There are times when the good deeds that happen by the magic of the Internet make us quite giddy. This time? Well, this time they make us cringe, to the tune of $100,000.
If you haven't read the "insightful" personal narrative that recently went viral, "Why I Make Terrible Decisions, or poverty thoughts," there's a good chance it's somewhere on your Facebook news feed. This thing is everywhere.
The essay, which is being touted as a poignant look at the "terrible" decision-making processes of the poor, is the product of writer Linda Walther Tirado's personal experience with poverty. Linda, a married mother of two, speaks of having to live in seedy motels, where there are roaches that she stabs with toothpicks. She can't cook for her family because she lacks a kitchen, and she's afraid of attracting more roaches, so they survive on junk food in said seedy motel.
Oh, and not only does Linda say she's living in seedy motels and stabbing roaches, but she's also working two jobs, taking a full load of college courses, and is banished to a life as a cook in the "back of the house" at a restaurant, as she is deemed too unsightly as a waitress -- or apparently a legal secretary -- due to an unfortunate set of teeth. She's in desperate need of dental work, and her body is full of infection, but she can't afford to spend the money on medical or dental care. It's a tragic, tragic story.
It's also tragically fictional.
You see, Linda Walther Tirado, or "KillerMartinis," as she's known on her Kinja screen name, wrote this brain-grating essay, and it's all about being subjected to the pitfalls of poverty. Linda's not actually poor, though, nor was she raised in what most would describe as poverty. Unless you consider a boarding school education as a marker for poverty, anyway.
The inferences on what it's like to be poor -- from the roach-infested living quarters to the lack of wholesome food -- would almost be laughable, if they weren't such freakin' gross stereotypes written by a person who has never experienced true poverty. That little fact takes it from laughable to infuriating.
What's also infuriating is that Linda -- who is panhandling for $100,000 worth of donations on GoFundMe -- wrote this piece, and the comments and rebuttals to it, while masquerading as a "poor person," but has now decided to clean up the mess by copping to her past as a person from a much different background.
The real Linda owns a home, thanks to some pretty generous parents. Her LinkedIn profile states she's been a freelance writer and political consultant since 2010, and has worked in politics since 2004, a claim backed by 27 decent connections.
She's married to a Marine, has met President Obama while interning for a politician (who obviously wasn't disgusted by those rotten teeth), and has plenty of time to visit Las Vegas on vacation. And blog about her privileged life on Wordpress.
She speaks both German and Dutch, and has a well-rounded political blog that ended in 2011. It's also a blog where she quite plainly references being paid to win races.
She didn't cop to any of that in her generalized disclaimer, though. She simply stated the following on her GoFundMe page, conveniently tucked away at the bottom:
"How is it that someone with such clarity and evocation has any right to assert that they are poor? It is likely untrue. Well, it is and it isn't. You have to understand that the piece you read was taken out of context, that I never meant to say that all of these things were happening to me right now, or that I was still quite so abject. I am not. I am reasonably normally lower working class. I am exhausted and poor and can't make all my bills all the time but I reconciled with my parents when I got pregnant for the sake of the kids and I have family resources. I can always make the amount of money I need in a month, it's just that it doesn't always match the billing cycles."
She's cleaned up her Twitter feed, removing any reference to being poor, and has added disclaimers to her essay to quell nosy naysayers or reporters. A well-hidden Facebook page from 2011 still exists, though. You might want to go check it out before it disappears as well.
She's still pushing for that money to help her out of "poverty," though, and folks are still flocking to her to donate. She's reached $61,388 so far. And don't worry; if you haven't made your contribution yet, she's stated that she'll raise it to $150,000 once she hits her goal. You know, for poverty and all. Or that book she's planning to write, and that vacation she's planning to take with the donations. Either or.
What Linda is doing here is infuriating. There are people donating to her who don't realize she's full of shit. People who have good intentions and big hearts and are attempting to make a difference in the life of a person who, by the sound of it, is living in some pretty dire surroundings. But folks, these are made-up dire surroundings. Stop giving her money.
There are people out there who really do need a hand up, and what the crowd-funding sites are able to do, with the little help from the kindness of strangers, is indeed pretty awesome. But in this case it's a scam; you're paying the bills of a person who has the time and resources to intern and hang out at political rallies, and who has medical and dental benefits provided by way of the military spouse.
She doesn't need you to pay her dental bill; she wants you to pay her dental bill. There's a difference. And it appears that may not even be necessary; those "rotten" teeth? They appear just fine in a 2004 political blog where her head shot is used, well after that "car accident" at 19 years of age. Her recent appearance on HuffPo Live, which was strange at best, seems to confirm that suspicion. Rotten teeth they are not.
You're not moving this person out of seedy quarters by donating money that you earmarked to help a person in need. You're financing a book written on a bunch of fictional musings about what Linda Walther Tirado thinks it would be like to be poor. It's basically poverty fan-fiction, by way of a person who has three years of freelance writing on her LinkedIn profile.
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I'm going to preachy at this point, but whatever. As a person who grew up in for realsies poverty, this offends the hell out of me. I never expected to write that sentence on the Internet, but I think it's important here or I wouldn't do it. I, like so many others, know what it's like to wear the clothes out of the donation closet at church, and know the shame that accompanies the knowledge that you're the recipient of the "charity" turkey on Thanksgiving, and it sucks. But my mom would never have accepted it had it not been necessary for survival.
It's not necessary here, though. Taking advantage of a person's good intentions to fund a book proposal is ridiculous, and it's not the same thing as taking a turkey to feed your kids on Thanksgiving. If you want money to write a poverty fanfic book, tell them that. But don't write some garbage that's full of stupid stereotypes about the poor in order to obtain it.
There are parents out there who are lying awake at night, worried about how to pay the light bill or feed their children. They aren't worried about book deals and political rallies. Those are worries we're allowed when above the poverty line. And those parents that are worried about how to feed their kids could desperately use the money Linda's siphoning from well-meaning folks to fund her vacations and writing career.
Oh, and one more thing. Poor does not equal dirty, and all that stuff like this does is reinforce those unnecessary correlations. The bit about the roaches is ridiculous. There are plenty of people with empty bank accounts who are perfectly clean and roach-free, no matter how tough their financial situations are. It's time people stop associating poor with dirty, and hopefully Linda will drop that bit before her poverty fanfic hits the shelves.