Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Do they really hate the poor?

I was talking to one of my setup guys Sunday morning about the pending health care bill and he was spouting off the typical disinformation that has been floating around lately. I was trying to explain to him how he was mistaken (with a growing amount of frustration as you might imagine) and I tried to use a metaphor as I often do. I know he has about a dozen brothers and sisters and so I hypothesized that he must know how difficult it is to obtain health insurance for that many people.

What happened next positively astounded me.

He though I was accusing him of being poor.

He really did, and not only that, but he took offense and completely refused to carry the conversation along any further. Now I'm a bit more educated on this guy than most because his family history is a matter of public record. I read his mother's book. I know for a fact that his family home was foreclosed upon several times while he was growing up. I also know he was fairly young at the time, so he may not remember, but all this is beside the point. Not only is being poor not something to be ashamed of, but as a Christian, care of the poor should be high on his priority list as one of the faithful.

As someone who did grow up legitimately poor, I am seriously concerned about the implications of this conversation. And I hope and pray (yes really pray) that it is not the case that conservatives hate poor people. And I hope and pray that this is not a growing trend among churchgoers. However, the disdain I see for the impoverished in our country gives me pain. And I hear it almost exclusively from the right.

The same thing happens in all sorts of situations. It's about dehumanizing the opponent so you can feel better about destroying them. From whom do you hear all sorts of arguments against the poor? You hear that they are poor because they are lazy (Limbaugh.) You hear about welfare moms driving Cadillacs (Reagan.) You hear about drugs and alcohol. While all of these things may exist, in reality the vast majority of the poor are working poor. They are people who have jobs and live in crappy apartments or homes, drive well used (crappy) cars, and still don't make much money. But if you can convince people that your enemy is a horrid filthy creature, than you can convince them that the horrid filthy creature will always be a horrid filthy creature, and even if you gave it a bath and a meal, it would still be a horrid filthy creature. Hitler did it with the Jews, so we know it works. The truth is, most people considered "poor" don't get welfare because they simply don't qualify. They are honest hardworking, poor.

It is completely disgusting to me to listen to people who were never poor talk about poor people. You people simply have no idea what you're talking about. I grew up poor and I know for real what it's like to take the abuse from people who have more money, are better dressed, and think they are generally better than you. I know what it's like to eat shitty government peanut butter. I know what it's like being cold, and being unable to turn up the heat. I know what it's like having to sleep in the same bed with your two brothers and piling all the dirty clothes on the top of the blankets because it's going to be really cold tonight. I know what it's like for the water heater to go out and not get another one until someone buys one for you. I lived in a house without carpet. I lived in a house without a phone. I lived in a house with an outhouse out back because there's no septic tank. When I was a child, just about the only time I saw a doctor was when I had severed body parts. Don't talk to me about poor people, because you have no idea what you are talking about. You talk but you are like a clanging bell. You are a neighbor's constantly barking dog.

And for the guy who got offended at the idea that he might be poor? You just swiftly exited the list of people I respect.

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