The real shame of American culture

August 17, 2014
Stacey Warde

Stacey Warde


A woman at the thrift shop today asked me if I was homeless.

I had just pulled a pair of Levi jeans off the rack, and a book on writing I’d discovered off the shelf and placed them before her.

“Do you take credit or debit cards?” I asked.

“No, I’m sorry,” she said, “We only take cash. We’ve just had too many problems with cards. That’ll be four dollars.”

I didn’t have any cash on me. I thought my card would do the trick.

Then, she asked: “Are you homeless?”

“Um, no,” I replied. I wore a uniform T-shirt with the company logo of the landscape outfit I work for and sported a pair of pruners in a holster on my belt. I’m a laborer but I’m not homeless, I said.

We just made a quick stop between jobs so that I could find a cheap pair of work pants.

“Oh, I’m sorry,” she responded. “I thought you might be homeless. We sometimes can give items free to customers who are homeless.”

This is a church-run outfit in Los Osos, one that provides income for the church and opportunities to serve the poor.

“Well, I’m not homeless,” I said, “but thanks for asking.”

“I’d be offended if someone had asked me if I was homeless,” she said apologetically.

“Really?” I said quickly, incredulous. “Why be offended? Especially in this economy. No, there’s no need to feel ashamed, not for being homeless” I added, the fires burning, “the people who need to feel ashamed are the Wall Street bankers who’ve robbed this country blind for the last ten years.”

She wouldn’t look at me, refused to engage further in my fulmination against the real shame of American culture: it isn’t homelessness but greed. That’s why this country is so fucked up.

That’s why a church woman intending to do well, to serve the poor, would feel offended if someone had asked her if she were homeless.

The more homelessness and child poverty, the more shame to those who hoard their wealth. The real crux of shame in American culture is greed, not poverty.

All that comes to mind, when I think of it, are the French Revolution and peasants who tear down the ramparts and bring to ruin the elite, the effete aristocracy, who would let the poor eat cake rather than deign to show compassion; and the biblical lament, “Woe to you who hoard your riches and refuse to hear the cry of the poor!”

Stacey Warde is a long time Cayucos resident and the publisher of The Rogue Voice which is now available online.


Stacey Ward …We are now living in a time when Fascist authoritarians control the nebula media. These anti-democratic monsters determine outcomes by manipulation, propoganda, and violence.

This 10% acts, and practically 90% of the other so-called ‘responsible’ citizens are cowards afraid to speak up or protest. A good deal of them are just too stupid to do so.

You anticipate a Bastille Day moment ? Your ‘good Amukans’ would rather be made slaves or starve to death first.


Instead of looking to the French Revolution (which got it all wrong, I might add), might I suggest looking to our own American Revolution? It did work out so much better… true, we’ve strayed a bit, but seriously, the French Revolution? The beheadings and lootings and terrorism? That is what should be looked up at? We’re all angry so we’re going to go kill people who have more than us? Those are tenants of ideological worth?

How about, instead, use this one: LIVE FREE OR DIE. Or how about: DON’T TREAD ON ME

There is so much to learn from our own history before needing to turn to failed foreign nations’ pasts.


Both the American and French Revolutions provide examples.

For instance, in the earlier American, up to one third of all ‘inhabitants’ ( remember, they weren’t ‘citizens’ yet ) were loyalists …Tories that wanted to remain under the rule of the king of England. They were definitely NOT patriots. After the war, they should have been forced into exile…back to their king in England or Canada.

Instead they were allowed to stay, and their progeny has been causing trouble for this nation ever since.

They have embraced all of the anti-democratic factions and regimes throughout our history…and who corrupts our society like a cancer today.

fishing village

How the heck did this thread get from a thrift shop in LO to a American cultural and ….what ?


Because many people are consumed by their ideologies. Whether it’s more political (wall street banksters / big oil) or social (pro-life/pro-choice, anti/pro-gun, etc), people tend to find what they are looking for wherever they look. Or at least apply their ideologies to the experience at hand.

When I read the piece that claims the cashier said, “I’d be offended if someone had asked me if I was homeless,” I immediately thought that she probably: A) did not attend the church that was running the thrift store, or B) pays no attention to the messages in the Bible, or C) it’s one of those really funky, feel-good “pop culture” type churches, the watered down kind. Either way, she completely failed with that statement. Stacey was right to say something — whether I agree completely with it or not is moot.

It is a good piece, but the tone is one of anger when it really should have been an excellent teaching opportunity. You do not teach by being mad at the cause of a problem (hence why the French Revolution was referenced, I’m guessing).




or D: She was intimidated by his rant and was defensively trying to walk it back. Which met his goal/needs.


Read the title


Upon a second reading of the article it seems pretty clear that she was asking if he was homeless (twice) because if he had said yes she would have been able to give him the jeans for free per their policy.

I’ll remember that the next time I’m out popping tags at the thrift shop.


Yes, the point of the piece was to inform the reader on how to scam a church-run thrift shop that tries to help those in dire need. Way to go.


The real shame of American culture should be the huge number of people milking the government for a free living without working. There are far to many people living off the government who should be ashamed of themselves.


We now have over 50% of American receiving some type of assistance from the government:

Housing, food stamps, subsidized or free medical, phones, computers, school lunches, books, scholarships, student loans, transportation including cars/ batteries/tires, disability assistance, unemployment, home purchases, tax assistance, to name just a few of the obvious.

This number is only going to rise as people continue to figure out the freebies offered by our government and as a society we continue to condemn hard working people by overtaxing them for subsidize all the freeloaders. What ever happened to work programs for the employed, disabled, etc.

We need to stop investing in other countries and reinvest in America!


Yes, and corporate welfare is the most costly government handout.

fishing village

I assume you will not take social security!! or medicare?


Nice attempt at distraction; the real “shame” of the huge number of people milking the government are those owning the large companies and corporations that get untold tax breaks, subsidies and no-bid contracts. You want to eliminate welfare? Start with corporate welfare first by taking the money out of politics so we can have a return to sensible tax policies for corporations and not reward them for shipping jobs overseas.

And to be more direct to your specific point, look at the so-called Red States and you will see that they receive more from the US government than their residents and businesses send in in tax revenue, meaning that they get more than they put in. But they continue to elect politicians whose main mission is to try and tear down the government and do the bidding of the rich and powerful. Again, nice distraction attempt …


Bob, we do agree on taking money out of politics. ALL MONEY! No corporations, no special interests groups, no unions, just U.S. citizens.

All voters should have a right to contribute to a said amount to a politician. EXAMPLE: Local races (within a county) say $1000.00, State races (within a state) say $5,000, National races (president, senator, representative) say $10,000. Plain and simple and be done with out the bullsh*t. So simple but then you wouldn’t agree because you want your union to have power, rights and interests in the process like everyone else with money!


You may be making a wrong assumption about Bob in your last sentence. That sounds like a reasonable position to me and I tend to agree with him on this subject.

However, any sort of campaign finance reform is likely to get as derailed and subverted by compromising it to death and rallying of voter opposition with massive misinformation campaigns. Current politicians and their masters (corporate, union or other) have too much to gain from the current system to allow those changes to happen.


SLOBIRD: While we apparently can agree that ALL money needs to be taken out of politics, I think that even your suggestion still leaves the door open for corruption and graft. And you are wrong about my feelings about the unions being able to contribute; if all special interest money is to be eliminated from politics, that WILL include money by unions as well.

The only way to make it work for everyone (IMO) is to have all political races on every level a function of that level of government, i.e., public financed campaigns only with absolutely no other monies allowed. Have the requirements meet the gravity of the office being run for; local city council races could require that any individual wanting to run to submit say, 500 or 1000 signatures of voters in that community expressing an interest in that person to run for office. Once those signatures are confirmed, the submitting person officially becomes a candidate and qualifies for the public financing. Again, no outside money allowed at all; keep it simple by having, depending on the size of the community of the race, a couple of hundred yard signs, no billboards, and local media outlets, as a condition of their license if they are a broadcaster, produce and run two commercials per candidate, each running at equal intervals and frequency to keep the candidates on a level playing field. Print media could decide whether or not to participate; either they run ads for all the candidates and have the ability to interview them, or they stay out of politics completely, no middle ground. By doing so, the focus would become on the platform of the candidate; what they would do, how they would vote, what they represent politically. For county wide races, increase the qualifying numbers and the allowed support, same for state races and nation wide contests as well.

Eliminating all special interests money, especially the PACS and SUPER PACS would allow, again, the focus on the candidate, not the money backing them. Politicians would benefit by being allowed to the job they were elected to do instead of constantly working to raise money to get re-elected, and those lobbyists with all of their special interest money would no longer have the ability to influence elected officials.

Those working in government would also have to face up to auditors to make sure that each candidate is being treated equally, and the auditors reports would be made public so the citizens can be assured that there are no special considerations made for political favorites.

Another function of a public financed campaign like this? No need for term limits; either the elected official is serving their constituents and they can keep their job, or they are not and will get voted out of office.

Pipe dream? Maybe, but a move like this is the real solution to the current mess we have with our politicians serving the needs of the wealthy only.


I have always been for removing limits on campaign donations. I’d like to see no group donations, only individuals – but those individuals would be publicly listed and allowed to donate ANY AMOUNT they want, if it is their personal property (money or otherwise).

Then we could start focusing on education. It isn’t “money buys elections” – it is “ignorance allows it” Are we really so stupid that we vote for someone or something because we see a TV ad or a sign? THAT is what needs to change.

Then again, we’d end up like so many former communist countries did when they threw off the oppressive chains of communism and embraced “democracy” – quickly applying communist tactics: bribes. I remember in Romania’s first real elections after Nicolae Ceaușescu was over-thrown (via bullets) the country immediately – and freely – elected his second in command. Mostly because he offered free booze and cigarettes to people who voted for him.

We could easily get there, education – real education (not indoctrination) – is key. Unfortunately, almost every educator I’ve known is an indoctrinator.


bob, businesses are moving overseas because of the taxes imposed on them. Same as people are leaving California, not to make more money but to keep more of the moneythey work for. A working couple unable to afford a family. Single Mom receiving assistance 3, 4, 5 children were is the logic in that life style. How much should people who work be asked to give, what would be a fair amount. Charity use to begin at home helping family, also local churches and charities. Now it is the burden of the working people. If you can stay on unemployment for years why even bother looking for a job. Taxes were never set up to create a life style…. The Government does need tearing down, and restructured starting with the IRS.


Businesses are indeed moving to escape taxes. But it is not because the taxes have gone up — check high-end income and capital gains tax rates in the 1950’s and 1960’s when America was booming. It is because our political leaders have decided that a race to the bottom would benefit their corporate masters and they have not just made it easier for them to move abroad but actually subsidized it in many cases. Most large businesses have had to follow the trend to remain competitive even if they would have preferred to stay where they are.

If the playing field for competition had stayed level, we would not have exported near as many of those blue-collar jobs that enabled families to get by with one income and get ahead if there was two.

fishing village

If I had been there I would have offered to pay for his ‘jeans’,

Ted Slanders

Stacey Warde, pseudo-christians and others may not agree with your thesis, but Jesus most certainly does, praise!

“Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

“Then Jesus looked around and said to His disciples, How hard it is for the rich to enter the kingdom of God! The disciples were amazed at his words. But Jesus said again, Children, how hard it is to enter the kingdom of God? It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.” (Mark 10: 21-25)

For the hypocritical wealthy Christian, in name only, the Wall Street Robber Bankers, and the wealthy elected GOP in office, remember that the direct inspired words of the Hebrew God also stated, to wit:

“But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.” ( Luke 14:13-14)

“Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him.” (Proverbs 19:17)

“Whoever is generous to the poor lends to the Lord, and he will repay him for his deed.” (Proverbs 14:31)

“Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute.” (Psalm 82:3)

“If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person?” (1 John 3:17)

Jesus said: “Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves. Protect the rights of all who are helpless.” ( Proverbs 31:8)

“For there will never cease to be poor in the land. Therefore I COMMAND YOU, ‘You shall open wide your hand to your brother, to the needy and to the poor, in your land.’ (Deuteronomy 15:11)

We can most certainly conclude that the Christian GOP in Congress and the Senate are NOT going to the Pearly Gates upon their demise. This is because they refuse to help the middle class and the poor in the way of providing those “jobs” they promised in the 2012 elections, and in the form of healthcare, raising the minimum wage, unemployment, and a cadre of other refinements to help the waning middle class and poor as the bible so states in the passages herein!

I am sure that there is NOTHING, and I repeat, NOTHING worse for our Hebrew God of the bible than to look down upon hypocritical Christians that don’t follow His direct and inspired words within the scriptures!!! Can you spell; H-Y-P-O-C-R-I-T-E-S? Sure you can.

Extremely Stoic


Ted Slanders

Extremely Stoic,

The Hebrew God’s direct and inspired words within the scriptures is no laughing matter!

I will pray for you tonight in the hopes that our God doesn’t not strike you with lightening! You can thank me later.

The Word

“Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people. Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven. 2 Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them. I tell you the truth, they have their reward. 3 But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your gift may be in secret. And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Ted Slanders

The Word,

Are you alluding to the many priests and pastors on Sunday mornings and on late night television? How shameful of you.

I will pray “in private” for you too.


I salute your biblical scholarship but you do make an assumption that is not backed by the Bible. You state that Christian GOP is primarily responsible here. They are indeed much to blame but the blame goes further — well into the ranks of the Democratic party. This applies particularly to the party leadership that mouths the right words while doing the wrong things. Is there not also some appropriate biblical injunction there? Maybe something about “wolves is sheep’s clothing” or could you just extend your comments about hypocrisy to them?

Ted Slanders


In prayer with Jesus relative to the topic at hand, we have yet to see where the Democrats stifle the middle class and the poor in trying to provide jobs, healthcare, raising the minimum wage, unemployment, etc. All we see is filibustering from the GOP on bills that would help in this respect.

The ungodly and hypocritical Republicans willingness to say no to everything does not bode well for America and is trying Jesus’ resolve. There is a “plethora” of examples in the last six years where the GOP has directly put politics ahead of the working middle class poor. Bottom line, the morality of the GOP stinks and Jesus has had about enough!

P.S. Jesus told me to tell you that he is saving the hottest place in Hell for Ted Cruz.


Two comments:

1) No reason to blame the clerk for asking a question that might be offensive to someone. She was simply asking a logistical question in the same manner as “Do you have cash” or “Do you need a bag”. If she recoiled and withdrew, it was likely at the author’s indignation and tirade on what is clearly his personal campaign, of which he just directed at the clerk. She was trying to be helpful. Good for her, shame on Warde.

2) When there is a gap between rich and poor, bringing the top down to solve that is conceding to failure. The real solution is bring the bottom up. It is sorta like re-booting your computer when it locks up. It feels like you have accomplished something, but in fact, you have not fixed the real underlying problem, you have just postponed it again. It will continue to happen. A fools solution.


Your second point is a nice theory and has some validity. But as others have pointed out, some of the REALLY wealthy have rigged the system so that they can do pretty much as they please and suffer little or no consequences for morally bankrupt actions. If they knew that they would have suffered as much as the lower income people they fooled into doing fiscally dumb things, many of them wouldn’t have done what they did (and continue to do.)

More and more, people are coming to realize that we need to do something to curb those abuses and putting a bit more demand on some at the top is one option. I would gladly forego that option, if we could find a way to remove the influence of wealth on government so that everyone was playing on a level playing field.) Those who continue to believe that this is starting “Class Warfare” are wrong. It is fighting back against those who have already started it. Don’t like it? Offer a better solution and one that is based in reality not in theories from “Ivory Tower Intellectuals” of the neo-conservative right that have replaced the equally dumb theories of the left wing ones from the 60’s.


I think the problem in this country now is that there is no shame in being homeless, or begging, or being a pregnant teen, or abandoning your family, or going to jail, or not working, or being on food stamps, or not speaking english, or pretending to have a medical condition so you can stay home and smoke pot all day.

When there was shame in these things people would work and fight to avoid them. There is no shame in anything now except success.

Sounds like a recipe for failure. Thank goodness there is no shame in last place.


Don’t extrapolate the flaws of some homeless people into being the source of problems for all of them. The truth lies somewhere between your views and Warde’s in my opinion. You both have part of the truth but can’t bring yourselves to admit that the other side has some valid points too.


The flaws listed above are not intended to just be representative of homeless, but of the entitlement portion of the population as a whole and the behaviors that ensure poverty in this country.

The cummulative affect of the decisions and behaviors throughout our lives is the greatest influence on the outcome.


I would have asked her if she was doing community service for a crime. :D