The Haves and Have Nots

By maggie 02/12/20
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The Haves and Have Nots

There is a schism in my family—it’s between the Have and Have Nots. They rarely talk to one another, and most of the Have Nots have been banished from the Haves in my family. The Haves will tell you that the Have Nots are drug addicts, and are not only mentally ill, but evil. However, the accusation of “evil” I suspect, is thrown in by the Haves to justify cutting ties with the Have Nots.

There have been times, when the Have Nots have been so out-of-control that the best thing to do is not deal with them. But even when they are stable, and not asking for hand-outs --the Haves will still have nothing to do with them.

The Haves in my family (extended and nuclear) all have the same advantages: no discernible, take-you-down-to-the-gutter addictions, no severe mental illness, and no disabilities barring them from holding down a job. And without these afflictions they are properly well-educated and upper middle class.

Most of The Haves in my family, myself included, are die-hard leftist liberals passionate about supporting programs for the poor, addicted, and mentally ill. Yet . . . yet, some of these card-carrying liberal Haves in my family absolutely ignore the mess in their own backyard. Their excuse is the Have Nots in my family “are beyond help” “are assholes to boot” or that helping them will simply “enable them.” (Really? Calling them every so once in a while just to check in would be “enabling them?” Hmmm . . . )

Haves don’t want to be emotionally supportive to the Have Nots because they don’t want any drama infiltrating their idyllic lives. They don’t want any bad Juju the Have Nots may lay on them. They don’t want one of the Have Nots calling from the ER saying they’re suicidal for the umpteenth time--so better just to block their number—forever. And I get it: I don’t like having my somewhat happy life disrupted by the ills and bad behaviors of the Nots in my family--but damn; they are our blood. Does that not account for anything anymore? Too bad Ma and Pa are not still alive--because they wouldn’t have it--they believed, even if it was slightly misguided, that “family was everything.”

Have we become so “boundary conscious" that anything unsavory must be quashed immediately?

One Have told me that she “couldn’t go through anymore pain” the Have Nots have imposed on her and I should follow suit. I had to laugh: I spend more time with the Have Nots in my family than anyone else, yet she finds it necessary to patronizingly warn me to stay away from them? Really? How would she know? She’s barely spoken to them in years. All her contempt comes from secondhand knowledge of “what’s she heard,” not what they’ve done to her personally.

What the Haves myopically don’t understand is this: If you’re a card-carrying liberal and you’re all for supporting the homeless, drug addiction treatment, and mental illness, don’t you realize that the Have Nots in our family represent everything you claim you want to have a helping hand in? Most homeless folks are homeless because they have alienated family, unfairly or not, and are ergo, asking society to help them instead--by perhaps begging on a street corner.

Maybe it’s just easier for the Haves to volunteer at the soup kitchen than help a family member; that way they don’t have to get emotionally involved.

Some of the Haves in my family have nothing against the Have Nots--except for this one thing: The Have Nots are wildly embarrassing to them. The Have Nots are like an unsightly sore on their smooth six-pack stomachs. These Haves in my family are so embarrassed by the Have Nots, they’ve made it abundantly clear to everyone when questioned, that they have severed all ties with the Have Nots. I don’t get this: I never get embarrassed by my family unless they are being cruel and rude. But for being disheveled and looking homeless? For being poor? For having an unsightly, broken down vehicle? For being mentally ill? For being an ex-addict? Sorry, I just can’t, “can’t be seen” with one of the Have Nots for these reasons.

For whatever reason, many of the Haves in my family cannot see that compassion is an action word--not just some lofty feeling you have for other disadvantaged Have Nots—preferably strangers.

I’m sure if a Have of my family reads this they’ll tell me I got it wrong. Do I? In my large extended family, there are only a few of us that have relations with both the Haves and Have Nots. I have to say, though, I’m so done with making apologetic excuses for having relations with the Have Nots in my family. I’m tired of the Haves thinking I’m co-dependent, still-an-addict (I’m not) and a loser-by-proxy for having relations with the Have Nots. But I can only blame myself for this: I’m a recovering “people pleaser.” I recall being very sheepish when admitting spending time with a Have Not, like I’d violated some tacit understanding that “decent folks” don’t have anything to do with the “socially unacceptable” or “addicted.”

I want to say to my family: “Okay, so maybe the Have Nots have said some awful things to you when they were high; maybe you had to call the police on them when they were acting crazy; maybe you had to throw them out of your house on occasion; maybe you’ve had to hang up on them, but there is this, highly underrated word called Forgiveness.”

I can’t tell you how many times the Have Nots have seriously hurt me. But they have shown remorse, and now, actually give me more support and love than the well-to-do Haves do.

The whole situation lamentably reminds me of High School. I remember dropping some of my socially geeky friends in in exchange for having status by hanging with the popular crowd. But I was so lovestarved hanging with the “cool kids,” I eventually went back to my uncool friends.  Ditto goes for my family. Sure the Haves have nicer spreads at family gatherings, sure they behave “normal,” but they can also be contemptuously snobbish. There have been times I’ve left their parties in tears on the way home. For example, the Have Nots were genuinely happy for me when I told them I wrote a book, while the Haves just rolled their eyes, or abruptly changed the subject—as if they hadn’t heard me. Or one, even tried to one-up me by telling me how one of her friends wrote an even better, more successful book.

Hey! Haves! Whether you like it or not, we are family. And maybe I got it wrong, but isn’t there this thing called unconditional love that is supposed to be in families? We are surrounded by “conditional love” everywhere in society: we’re being judged by our dress, careers, addresses, and ability to socialize. Isn’t family the place you get to go where you feel you’re not being judged by these relatively superficial things?

All families need boundaries. We can’t let the Have Nots destroy us by using us, manipulating us, stealing from us, abusing us, or getting violent. . . but when they are crying out to be loved and accepted, when they are sober and trying do the right thing, can’t we let them in? Just a little? I’m just asking the Haves to give the Have Nots a call every so once in a while or stop by and see them for a minute. It would mean the world to them. Hell, you’ve got money, maybe buying some groceries couldn’t hurt either.


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