Kevin O'Keefe: When the foxes take over the henhouse

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I recently walked to the Brattleboro Area Hospice store on Flat Street (where I have an office) to drop off a couple of bags of clothing.

A man approached me and said, "Can I ask you a question?" I knew what was coming but I thwarted his request with my own, "Hey, can you open that door for me?" He did so and while I was inside the store I dug out fifty cents from my pocket for his trouble.

I left the hospice and crossed the foot bridge to the Co-op. I passed another man with a sign asking for help. And then another man, this one wearing no shoes. And finally a couple whose sign read, "Desperate Times call for Desperate Measures."

Neighbors and fellow business owners have recently bemoaned the preponderance of pan-handlers.

It seems any day you walk on any downtown street you can be asked for a hand-out a few times. Monthly (in winter) or weekly (in warmer months) there is an overdose or some other drug-related occurrence on Flat Street or in Harmony Lot. I recently heard that the Transportation Center is being re-named the Desperation Center.

Are there more poor people than usual? If so, one explanation may be the war that the Republicans are currently waging. When a 1.5 trillion dollar tax break, exclusively for the rich and stock-owning elite, is passed through Congress, and the following months leaders start harping on the urgent need to gut entitlements like school lunch, after-school programs, welfare, food stamps, health care, and Social Security, you know you are in midst of the undeclared war on the poor.

This past week we have seen national news articles about how government employees and teachers no longer have a place in the middle class. Across the country in Republican-controlled states teachers are protesting and walking out of schools until their pay and pension benefits are restored.

In 1974, I was in tenth grade and I first heard the phrase, "The rich get richer and the poor get poorer." Would most of us would trade those economic times for these? Wages have stagnated; unless you are a CEO, those have gone up by 4,000 percent.

Are there more drug-addled people than normal? Most definitely. The so-called "opioid crisis" is another front opened up by the forces of profit.

The FDA with a huge assist from one or two corporate-sponsored congressmen made it easier to get drugs to the market and prescribe them with much less oversight. The result? Profits soared. The carnage is everywhere.

There were 64,000 opioid deaths in 2016. Families are ruined, petty crime is rampant and little is done, because the profits are too good for those who control the levers of government — our corporate overlords.

When the Trump administration purposefully picked people to head agencies (HUD, DEA, EPA, Education, etc.) only to oversee their disembowelment it was said, "That the fox was in the hen house." Now that nearly all the hens have all been ravaged, our only hope is that the foxes will tear each other apart. Paranoia is the false belief that they are all out to get you. Maybe, now it's just a clear sense of reality.

Kevin O'Keefe is the artistic  director of Circus Minimus. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of the Brattleboro Reformer.

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