them to ignore the fact that the GOP was essentially playing them for rubes: while on the one hand Republicans paid lip-service to issues like abortion and gay marriage and religion in the schools, et al, these folks were being led by the nose with promises of turning America into an Evangelical-Protestant Fantasyland, all the while the economic foundation of their lives was slowly being washed out from beneath them, as more and more of their earnings have been redirected into the hands of the corporatists and plutocrats who really run the party, as well as the oil-gobbling engine of our consumerist economy.

I don't blame them for having been duped: after all, the people doing the grifting have become highly adept at dangling the carrot just low enough to appear within reach, but always just high enough to ensure only a mere handful could ever grasp it - which in itself played to the underclass' perpetual hope of somehow winning their way out of the morass. But now that the shit is starting to hit the proverbial fan, I HOPE enough of these people will open their eyes REALLY open them, and see how vilely they've been treated by the corporate and political fat-cats who will do - and say - anything, so long as the yokels below continue to send them barrels and barrels of their hard-earned cash.

Maybe THEN, they'll realize there is no "red versus blue", no "Godless liberals versus God-fearing conservatives" - it's ALL just us: the great majority of those who have very little versus the tiny handful of those who have most of everything.

Posted by COMTE | October 29, 2008 10:32 AM

Yeah, calling Manteca "a small town in the middle of nowhere" is kinda like glorifying Wasilla for its small town, pro-America aura (big box stores, dead lake and rampant development aside).

Much sympathy for the toy-less kids and the parents, but

Posted by onion | October 29, 2008 10:34 AM

btw, LOVE the photo. oozes cute, all three of them. tugs heartstrings, FTW.

Posted by onion | October 29, 2008 10:36 AM

@7, i can attest to the fact that central valley communities suffered some of the worst of the subprime housing price expansion. Not only was there an influx of day laborers to build crap houses in the super heated market, they also bought houses themselves predicated on the belief it would always last.

Now, don't get me wrong, people make mistakes and it sucks for them. But I don't have sympathy for people that make mistakes on top of mistakes and set themselves up for ruin by believing the lies they are party to.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 10:36 AM

Bellevue Ave, you're right, in part - but the biggest reason the subprime crisis has hit Manteca and Stockton and all points in between (and Galt, and Lodi, Tracy, Modesto. . . ) is that so many Bay Area commuters were pushed out of the core Bay suburbs by rising house prices. Then, just as those folks - the poorer, middle class-y-er folks - saw their interest rates climb, the gas prices went way up.

I'm sure there's also a corollary here, where rich farmland has been developed for housing, impacting the local economic base.

Posted by Lodigirl | October 29, 2008 10:44 AM

We bought our kids a bounce castle (you need toys like this when you have a postage stamp of a backyard) - we paid $120 on sale at Toys R Us - Regular price $199 CDN

However our mortgage payment is only $900 a month despite living in one of the most expensive cities in Canada (Vancouver)

A $1800 mortgage payment means they have a $300,000 mortgage - does it cost that much for a townhouse in California? or are they living above their means in a big fancy suburban house?

I think this boils down to poor decision making. The 'Yes' om prop 8 is just further proof of their inability to make good choices.

I feel sorry for the kids but hopefully they learn from their parent's mistakes and be better people because of it.

Posted by DavidC | October 29, 2008 10:46 AM

I doubt McCain or Palin actually believes gay marriage is a threat to America but they know that there are plenty of dullard evangelicals who are terrified of all the gay people that they'll never actually meet but that their book and their pastors tell them are scary and evil.

You play with what works, whether it's true (or right) or not.

Posted by Sleestak | October 29, 2008 10:47 AM

I was born in Manteca. I'm damn glad I moved out of there while I was still young.

I agree with you, Dan. I feel less sympathy than I should for people who fall for the religious right's bullshit over and over again. These people fervently believed in Dubya despite all the warnings that their trust was misplaced. Now they've forgotten all that and they're prostrating themselves at the altar of Palin.

Lefties aren't supposed to call people like that stupid, I hear. It doesn't help us win over the coveted middle. I get that, nobody likes being called stupid. But I can't stop thinking privately that people who follow the Republicans against their own self interest must be the most gloriously, intentionally ignorant people in the world. What kind of an idiot ignores their own suffering and knowingly allows themself to be exploited by rich and powerful people for nothing more than whatever satisfaction they get from being "right" and forcing others to conform to their arbitrary social values?

Posted by Rhiannon | October 29, 2008 10:48 AM

Am I seeing that right? Does that little boy have his right ear pierced? The right one? The "GAY" one?

"The Agenda" rolls on...

Posted by Chris | October 29, 2008 10:50 AM

@6 FTW

Posted by genevieve | October 29, 2008 10:51 AM

lets see here.....

sold a "bounce house" for 650$, we can easily assume it was over 1000$ new.

can't drive his TRUCK or JEEP, not cheap vehicles either of em not even counting gas + maintenance

1800$ mortgage and yet they live in the middle of nowhere according to comments

the wife is a floral arranger?, what does the dad do, work at McDs?

ya think maybe these idiots had it coming by living WAY out of their means?, sure it sucks that the kids are affected as well but with parents like that did they have much chance anyway?.....

heart breaking Dan?, I thought you were tougher than that especially when it comes to the dumb

Posted by Wurm | October 29, 2008 10:52 AM


"reluctantly selling their children’s inflatable bounce house for $650, with pump" doesn't seem to even compare with this:

But don't worry, Barack, Harry and Nancey will surely get us there with their disastrous policies... save your hart strings for then.

Posted by You_Gotta_Be_Kidding_Me | October 29, 2008 10:52 AM

You're all wrong, Gay Marriage and Same-sex marriage (see you Gay folks get TWO while str8 folk only get one, THAT'S special rights). Of course two special institutions for gay folks hurts the one institution for str8 folk. Get real. Those two sweet women with that cute little kid they're bringing up are really well trained Gay-Mafia members. One wrong move and they'll kill you with out a second thought. And when they get their Gay-Marriage AND their Same-sex marriage, they'll have TWO certificates to your one. That little boy is a future Gay-Suicide bomber that will strap face powder to himself and blow up the cosmetics counter at Nordstrom, taking 3 women and 7 gay men with him.

Posted by Sargon Bighorn | October 29, 2008 10:55 AM

Once again, Bellevue Ave for the win.

He's hitting a lot out of the water parks nowadays.

Posted by Will in Seattle | October 29, 2008 10:58 AM

Lodigirl, the problem is though, no matter how expensive it gets in the bay area (and I grew up there since 86 to 2003), pushing a 75 mile commute each way isn't sustainable and neither is buying a house only 50% cheaper than an overly inflated price the bay area. The discount of moving to places like Manteca are negated by the instability of such a place.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | October 29, 2008 11:00 AM

Manteca is the spanish word for lard.

Posted by MrEdCT | October 29, 2008 11:06 AM

@11 I do have sympathy for the real victims who were really conned or duped, but not the people who just wanted more than they could afford. All I know is, my working-poor parents would have never in a million years taken a subprime mortgage because they are smarter than that. The result is that they have a very good retirement today and are set for life.

@13 I live in an expensive part of LA and the mortgage of the people in this story is twice that of my rent-controlled apartment. They could have rented a three-bedroom apartment or even a house in LA for less money than that mortgage. I do feel very sorry for their kids.

Posted by whatevernevermind | October 29, 2008 11:06 AM

Focus on what's important. Material things are not. What you need as opposed to what you want. It's clear that if Obama loses this country will continue it's slide down.

Posted by Vince | October 29, 2008 12:27 PM

Did the article mention how much she had to sell the little girls pony for?

Posted by sock monkey | October 29, 2008 2:26 PM

It is indeed very sad. My husband and I (gay man here) are raising a little boy together. Our son turns five next week. We are doing really well financially, but that could all change in an instant. My (admittedly bleeding) heart breaks considering those parents having to sell off beloved toys so the family can make the mortgage and eat. I don't know what I would do if I was in the same position. I don't know what I would tell my little boy if I had to sell his favorite toys.

I wish the people in Manteca would understand the pain of having to explain to a five-year old that some people hate his parents for no good reason and want to eradicate his parents' right to have their relationship recognized by the state. I guess not everyone can empathize with those who are not quite like themselves.

Posted by sribisi | October 30, 2008 7:58 AM


Don't take away any rights, keep California free.

Posted by Paul | October 30, 2008 11:30 AM

Thanks for sharing our family photo, Dan. FYI, our child is a girl. Her moms got a little too carried away with the scissors for her first haircut.

November 4th will be a day for the history books, it's also a special day for our family. It will mark our 8 year anniversary of being a loving, supportive lesbian couple. Our home is here in California and we were married here this past July, with our daughter by our side. Prop 8 cannot pass. There is nothing more to it. Our family is at stake. As you can see, we're just regular people. We take our daughter to the park, we hold her and rock her when she's sick, we pay our taxes, we obey the law. Our family is the most important thing in the world to us, taking marriage away would be devestating.

Again, thanks for all the support. We live in a tiny town that is covered with "Yes on 8" signs, my own parents' church responsible for most of them. It keeps my hopes up that we'll defeat this!

Posted by Niki | October 31, 2008 8:26 AM

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