Charity

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This weekend we experienced our first package theft and our first credit card fraud since moving into the house. We’ve been here for seven years, and considering all the griping we hear from NIMBY’s around town, we’ve been long overdue for the package theft. I can mostly describe my feelings on this matter as annoyed and concerned. I wish we hadn’t lost our $40 Amazon package containing a two person large flower pot lifter. I also wish a misplaced credit card of ours hadn’t been used for a trip to a Shoreline sex shop (I’m more forgiving of the charges to Fred Meyer, Walgreens, and Shell.) Not that I wish to sex-shame thieves, but it seems even I hold to some sort of charity-money hierarchy.

There’s the old trope of the person who won’t give to street beggars because they might spend whatever change you throw in their cup on “drugs” or “booze.” Similar is the shaming of those who use their EBT card to pay for a tasty treat that has negligible nutritional value. So why is the sex store in Shoreline a bridge too far?

I laugh when I think to myself the reasons:

1. Fred Meyer has a decent selection of safer-sex products (lube, condoms, etc.) as well as “massagers.”
2. The Fred Meyer they went to is very close to a locally and woman owned sex shop.
3. They went to a chain store that was out of the way!

But really, that’s the thing about charity. When you give to organizations that distribute aid to the poor, it attaches those strings so you can wag your finger and control the lives of others from a distance. The truth is that I look at myself, and many others I know and love, and it is by luck we are as comfortable as we are because without that luck, we would find ourselves ground under the same rules and the same system that devalues the life and labor of so many. To access what little aid there is to the most vulnerable, it still requires so much time, effort, and skill that it’s easy to forget – ABLIST of us to forget – that some do not.

I choose to think of the theft and the fraud we experienced this weekend as an unexpected donation, because really, what is my other choice? To wish the thieves to be apprehended? And then what? The criminal justice system is so punitive and broken that I don’t really wish anyone to become entangled. There is no rehabilitation or treatment within. Best case scenario means you get out and get a case manager and options within the system, but you have to be able and willing to play the game. Check all the boxes, jump through the hoops, and if you’re using drugs, get clean and sober if you want a chance at housing.

Between banks and credit card companies offering protection against fraud, and the likelihood that Amazon will refund our loss, we’ve lost nothing. We are living comfortably in Seattle, a city of increasing wealth disparity. I imagine many of my neighbors could lose $500 of merchandise or credit without them noticing for days, if not weeks, when the same amount of money could make a world of difference to any number of the car-campers.

SOAP BOX: I just wish so many in Seattle weren’t fighting so hard to preserve and increase the wealth disparity. Large companies, like Amazon (who will likely refund us), bring tons of jobs to our city and provide jobs to those in the construction industry through their rapid expansion. However, because they are not paying their fair-share of taxes, the people they bring in 1) displace lower-wage earners as rent prices increase 2) put a greater strain on our transit and road infrastructure. Head Taxes, and other taxes on businesses like Amazon could fund low-income housing and create a more robust transit infrastructure.