Continuing a theme fromScout’s most excellent post here:
Social acceptabity for the middle class to ditch their responsibilty? Behavior often considered shiftless when speaking of the poor? How will this be explained or discussed? A thoughtful examination of the possible cause/effect relationship of limited choices on behavior to shifting societal norms? Or a merciless personal beatdown of these upside down middle class individuals? Believe me I don’t put the latter past the Malkinites but seriously how much of America can we beat away and negate in this manner before we are only left but to begin a serious examination of oh say… policy?
Which links to other excellent posts and comments, which led me to start thinking about universal health care and immigration and how racist and selfish and nasty the presidential campaign is going to be, and what our possible response, what the Democratic candidates’ response, absolutely has to be.
It strikes me that we’re a nation of fucking paranoids. Not that that’s some kind of new idea, Michael Moore pointed it out way back in Bowling for Columbine, but the undertone of almost every public debate these days is that somebody somewhere is getting something they don’t deserve, and by the way, we ARE the people who get to decide what others deserve. We’re the ones who get to count it out, not in some codified fashion but on a case-by-random-case basis, as we see a photo in the paper or overhear something somebody’s sure somebody else told him at the bridge game last week. It’s personal, because we’ve been so divorced from thinking about government systemically, it’s the way we can’t give a fuck about entire countries burning down but we can care about one missing white person.
It’s that we get sucked into the details of the individual story instead of saying fuck it, so somebody got away with something, unless it points to some larger problem can we just move on to something real, please, like the ongoing screwing of this country and sale of the same to the highest bidder?
It’s not that I don’t get the impulse to point out that somebody might cheat. I’m the oldest child. I tell my brother and sister all the time that I’d have been strung up by my earlobes if I did half the shit they get away with, and I mean it, sometimes it pisses me off. I don’t love the idea that while I work, other people might be okay not working. I don’t love the idea that I’m giving something out there and it’s being put to bad use, or that the system’s so busted it can easily be gamed, and I’m just dumb and naive for having a job and a mortgage and shit. I get it, and if I thought for one moment that the stories that crop up every now and then were indicators of a pattern instead of isolated excuses for us all to do dick because now we have an example of why poverty is visited on those who deserve it, I might be able to get more het up about it, instead of thinking so deeply, “oh, my god, so fucking what already.”
There’s got to be a point where we stop, as a country, looking for reasons not to give a damn, looking for an anecdote to invalidate all our desire to fix things. There’s got to be a point where we just call bullshit on it, on this thing where somebody’s cousin heard from somebody else that a woman crossed the border down in Texas just to give birth here and take our jobs, and start talking about the deliberate devaluation of the American manufacturing base and the abandonment of the city working class to chase more and more profits, not to mention the profound economic imbalances in North America, instead of bitching directionlessly that it’s all the immigrants’ fault.
There’s got to be a point where, sure, if we give everybody health care some diabetic fatass six-pack-a-day smoker is gonna get care on my tax dollar, and there’s got to be a point where we say, “Oh well, tough shit for me, then” because the benefits to us all so wildly outweigh our whack-a-do certainty that we’re the only virtuous creatures God ever made and everybody else is selling something.
There’s got to be a point where we hear some Katrina victim bought bling at Wal-Mart with his FEMA money once, and wejust fucking move on instead of using that one little story to shake our heads at the whole Gulf Coast and give up, figuring fuck them, they don’t need our help anymore.
(Incidentally, I think this is why we get so crazy about stories about abused kids and animals. It’s hard to rationalize that a cat got itself set on fire on purpose in order to curry sympathy with the liberal welfare crowd.)
We have to stop this selfish crap. We have to stop picking apart everybody else’s details in an effort to make sure we’re not getting taken, because if we spent a fraction of the amount of attention we give over to examining the lives of immigrants and the poor to make sure they’re properly deserving of our largesse to actually eradicating poverty and other social ills, we could cure illiteracy, cancer, the bubonic plague anddeath. We have to stop getting distracted by the personal, distracted by the anecdote, distracted by the exception, because otherwise we’re entirely missing the rule, and the rule’s so much worse than the exception.