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Social Issues: The World Has Changed And We Don't All Fit In A Box
You probably think this is another article about politics, right? Not this time. It is an article inspired by a stupid remark made by former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney about 47% of the population but I don’t want to talk about politics; not today.
For weeks on end I felt like I was beating my head against a wall. Everywhere I went, I had to argue about this Mitt Romney statement. Was I the only one that saw that remark as purely divisive? Accurate or not, I have a pet peeve about generalizations. I hate them. Generalizations take individuals, in all their uniqueness and squeeze them into a “category”. It bugs me.
Okay, I can’t write this without providing an example and the best one I have is Mitt Romney’s recent statement that 47% of Americans don’t pay taxes and feel entitled. Now I won’t dispute that 47% don’t pay taxes because I’m not smart enough to know any better. But I don’t believe for a minute that they all feel entitled to housing, food stamps, and health care. So let’s think about those that are receiving government benefits for reasons other than just being lazy ass, entitled, worthless human beings. I’ll give you a few examples to think about.
SOME personal stories
Tom: Three years ago my wife was diagnosed with breast cancer. Because she had had a suspicious mammogram six months before the diagnosis, my insurance company said it was pre-existing and dropped our coverage. We drained our savings, borrowed from family, exhausted our credit cards and, lost our home. We owe $335,000 for her surgery, radiation, and chemo treatments. We’re renting a room now and without food stamps, we would starve.
Frank: I’m 83 years old and my wife died 8 months ago. I thought we had life insurance but she forgot to make the premium payments. She had Alzheimer’s. She forgot to pay the rest of the bills too and now I've spent all our savings trying to catch up the late fees and pay for her funeral. She didn't mean to do it. She just forgot. I don’t know how I’ll make it this winter without fuel assistance.
Jennifer: Things were going great until Mom had the stroke. We tried to take care of her at home but it was too hard. I couldn't lift her from the wheelchair to the bed. A nursing home was the only option. She didn't have any insurance and she’s too young for Medicare. I pay them $4100 a month from my savings. I didn't have that much to begin with but it was an IRA and they charged me a 10% penalty for early withdrawal. I sold my car and now I ride the bus to the nursing home. The social worker gave me some vouchers or I wouldn't be able to go. I wish I could have cared for Mom here.
Michael: When I got laid off 11 months ago, I didn't worry too much. I was a good employee with a proven track record of success. It never entered my mine that I wouldn’t’ be able to find a job because of my age. Hell, I’m only 54. I’ve got plenty of good years left in me but I can’t even get an interview. When I didn't get the job I interviewed for last week, I called them and asked what had gone wrong. They said it wasn't anything I did; they just hired a younger worker who didn't need so much money. I asked if we could discuss it but they said no, they had so many new college grads looking for work that they just weren't interested in someone who would take the job and stay ten more years. It was just too costly in the long run. We would have been okay but my wife lost her job three weeks ago. We were already behind and it’s already gotten worse. Her company didn't give her a severance package. I’m getting unemployment but it’s only $220 a week. That won’t pay our mortgage and utilities and, it runs out in 4 more weeks. We won’t make it without food stamps and fuel assistance unless we find work in the next month.
Alisha: Don’t judge me. I know it wasn't smart but it’s done now. I know it shouldn't have happened but he said he loved me. No one has ever loved me. Not ever. We were going to get married. That’s what I thought anyway. And then he beat me. He broke my jaw and my arm. I was in the hospital for a week. That’s when I found out I was pregnant. He said he was sorry, in that letter he wrote me from jail. Do you think he really is? It would be a lot easier if he came back. My Dad threw me out and won’t let me come home. I found a part time job but I have to work second shift and can’t find anyone to keep my baby, not anyone I can afford anyway. Wick pays for the baby food and I eat when I can. I’ve applied for food stamps. Do you think they will give them to me? It was my fault. I thought he loved me.
So, what's my point?
My point is that none of these stories is the same. They can’t be lumped into the category of people who feel entitled. They just can’t. There are hundreds of thousands of stories like this: hard luck stories. They are real life stories. They are stories about people who need help and…here’s the catch.
Our world has changed. Fifty or more years ago, communities of people would have reached out to help. Churches and civic organizations and run-of-the-mill everyday people would have fed, clothed, transported, and donated to these people in need. But not today. Oh no, we’re too damn busy and selfish and greedy. We don’t have time for each other. Hell, we don’t even know each other. We pass on the street or in the grocery store and we don’t even look up. We might miss a text message or an alert on our smart phone. And God forbid we look up and see someone we know, they might want to chat and we sure don’t have time for that.
Most of us don’t even know our neighbors. We know what they drive and where they work but we don’t know what they care about or if they are hurting. We don’t know because we can’t slow down when we get home from work to say hello across the fence or speak as we come down the walk of our condo.
For those who want to complain about what government is doing, ask yourself if you’re willing to pick up the slack. Until you are, you better be glad that government is doing something. Our cities are ill prepared to handle the increased numbers of homeless that will result if these folks don't get a little help.
There is a role for government too
No one hates big government more than me. Ask anyone who knows me. And if you want to talk about the abusers of government resources, I’ll agree, there are way too many. I’ll almost choke as I say this but…that’s why there needs to be better regulation of these social programs. Government employees need better management to make these programs more effective and efficient.
Can’t government employees be trained to think outside the box? Does everyone who applies for government assistance need to fit in a 6” x 6” x 3” box? Can’t they ask questions or design a form that allows an INDIVIDUAL to explain their circumstances? We aren’t all the same. We don’t all fit the category. We’re not all 5’8”, 135 pound, blue-eyed blondes who work at MacDonald’s. We’re people, real people, real people who sometimes have problems we didn't ask for. 47% Mr. Romney? Maybe in your world but not in mine.
The Hub by Bill Holland - please read!
- Social Issues: I Am Responsible!
As members of the human race, we are all responsible when we face injustice. It can be no other way if we are to call this a free and equal society.
Guilt by Comparison
My friend Bill Holland wrote an article that got stuck in my head. You can click the link on the right to read it. As I began to write today, I found myself feeling a bit of guilt. This piece I've written is somewhat contradictory to Bill's piece where he puts the responsibility for caring for each other back where it should be, on us, as individuals. I've struggled with this most of the day because although I completely agree with Bill, I don't think there are enough individuals yet who will step up to the plate, not enough to handle the load anyway. As a society comprised of "individuals", we have a ways to go.
I hope you will read this and then read Bill's beautiful hub and began to think about what you can do to help us as a nation move in a more positive direction of taking care of our own. I know I have my own work to do.
© 2012 Linda Crist, All rights reserved.