5 More Problems That Should Infuriate Americans
No country is perfect, and America is definitely a country. We've got sexual harassers, mass shooters, and even a few Nazis, just to keep things interesting. But while they dominate the news, there's a whole mess of serious issues that aren't making headlines, even though they really should be. Like how ...
35 States Have A Legal Loophole That Lets Police Officers Accused Of Sexual Assault Avoid Investigation
In 2017, 18-year-old New Yorker Anna and her two friends were confronted by two police detectives while sitting in a parked car. There was some weed in their cup holder, so they were ordered out, and Anna was handcuffed while her friends were told to scram. Then the detectives brought Anna into the back of a police van and took turns raping her. Two weeks later, she was ticketed for possessing weed.
So that's ... the worst, but at least Anna's case should be easy to resolve, right? A rape kit confirmed that the men definitely had sex with her, which seems like the end. Onto the one about the rabbit that allegedly killed the gadget inventor with an anvil. But no, thanks to a loophole, there's no law against police having sex with people in their custody ... in 35 states, New York included. Rape is still illegal, but accused officers can claim that the encounter was consensual. You know, because nothing says dream romance like two armed men holding all of the power over a teenage girl in the back of a van. It's practically a Nicolas Sparks movie. Oh, and for an extra dose of class, defense attorneys argued that Anna wasn't credible because she couldn't remember which officer ordered her to take her bra off.
It's a loophole that's hard to close, both because it's so ridiculous that many people have no idea it even exists, and because any law intended to lessen the authority of the police, no matter how well-intended, ends up getting slammed as anti-cop. And this was not an isolated incident. In Oklahoma City, an officer pulled a woman over, accused her of erratic driving, ordered her to lift up her shirt and pull down her pants to prove that she wasn't hiding anything, then forced her to perform oral sex on him. The woman reported the incident, and the officer was fired several months later, when an investigation was finally launched into complaints made by 13 other women. Oh no, was there a 13-strike rule?
When the Associated Press dug into the issue in 2015, they found that over 1,000 officers had been fired for sex crimes in the previous six years alone. And that's only an estimate, because some states don't keep relevant records, and it can't account for victims who never reported their incidents. If it helps, it's probably the spotlight on excessive police violence that's pushing police sexual misconduct into the background. That ... that probably didn't help much, did it?
Missouri Is Home To "Wedding Tourism" For People Avoiding Statutory Rape Charges
America has far more child brides than you'd think ... hopefully because it has zero? Ah, turns out that is a staggeringly false hope. Less than half the country has a minimum age for marriage, but Missouri takes the prize. (Note: There is no actual prize for "chillest with statutory rape.") In a state like Idaho, if a 16-year-old girl wants to marry the mid-20s gas station attendant of her dreams, they need consent from both her parents. If she's younger than that, she also needs judicial approval. That's often not as tough a hurdle as you'd like, but at least it's something.
But for girls like Heather, who celebrated her 15th birthday with first trimester morning sickness, Idaho's laws are still too strict. Most judges wouldn't look favorably on Heather's 24-year-old boyfriend, Aaron, considering he impregnated her after getting her so drunk that she can't remember the night at all. You may recognize that as being illegal, like, everywhere. Worse: Not only was a judge out of the question, but also it turned out that Heather's mom wasn't a huge fan of Aaron or statutory rape. So they were out a parental signature. It's like the great bard Will Smith once warned us: Parents just don't understand.
The good news for Heather, Aaron, and creeps across America is that in Missouri, all you need is the signature of one parent. You don't even need to see a judge if you're older than 14, and judges who do see cases have been known to allow girls as young as 12 to get married. You see? Love conquers all, even when it really, really shouldn't.
Why was this unholy matrimony so important? Well, if Aaron had stayed in Idaho, unmarried, he would've been arrested. A legal case had been opened against him by Heather's mom. But he, Heather, and Heather's terrible father took the world's most awkward 17-hour road trip to Missouri, where dad signed on the dotted line and Aaron and Heather became husband and underage wife, thereby allowing Aaron to avoid prosecution. Since 1999, Heather is one of over 300 15-year-olds to marry a 21-or-older man in Missouri, because some states still hold onto good old-fashioned values. At least our lovebirds went back to Idaho instead of staying in Missouri, where kids under 18 also need a parent's signature to file for divorce.
Letting Meals On Wheels Die Is Costing Us Millions (Oh, And Killing The Elderly)
America has more old people than ever, and 24 percent of Americans over 60 are considered food insecure because they're forced to skip meals. But while government funding for Meals On Wheels has remained steady over the last decade, that massive influx of seniors, along with inflation, has left the program struggling to operate. In 2017, Meals On Wheels served 23 million fewer meals than in 2005. One coordinator went from having a staff of 36 people to a single assistant tasked with providing meals for an Arizona county larger than Connecticut.
Now, if you're thinking, "That sucks, but screw the elderly. I am a Highlander and this does not concern me," there's more. Meals On Wheels helps keep old people out of expensive nursing homes, and a 2013 study found that if states upped the amount of seniors receiving meals by a mere 1 percent, Medicaid programs would save $109 million. Seniors with access to these meals went to the emergency room significantly less often than those who didn't. When you consider the cost of a single night in the ER versus an entire year of delivered meals, employing a few more people to drop off frozen lasagna suddenly doesn't sound so bad.
Lots Of Homeless People Work Real Jobs, But Don't Earn Enough To Afford Shelter
If we asked you how many homeless people were employed, you'd probably answer, "Shut up, smartass." Most people view the homeless as having "fallen through the cracks," or at worst, they're lazy bums who simply don't want to work, and instead prefer the hedonistic, freewheeling "death by exposure" lifestyle. But while homelessness is generally associated with mental illness and unemployment, roughly 9-20 percent of homeless people have steady employment, while many others seek sporadic work wherever they can get it.
It's a difficult subject to get accurate numbers on, but the point is that virtually no one thinks of the homeless as preschool teachers. But that's the case for Julia Cooley, a mom who makes $9.15 an hour in Atlanta teaching preschool at a homeless shelter, so those parents can look for work. Cooley and her child spent over a year living in shelters and cars, until her grandparents could take them in. She doesn't exactly fit the homeless image of an old bearded guy in a tinfoil hat who thinks urinating counts as his half of a conversation.
There's also Donna Morgan, who works two jobs over 12-hour days. While we would undoubtedly translate her $2,100 a month income into dozens of video games and hundreds of Pop Tarts, she works in New York City, so that isn't even enough to rent an apartment. There are only about 2,500 apartments in the whole city in her price range, and ten people for every one of those apartments. What happens to the other nine? Most of them, like Donna, split their time between homeless shelters.
For Shauky Aucar, a San Francisco hospital orderly, a sudden spike in rent forced him and his seven-member family onto the streets. They lived in a van before a friend let them crash in an unfinished garage, and finally managed to get them all into a shelter. Throughout the whole ordeal, Aucar worked full-time, like he had for the last 23 years. Imagine coming home from a full day's work only to crawl inside a van with six other people. And not even one with a bitchin' mural on the side.
This isn't a "big expensive city" problem. The five members of the Kennard family in Johnson City, Tennessee were forced onto the street when their mother, Cindy, lost her job. Her husband, Patrick, was still working full-time with benefits at a bank call center. He was seven years into his career there.
And it's not new. Silicon Valley housing spikes forced thousands of full-time employees to go homeless back in the '80s. Thirty years later, America still doesn't know what to with hardworking citizens who still can't afford a home. But hey, thinking of them as lazy screw-ups is an easier solution than trying to address the greater failures of capitalism, so let's do that.
America's Bridges Are Collapsing At A Staggering Rate
In April of this year, an Atlanta motorcyclist was suddenly hurled into the air and did not manage to land their impromptu, seemingly magical jump, so they wound up hospitalized. It was all thanks to an underground gas leak that the highway suddenly transitioned from a normal interstate into an Excitebike track.
One month earlier, another Atlanta bridge along the I-85 collapsed due to a fire, because driving to the grocery store in that city is like being an extra in a Roland Emmerich film.
But it's not just Atlanta. The New York Times recently released a mini-documentary looking into the more than 2,000 structurally deficient bridges in New York state alone. America is literally falling apart, as neglected infrastructure around the country crumbles, causing massive collateral damage and traffic delays. On I-10 in California, a bridge collapsed beneath a truck, threatening to sweep the driver away into the river below. Fortunately, others drivers managed to rope the truck to the side of the road and conduct a rescue, because some people are actually competent human beings.
The American Society of Civil Engineers graded U.S. roads an underwhelming "D," which does not stand for Daredevil-approved. Thanks to years of neglect, they estimate it would cost somewhere around $170 billion per year to make the necessary improvements, and over 55,000 bridges are in need of those repairs. But after the 2008 recession, more than a million construction workers left the industry. So until DC starts sinking into the ocean like Atlantis, it doesn't look like money will be directed to help solve the problem. So watch out on your way to work tomorrow, and make sure you drive as fast as you can over any bridges to get maximum air when they collapse. It will not save you, but at least you'll die awesome.
Still, remember to show some pride in America this July 4th, maybe with a flag?
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