February 8, 2016: Own Your Hatred

At Christmas time, about a year ago, I was listening to the annual radio play presentation of "A Christmas Carol" on my local PBS station. I was struck by the similarity of Scrooge's speech about contributing to the poor with current right-wing rhetoric about helping the poor. This was my Facebook post from December 21, 2013:

 
Compare this quote from Dicken's "A Christmas Story":

``Under the impression that they scarcely furnish Christian cheer of mind or body to the multitude,'' returned the gentleman, ``a few of us are endeavouring to raise a fund to buy the Poor some meat and drink, and means of warmth. We choose this time, because it is a time, of all others, when Want is keenly felt, and Abundance rejoices. What shall I put you down for?'' ``Nothing!'' Scrooge replied. ``You wish to be anonymous?'' ``I wish to be left alone,'' said Scrooge. ``Since you ask me what I wish, gentlemen, that is my answer. I don't make merry myself at Christmas and I can't afford to make idle people merry. I help to support the establishments I have mentioned: they cost enough: and those who are badly off must go there.'' ``Many can't go there; and many would rather die.'' ``If they would rather die,'' said Scrooge, ``they had better do it, and decrease the surplus population.''
with Republican/Tea Party statements about food stamps, welfare, SNAP, and other programs to benefit the poor. Merry Christmas!
 

So, that's it. The quote from "A Christmas Carol", and a suggestion that the reader compare Scrooge's speech with "Republican/Tea Party statements about food stamps, etc". Oh, and a "Merry Christmas", to keep it festive.

I didn't think this very controversial. I didn't call out anyone, nor did I even accuse "Republican/Tea Party" types of being heartless, even though they are.

Imagine my surprise when an acquaintance (of many years) of mine messaged me to tell me that his and his father's (also a Facebook "friend") feelings were hurt by my post. I quote (in part): "Your post was deeply offensive to me and my dad. . . . This country, myself included, has descended into the kind of hateful broad brush insult speech that prevents any kind of actual discourse. I hate to see it but this faceless means of hurling vitriol encourages it. Many people truly need the assistance they receive. But many, especially in big cities, have never worked and never will."

To mis-quote Carly Simon: "You probably think this post is about you."

I was surprised by my friend's message, and also mystified. "Vitriol" ? I merely suggested that the reader compare Scrooge's speech with "Republican/Tea Party statements" about the needy. I didn't even say they said the same thing, although this is what I believe.

So, this "friend", "un-friended" me. Not a great loss, we weren't all that close. But I still reflect back on this event, even two years later.

. . . And I had an epiphany. I think, that if you're going to advocate starving the needy, destroying Planned Parenthood, repealing the Affordable Healthcare Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), keeping the minimum wage low so workers at the bottom can never ever get ahead, and all the other things designed to punish those less fortunate than yourself, then you should just own it. Stop trying to convince others of your Christian values. Own your hatred of the poor. Be this guy:

Before you start writing me angry letters: yes, I know, there are bad people collecting benefits and milking the system. But not everbody on public assistance, nor even the majority of those people, are doing this. The laws and regulations designed to "keep people off welfare" affect everybody. Friends of mine who are legimately disabled, are constantly being asked to prove, over and over and over again, that they are disabled. They're constantly having their benefits taken away, until they can once more, prove disability, as if it's not a hellish enough existance just being sick and in pain all the time.

So, spare me the stories of people living the life of Riley on public assistance. You can never prevent all fraud. Making the lives of those who need assistance more miserable will not stop fraud. It just makes people miserable.

Bill Dudley
New Jersey

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