BOGUE, Kan. - Today, piles. No, not the physiological kind. Although the comparison will be useful.
What prompted this column was an unsolicited, anonymously authored email forwarded from an Ellis deep thinker. Well, maybe not so much. It goes like this --
A kindly (or smug, your choice) man accosts his neighbors' "little girl." Both parents, "liberal Democrats," stand by. He asks her what her goal in life is. Wants to be President, she says. Okay, the kindly-smug man asks her what she'd do. Give food and shelter to the homeless, she says. Her parents nod approvingly.
Kindly-smug man says, 'Wow. What a worthy goal. You don't have to wait until you're President to do that!" She can mow his lawn and pull weeds for $50 bucks. Then, he says he'll escort her to where the "homeless guy hangs out," so she can give him the $50 for "food and a new house."
Little girl thinks it over. "Well, why doesn't the homeless guy come over and do
the work, and you can just pay him the $50?"
Kindly-smug man says, "Welcome to the Republican Party."
Hoo boy, gotcha!
See, it's just that simple, right? Homeless and hungry people are all alike. Lazy bums won't work. Democrats (aka liberals, progressives, socialists, commies) don't get it. Right?
Yeah, well I know this homeless and hungry guy. Will is 59. Lost his good job.
Will's wife works part-time at a hamburger joint for minimum wage. Will works at the grocery store where he "hangs out." He makes 8 bucks an hour, no benefits. The last of three kids, still living with his parents, was a late arrival. Billy, Jr., has Down Syndrome and an IQ of 63. Will can't get health insurance now because of pre-existing conditions. He had triple bypass surgery a year ago. When he has time off he looks for work, but who wants to hire a 59-year-old? He has considered suicide. They're all living with his wife's uncle.
Wanda. Wanda's boyfriend gave her two beautiful kids and left. She's on welfare now, taking an out-reach composition class and enrolled in other classes, too. She wants to get certified as a nurses aide so she can go to work at the local rest home. Maybe get to be an RN. At best she's a C-minus student, and at age 32, not apt to get a whole lot better. She tells me she's embarrassed as hell to be on welfare, but she has to pay a baby sitter and have health care for the kids -- especially for the little girl who's sick right now. But what can she do.
Wanda says she could probably get some help with groceries at the local church food pantry, but is embarrassed. There's this one judgmental lady who always says something snotty. Wanda said she was at the grocery store counter yesterday; got some food stamps from her purse. Guy behind her mumbled none too quietly to the guy behind him. "Another damned welfare cheat."
"I about cried," she said. "I did when I got home. I'm just glad my kids didn't have to hear that. I try to go when there's nobody there but me." She gets their clothes at Goodwill.
Readers may decide for themselves whether Will and Wanda are real people.
No Democrat I know, liberal or otherwise, advocates helping those who could help themselves. Neither do I know any who doesn't believe there are people who desperately need a helping hand -- some for a month, some for a long time -- through no especial fault of their own. Yes, it would be great if there were no welfare cheats, but there are -- just not as many as the unexamined stereotype of some deadbeat "who hangs out at the grocery store" suggests.
Okay, let's talk piles.
Imagine for a moment that the money and goods stolen by actual, small time welfare cheats could somehow be raked into a common pile. Pile A.
Now, let us imagine another pile (one about which staunch, knee-jerk conservatives rarely talk) raked up to represent money and goods stolen. A pile for the big boys -- the CEO's and Wall Street banksters who socked it to us in 2008. One added to by backroom deals. One added to by tax loopholes bought by corporate lobbyists. One ripped off stockholders by inside traders. One ripped off by offshore tax-free bookkeeping on the Cayman Islands. One by private contractors stuffing their bottomless pockets in Iraq and Afghanistan. (We could go on). Pile B.
A couple more to wind it up. First, emails like the one which inspired the column are physiological piles -- a pain in what the French call the derriere. And last, that pretty pile under your Christmas tree.
As you open presents, try to be a little less judgmental. It won't fill many empty stockings, but it might be a start.