Become Gift and Giver

Robert asks a good question:

If Budweiser makes an ad showing people applauding soldiers in an airport, does that mean I don’t have to? Does that mean it’s “been done” and we can all go back to ignoring the wounded and the maimed and the dead?

Short, snarky answer: Yes. Most people live vicariously through beer commercials anyway.

Longer, non-snarky answer: I get into arguments with a Republican friend about this on occasion. She hears me make a derisive remark about “support the troops” magnets and asked me what was so wrong with “raising awareness.”

It’s an allocation of resources thing, to me. If you have $5, are you going to spend it on a sticker or put it in a Salvation Army bucket? If that is the choice, if that’s all you have to work with, how will you make it count?

Are you going to feel that the $1.50 you spend on sponsoring a child in Indonesia absolves you of your vote for people who despise foreign aid as handouts to deadbeat countries?

Are you going to use something simple and easy and meaningless to make yourself feel resolved and fulfilled, as though what really matters in charitable giving and aid of any kind is the emotional state of the giver?

If you do the one, but not the other, then in my mind yes, something is wrong with “raising awareness.” Awareness without action is meaningless. Your responsibility as a fucking human being is not just to see the problem and tell others that you see the problem, thereby pointing out only that you have eyes and ears and a mouth. It’s to do what you can to fix the problem, whatever problem might be in front of you at the moment.

This annoys the living crap out of me, honestly. You see this in charitable appeals all the time, and I understand they have to reach people where they are and that some money is better than none, but “better than doing nothing” has become our national baseline, and it’s sick, that you’re giving in the first place to get the monkey of guilt off your back, and in the second place that you expect any kind of a reward, even in the form of warm fuzzy feelings.

What is the purpose of charity, of kindness, of behaving like a decent goddamn person? Is it to lift up the giver, to make the giver a better person? Is it to reward the deserving but only the deserving, in the vein of people who refuse to give money to panhandlers because “they’ll just spend it on booze?” (as though you know ANYTHING about their lives, and as though in the same situation you wouldn’t want somebody to give you a $20 so you could get a drink).

Or is help given not because the object of that help deserves it, but because he or she or it needs it?