Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Basic Humanity

An issue that has planted itself in my thoughts of late is the vitriolic rancor sweeping America. This thought has been triggered by the myriad welfare bashing posts that were a minor trend on Facebook a while back. (They still pop up from time to time, ocassionally from my own family which grates me to no end.) There seems to be a commonly accepted myth that everyone on welfare is a crack addict who milks the system and sits back letting the government pay their ways. It’s not unlike Reagan’s favorite stump speech about the “welfare mom” that hatched in the 80s. The story was proven to be hype. But people latch onto such images, mindlessly repeating them as truths with little concern for the hatred and contempt that is bred as a result. Perhaps it's human nature to despise the notion of someone getting something for nothing. Especially if we “hard working” Americans are getting squeezed ever tighter in a recession economy.

This profiling manifests itself in many ways, like support of mandatory drug testing for welfare recipients. It’s also present in the call for bounties on welfare violators. I’m no fan of people acquiescing to a lifestyle of defrauding the system. However, the popular backlash among many rank and file Americans smacks of hatred, divisiveness and gross labeling. It does little justice to a system that has helped countless Americans better themselves over the years. Growing up it helped my family from time to time. I feel fortunate that we had that assistance and I am lucky to have a firsthand knowledge of some of welfare’s benefits. I believe too many people clogging the airwaves in dissent have no clue. They'd rather spread lies and hatred in an effort to protect their piece of the pie, I suppose.

This is a difficult time in America. It’s made only more difficult when we citizens mimic the infighting and partisanship that our supposed leaders in Washington have made a standard operating procedure. One of my favorite bumper stickers of all time reads “If the people lead, the leaders will follow.” It is as true to me today as it was the day I first saw it. But we are not leading. We are choosing to blame everyone and everything we can, not unlike our "leaders." It’s Obama’s fault, the government’s fault, big corporations’ fault, immigrants’ fault and , now, poor people’s fault.

We must break this cycle of blame, forge and hammer it, refine and focus it to something useful that will propel us forward. Surrender non-productive ideologies for the sake of tangible progress. Quit arguing religion and political party alliance. This movement to vilify the less fortunate among us disgusts me. It’s hatred and resentment personified and it is wrong. Americans engaging in such chatter would do well to focus attention on our leaders and their coddling of the most fortunate among us. Press them to revise tax code in a way that makes the uber rich pay more of their fair share.

Furthermore, quit worrying that someone’s stealing your cheese. A miserly approach to living is never healthy. In our recession climate it will only help ensure we bleed and starve to death a large segment of our citizenry on whom the sun has set. Our insular habits and self-protectionism will be the demise of us all.

On a related note -- long live the Occupy protesters! Our government leaders and business leaders need to realize the people are speaking, even if it's a message they don't want to hear. These people are my heroes because instead of turning their ire on the other (the phenomenon described above) they're directing it at corrupt banks, corporations and leaders who have usurped the Dream that underpins our nation's legacy.

For better or worse questions are being asked, accusations fielded. We'd all do well to get behind that.