It keeps getting reported over and over that Mike and Karen Pence are “homeless,” which is technically true. They don’t own or rent a house of their own, currently. They have no fixed address. They bounce back and forth between the houses of family and friends in Indiana; one article said they were living in a cabin owned by Indiana’s current governor. I am almost envious of that cabin, having had a great deal of fun in cabins as a child, but I have a feeling the cabin in Indiana is both less rustic and less fun than the kind I’m used to.
Knowing what I know about the plight of the homeless, here in Steubenville and elsewhere, I wish there was another name for what the Pences are going through. There’s probably heat and running water in that cabin. They have a place to brush their teeth. They can wash their hands after they use the toilet, and the toilet’s a flushable. They’re not sleeping under a tarp. They’re not in a tent somewhere, in terror that the police will come and “clean up” their encampment, destroying all of their property. They’re not standing meekly in line at the soup kitchen, trying to look polite and grateful so they won’t be thrown out. Nobody’s trying to get the Pences arrested for vagrancy so they won’t drive down the value of the neighborhood. Karen isn’t living in fear of being dragged out of her sleeping bag and assaulted as she sleeps. But, technically speaking, Mike and Karen have no house, so they’re homeless.
In one way it’s understandable that they have no house, since they haven’t had to own their own home since 2013 when Pence moved into the Governor’s Mansion in Indiana. In another it’s not. Pence collected a six-figure salary and didn’t have to pay rent for four years; he’s entitled to a pension now. When he realized in November that his job would be ending in January he ought to have just bought a house. Indiana real estate is nice and cheap; I was admiring a pretty house in South Bend just this evening.
The best guess is that the Pences aren’t homeless due to a lack of funds. Rather, they’re flitting around from place to place because the faction of the fracturing Republican party that still backs Donald Trump blames Mike Pence for his losing the White House. They still think that Pence could have done something illegal and forced the electoral college to vote for Trump instead of Biden. Pence had previously been Trump’s adoring stooge; he always backed up what Trump said and did and tried to make it look like a pro-life, Christian action. Fellow Evangelicals recognized what they were seeing; they even called Pence Trump’s “very supportive submissive wife.” And then, suddenly, Pence was in a position where he couldn’t submit to Trump. There’s nothing in the Constitution that a vice president can do to keep a president who lost the election in office. Pence’s hands were tied. But the more conspiracy-prone faction of Trump’s base thought there was something he could do to be more submissive; he just wasn’t trying hard enough. They wanted him to pull a magic hat trick and somehow cause Trump to win four more years. When he couldn’t do that, they decided he was a traitor– not to the United States, which they don’t care about, but to Donald Trump.
And then they wanted to kill him. The terrorists storming the Capitol on January 6th were chanting “Hang Mike Pence!” They brought their own noose, zip ties and guns. They were dead serious. And they even got within 100 feet of him before he was dragged to safety by the Secret Service who are still guarding him now, and will for the next five months. Lord knows what he’ll do after that, because these people are still after him. They still want him dead. Former President Trump could call them off any time, but I don’t think he will because he’s reportedly not taking his ex-wife Mike’s calls.
The Pences keep moving from one house to another because they’ll run the risk of being assassinated if they stay anywhere too long. They can’t have a fixed address because it’s too dangerous. Mike Pence was just as submissive as he could be, but eventually it wasn’t enough and the abusive man turned on him. And then a violent government faction turned on him, and he found himself far from where he had been living, wandering around in hiding to stay alive.
That doesn’t exactly sound like most of the homeless people I’ve known.
You know what it sounds like?
Mike Pence has become a refugee.
He had to leave where he lived and he couldn’t settle in a safe place due to political instability and an abusive man who wanted to take his anger out on him. So He is wandering from place to place, dependent on other people’s mercy. And he’s having a relatively easy time of it, considering.
I keep thinking back to July two years ago. That was when Mike Pence visited an immigrant detention center at the Southern border, for a photo op touting Trump’s zero tolerance policy. A video was taken of him staring at a cage full of men. The men were crowded together behind glass as if they were lobsters in a tank. They were jammed so close to one another that they couldn’t sit down. And they were in agony. Their eyes were wide with terror. They were making fours and zeros with their hands, begging Pence for help, pleading that it had been forty days since they were even allowed to take a shower. These were refugees who came to our country for help, fleeing desperate poverty, gang violence, unstable governments that wanted them dead. Many of them had presented themselves at legal points of entry, and we rewarded their submission to our law by imprisoning them in nightmarishly inhumane conditions to torture them, to teach them not to ask our help.
Pence glared with cold revulsion at the tank full of refugees. He later declared that every American should be proud of the way they were being treated, and that was that.
Now, Mr. and Mrs. Pence have become refugees.
I hope this lesson isn’t lost on them, but somehow I imagine it will be.
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.