Selective outrage

Of all the socioeconomic fuckups in our extended family, Joe Dirtbag and the Family Shrew are the only ones who consistently have a family consensus on their side to make excuse after excuse for their irresponsibility and fraudulence. My parents’ resigned, submissive response to Joe Dirtbag when he promised to keep drinking behind the wheel on his own, just not with me as his passenger, still stuns me sometimes. They fucking bought him that car. My dad gave him $15,000 to buy it, and he turned around and used it to haze me and deliberately endanger my welfare and safety. If I announced to my parents that I had been drinking behind the wheel and would continue to do so, but only without passengers, they would be apoplectic, and rightly so. If I defied them on a matter like that, they would give me no quarter. They would not be making excuses for me. They would not plunge headlong into a swamp of handwringing moral relativism, desperate to avoid a confrontation.

They wouldn’t make such excuses for other financially troubled relatives, either. My parents, in particular my mom, got into a major snit over two of their chronically broke relatives soliciting and receiving $600 checks from their elderly mother, who had moderate credit card debt, substantial pension income, low fixed expenses, and no objection to giving them some help. They kept acting like these two were beyond the pale for talking their way into these gifts, and brought pressure on them to return the money.

One of the recipients is a confirmed bachelor who got in over his head on home equity lines of credit and lost his house to foreclosure: a boneheaded move, but in this case I seem to be the only one in the family who wants to know why the lenders thought it reasonable to extend him HELOC’s worth something like eleven times his gross annual income. It took two to dance that tango. I’m also apparently the only relative to realize that the lenders did not get wiped out in this transaction but the bachelor did: they got years’ worth of interest payments and then a foreclosed property in a hyperinflationary housing market on the Mid-Peninsula, and the bachelor ended up sleeping in his car after he alienated his host at the place where he initially crashed after the foreclosure. As far as I know, my parents never gave him any money, and yet they got into high dudgeon over his getting $600 from his much more financially secure mother at a time when his personal finances were a nightmare.

The other recipient of these checks has done more to legitimately anger her relatives. Her biggest recent provocation came around the time of her mother’s death, when she tried to talk her way into being given jewelry and figurines that had not been willed to her so that she could fence them on eBay. It was a brazenly crass scheme, nothing admirable about it. At the same time, I have no doubt why she wanted to do this. She was indigent and marginally employed. She had been waitressing at a Steak-n-Shake where her supervisor had ordered her to work ten hours without so much as a bathroom break, an order that was illegal under the explicit terms of labor laws in their state. I can’t blame her for quitting that gig; any reasonable person with credible alternatives would quit, and anyone running a business in that fashion deserves a chaotic, unreliable labor pool. At other times, she had been writing articles for content farms at piecerates that worked out to something like $2.50 an hour. She’s a chronic fuckup and a confessed mooch, but she was in a genuinely bad spot financially. She was not about to live high on the hog by fencing a few more heirlooms on eBay. That’s a low-margin business the way she works it. It’s a low-margin business for most people who give it a try.

There’s more to my relatives’ anger at this broke-ass spinster than usually meets the eye. My mom gets pissed at her for having gone to law school and only practiced for the duration of a six-month entry-level contract working on child protection cases in a county counsel’s office. She’s resentful that the spinster didn’t stick with a distressing career in a dysfunctional office and turn into another burned-out, embittered lawyer. She gets pissed at the spinster for having dropped out of the law and taken a steady job as a medical office receptionist for something like a full decade. Why on earth is it her business that someone whom she has never supported financially and refuses to give one dime for the rest of her life dropped out of the rat race to take a job beneath her qualifications? This is nuts.

My mom gets similarly worked up about my quasi-aunt, her quasi-stepsister, who called her from Florida years ago, despondent because she had only $5.90 in her bank account to last her for a week or two. Quasi-Aunt was a walking clusterfuck, but she was a homely bull dyke on the verge of having to panhandle or engage in survival sex work over a thousand miles from home. This should have been punishment enough. It makes even less sense that my mom led Two Minutes Hate on Quasi-Aunt’s son for serving as his landlady’s gigolo in lieu of rent, since he never asked her for money and, as far as I know, wasn’t even the one who spread the word about his sugaring arrangement.

Meanwhile, Joe Dirtbag has dumped hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of money from friends and relatives into the shitter, and no one will say boo about it. My parents will confront him if I go to them desperate for backup because he’s gone feral on me again, but that’s it, and even so, he manages to turn them against me in the midst of these confrontations. My best guess is that he and the Family Shrew threaten to really fuck some shit up for everyone else if they’re pointedly criticized or, God forbid, forced to start turning their disastrous business finances around and repaying us some of the money we’ve dumped into their sinkhole, and that the other family fuckups don’t threaten to do anything worse than whine for a bit.

Joe Dirtbag has effectively corrupted the local political scene in his town, to the point that I’m starting to think that I should only go back there under an assumed identity. It’s disgusting how many people he knows who are willing to back him up for tax evasion because they didn’t care for that one mayor and thought her tax plan was bogus, or who are willing to back him up for running a chaotic junkyard of a WWOOF scam at his farm because hippie mellow. Shortly after he desperately went to my dad for a $50,000 emergency gift to stave off his mortgage noteholder-cum-investor from foreclosing on the farm, Joe Dirtbag went on the record in the local paper about how he was refusing to pay his some of his taxes because the city wasn’t stewarding the money adequately. What he didn’t tell the paper was that he was refusing to pay these taxes on a business that I knew to be on the brink of failure, and what he didn’t tell me or my dad was that he was involved in this pathetic mimicry of civil disobedience at all.

Predictably enough, the local government’s response was fuck you, Gandhi. This was perfectly reasonable: the tax was legitimate, if ill-considered, policy, duly enacted by a duly constituted government with the right to use the courts to compel recalcitrant tax-dodgers to pay up. This is too much state sovereignty for some of the locals, who would prefer Joe Dirtbag to be allowed to exercise the private sovereignty to do whatever because whatever and he’s a cool local dude and shit. Dirtbag’s revealed preferences, notwithstanding his stated ones, are taxation for thee but Social Security pension for me. His support from neighbors in a bizarrely crude tax-evasion scheme is reminiscent of peasants offering to take up arms on behalf of the manorial lord against the king, but at a time when the crown is offering indigent peasants free housing and is also granting the lord a monthly stipend for his household expenses. Since Joe Dirtbag decided for years on end not to pay me because sharing economy, and then decided to maybe start paying me (i.e., having my parents pay me through him) before changing his mind when I left town in response to yet another round of his deliberate harassment, I can’t apologize for calling foul on him. It seems that this really harshes the local mellow, though. So does the scientific literature on childhood vaccination and herd immunity.

I have $15,000 tied up in this shit, but I’ll upset all the timid Timmies if I tell Joe Dirtbag to stop jerking off into the piggy bank. If he weren’t landed, no one would have given him all that money. I’m thinking that we’re on the road back to feudalism.

It’s a beautiful day in the neighborhood, a beautiful day to call the Oregon State Po–never mind.

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