By John Bell, Hamilton
I realize the election is over. My point is not to make a political stand. The shocking travesty to me was the widespread propaganda about those who depend upon some government assistance. Are there really people out there who believe that anyone who receives food stamps, Medicaid, housing or farm subsidies, unemployment or veteran’s benefits is lazy or worthless, or someone who feels entitled? Recently, an editorial in the Missoulian set forth a theory I believe is very accurate. A big determinant of where we end up in life is pure luck or perhaps, providence. Less than 5% of the world is fortunate enough to live in the United States, a free country, a nation of order and opportunity. However, this doesn’t make us better than persons born elsewhere, just more fortunate. The author of the editorial and I both feel we won the lottery again when we were born to kind and loving parents, parents who were reasonably well educated and dedicated to raising their children and staying married for life. They didn’t just care for us adequately, but more important, they instilled in us a work ethic; and they helped further our education.
Many people, even in this country, never have much opportunity or chance to rise from their situation at birth. Whether their life is one of constant hunger, emotional or physical abuse, violence, or mental illness; their opportunities are severely limited. It is so easy for one to say our nation gives everyone the opportunity to rise out of these situations, since it certainly does. However, like most strong statements, it’s much easier to talk the talk when you have never been forced to walk the walk. The author stated that although he was conservative, one aspect of liberalism he greatly respected was that it acknowledges the tremendous power of luck or providence in life, and argues that those who benefit from such good fortune owe a certain debt of gratitude to those who haven’t.
Are there abuses in some of these government assistance programs? No doubt one can find abuses in pretty much any program, even those of non-profit entities. However, to conclude that the presence of some abuse constitutes rampant abuse in these programs is no different than accusing all of the wealthy as being greedy or insensitive just because some fit this description. Of course this isn’t true. Many of the wealthy people I know are extremely charitable, sensitive and empathetic. The ones to fear are the ones who feel elite, those who don’t think luck exists, but feel all their success derives from virtue. In other words, as the editorial stated, they don’t give credit for their very great fortune to their very great fortune.
The elite argue that government should not be involved in programs that help those who are much less fortunate. They argue that this burden should and can be adequately handled by churches and other non-profit agencies. The elite argue that the reason for the downfall of this nation is not greed or corruption. It’s not politicians from both parties who are so partisan that they will never agree on any compromise, even if it means destroying this great nation. They spend much time and money to persuade the vast numbers of the middle class that the lower class and government assistance programs are the reason for our demise. They successfully pit the middle class against the lower class, blaming the deteriorating conditions in this country on the poor and government waste.
This strategy utilized by the elite is as old as the history of mankind. The key to remaining elite, the key to hiding vast inequities of wealth and corruption is to create issues that keep the middle and lower class so busy fighting with and blaming each other that neither have the time to focus on the real cause of the problem. The monarchy goes unchecked if the soldiers who receive token compensation are busy putting the peasants down so that no one can organize resistance to the monarchy. Great Britain kept the Scots so busy trampling the Irish in their fight to be the second class that for quite some time neither bothered to challenge the English monarchy.
If you truly believe these blatant lies that anyone receiving some government assistance is lazy, is a bad parent, is faking their predicament, I realize I’m not going to convince you otherwise. However, I would ask that you talk to someone you trust, someone who is active in assisting those less fortunate. Talk to someone in your church, or a teacher in your school, maybe a public health nurse, a social worker, or someone you know who works at the Veteran’s Center, Haven House, or similar agencies. Everyone of them would tell you otherwise. And, if you think that the functions of many of these government agencies can be adequately handled by churches and non-profit organizations (as hard as they try), ask those people you know who work or volunteer with these charitable groups. This declaration is all a ruse, a lie, a distraction to make many of us despise, blame, and shun the very people who need our kindness, our empathy or, most important, our assistance.
I don’t believe the greatest virtue of our nation is that we are powerful, that we have great armies who can war with other nations that don’t agree with our politics or our beliefs. I believe the strength of our great nation as projected by those who drafted our Constitution, and those who created the Statue of Liberty, is that although we are a nation of equal opportunity, we are also a nation that offers those less fortunate a chance, an option, a step up. I believe we are strong because, despite opposition, we still welcome the hungry, the poor, the weak.
I realize that many of the elite I refer to are not greedy or corrupt; they are just so out of touch that they accept these lies at face value. This combination of arrogance and ignorance breeds many untruths and misconceptions. Don’t believe them. Many of us accept as we grow older the wisdom expressed by the Tao Te Ching, “the farther one goes, the less one knows.” We live in an awesome community comprised of many kind and giving persons. Please continue to help in any way that you can by assisting your church, your favorite organizations or your neighbors. People who care are the backbone of this great nation. As the saying goes, you can judge the character of a person by how they treat those who can do nothing for them.