Monday, February 29, 2016

We Are The Poor

The other day I reposted on Facebook a rant that I did not write but completely agreed with. You can read it here. I just re-read it, and yup, I still agree with it. A friend of mine, someone I completely like and respect, read it and posted an opposing rant. She didn't agree with it. That's okay with me. I'm actually cool about everyone getting their own opinion on everything, although I say that with the caveat that if you refuse to vaccinate your children I will privately think you're ignorant to the point of being dangerous.

I've been mulling over the original rant. Here are the lines I like best:

Poor people need help. If you’re not helping them but complaining about how the government helps them with your money you are not a nice person.

and this:

We are the United States of America and we can afford to house every homeless veteran, feed every child, and take in every refugee and still have money left over for Starbucks and a bucket of KFC.

And I know, I know, that some of you are going to be thinking, possibly even saying, "But I know this woman who refuses to work and gets disability..." or "I saw a fat person buying Doritos and Coke with food stamps..." or "All those people on welfare need to get a job." And I'd like you to think about those thoughts. Really think about them, and evaluate how well you understand poverty, and mental illness, and homelessness, and desperation.

I don't understand them well enough, but I'm working on that. 

Here is the truth as I understand it: there is no such thing as The Poor. We are all in this together. All of us. We came into the world with different abilities and disabilities, every last one of us, in a completely random fashion that we can no more take credit for than we can the size of our feet. We were born in a prosperous country, not a famine-ridden one. Can you really say you'd be able to pull yourself up by your own bootstraps and achieve everything you've got, if you'd been born in a steaming slum in Calcutta? Can you say that you'd make the same fantastic choices that you did if you'd been born with mental illness, or an inability to read, or without family who loved you? 

I know that every one of my friends--and, by extension, everyone--has faced hardship somewhere. I know every one of us has struggled. But I also know we are not born to an equal playing field, not by a long shot, and I know that we need a net to catch those who fall. 

There really isn't such a thing as "welfare" anymore. There are a lot of government assistance programs. They are of varying efficiency. They are keeping a lot of people in this country alive. Some people take advantage of these programs. Most of the people who use them don't.

You can disagree with me about how we should help our neighbors. Please don't disagree with me that we should. We are all in the same soup. We are all the poor.