Monday, December 16, 2013

Helping The Least Is What A Great Nation Does

I love to solve puzzles. I don't do well with jumbles but I do fairly well with easy crossword puzzles. But the one I do best with is puzzles that come out of the human condition. I guess that is because I am a people watcher. People generally react in certain situations in predictable ways. Yet there is one puzzle I never can solve and that is the one where people in the middle class seem to want to blame the the poor for the maladies of our society while they want to give the ones on the upper echelon of the pecking order a free pass. You have heard it all before and perhaps you have even mouthed these words, "The people on welfare are milking the system. Food stamps is a credit card for those who are not responsible to buy anything they want.".  It seems that those who are saying this seem to think the poor are living high off the hog while we who have three squares and many noshes during the day and are well clothed are being ripped off by our brothers who are the working poor, or single mothers who are homeless, or all the others who are at the bottom rung of our economic pecking order.

There will always be those few who can rip off any system. But they are the few, the masses who are in the welfare system live at levels we wouldn't want to consider livable under any circumstances. I have worked in soup kitchens. I taught at Westchester Community College  in a special program that was geared to those on the dole with the express goal to try and lift them out of the vicious spiral life had taken them. While I must admit my experience is with a very small pool of people it was large enough to let me know that many of the poor had no chance because of the circumstances life had place them in.

First of all there were some who were affected by a medical calamity that had severe financial affects. There were others who found themselves unemployed for a long time because their company went belly up or decided to cut expenses by firing the older employees while they hired younger ones at less cost. There were others who were born in poverty which meant less schooling, and a neighborhood full of temptations to go down the wrong path. These people could have been you or me the only difference is they were beaten down by our society and were finding it very difficult to rise above their circumstances. I ask the question, "Who wouldn't be beaten Down when from birth the rules seemed to be working for the other guy and not me?". Here in New York, we have many thousands of homeless who are forced to live in unsafe shelters that are filthy and dangerous to women and children and the general populace as well. Food stamps, welfare payments, any help whatsoever is necessary and needed. They are our brothers and sisters. Why then is the middle class and the Conservative so ready to cut benefits with the unfounded conclusion that these people are ripping us off by taking advantage of the system? Why aren't we as a nation trying to alleviate the conditions that keep people down? Maybe it is because we fear that someday we may find ourselves in dire need and there will be no-one to take care of us!

On the other side of the coin we have the situation where the middle class and Conservative see nothing wrong in business making as much profit as they can despite the fact that much of the profits are on the backs of their workers who are getting wages that are at the poverty level. Bernie Madoff while spending the rest of his life in prison lived high, very high off the hog because the very rich wanted to get richer by investing with him. The greed shown by the majority of his investors drove them to invest without questioning as long as they made a lot of money. This is what a lot of the very rich do. They have more money than they could ever need and they want more. Many accumulate greater wealth by doing things that can be likened to Madoff except they make sure that the laws protect them. For example, business like fracking which can pollute our environment, or drilling for oil without the proper safeguards, are pursued for big profits by spending money influencing and supporting politicians that are either too ignorant of the scientific evidence, or are just too selfish and greedy, continue to prosper despite the fact that these pursuits injure our environment greatly. Many of us see these injustices and wink at them with the thought that if the elite are doing this it must be alright. Perhaps this attitude is the result of our selfish, greedy thoughts of acquiring great wealth ourselves.

So the puzzle remains unsolvable in my mind especially when I hear that we are supposed to be a Christian nation. If we were truly a Christian nation then we would make sure the very weakest of our brothers and sisters would be taken care of, always. If we were truly a Christian nation the spreading of the wealth wouldn't seem to be so foreign. Read the "Acts of The Apostles" where it describes the very first Christian community. The description is of a Socialist form of economics where every one shared and no-one was left  needing. I am not suggesting our nation turn to Socialism. I am saying if we are truly Christian then we should have the real desire to help the least fortunate and stop bashing them.

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