Ever get into a war of words with someone who has got a really weird take on things? I’m not just saying that they differ in opinion (regular over dark roast, for instance), I mean a deep, hostile, scary, might even say demonic view. I’m not saying that I’m right by any stretch of the imagination, but there are some issues that definitely need to be addressed, in doing so there might even be a positive outcome.
Back at the end of the 1960s, President Johnson launched the “War on Poverty”, new federal programs were created and those already existed were kicked into high gear, and billions have been spent to bring those less fortunate out of poverty. I live in a state with a high poverty rate where almost one out of every 5 people lives in poverty. I guess that you could say that I grew up in poverty: wore hand-me-downs, lived in a house with no running water, had to bathe out of a #3 washtub, and I’m not even forty-years old. My father hauled pulp-wood timber, my mom worked as a receptionist when she could, in spite of our situation we seemed happy, and we were, I think. Life was hard, but there was a great appreciation for what we did have. I doubt that until I was in middle school, when my father took a job in a new town, that I ever understood just how bad things were. Oh, sure, I didn’t have the brand-name tennis shoes or jeans, but I was clothed and I was fed and I was warm. Mom was able to get food stamps for a few months when the timber market died, but she hated it, it was there when she needed it until she got a promotion at her job and got a raise, a significant raise.
Experience tends to color our view of things: as bad as things were, it embarrassed my mother and father to have to go down to the county office and apply for food stamps, but the busted market hurt everyone that fall. They were grateful that it was there, but to them, it made it look as though they were incapable of caring for me, they took their situation for granted: the timber business was booming: new truck, new tools, new stuff, then…CRASH! Truck repossessed, tools had to sold for a fraction of what was paid for them, even some of the new stuff (new TV) had to be returned. Like I said, they were grateful for the safety net, but it was still painful to their pride.
Why have I spent so much time telling my story, sort of rambling? I guess it is because I want to say that I understand why programs like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) exist, the program that now administers what used to be termed as “foodstamps”, to help people in situations like we were in. That I’m not opposed to that and similar programs; in fact I’m grateful. I just get undone when the sacred cow of public welfare gets milked by the lazy, the thieves who line up at the trough meant for those who really need it.
Now some want to throw red herrings and talk about other areas of fraud or waste, that’s okay, doesn’t change the facts. See, here’s the problem: people have lost their sense of shame.
The sense of shame that a man used to have was that he was judged by how he cared for his wife and children. He made sure that they were clothed and fed and housed. Now a man, if he has a job that gainfully employs him, he pays a few dollars in taxes and, through those programs makes every other tax-paying American responsible for the well-being and housing of his children and their mothers. What does he care? He can go around doing what he wants and his children go without a father, a protector and provider. Or what about women who, the evidence suggests deliberately, have multiple children seemingly using them to draw a check, where is the shame of bringing a child into the world just for that. These are extreme examples, but if we are honest–something that is a whole other problem–more than likely, we know or know of someone who has done this, or are doing it.
These issues are so intertwined, so personal, the answers seem hard to find, and the innocent are the ones who seem to get hurt in the crossfire, but we can trace the problem back, we know where we went wrong, we know where the problem began: with a sense of entitlement. The sense of entitlement has eroded any sense of shame, any hope of being industrious, and even daring to approach some manner of right living. I know where the problem began, I know part of the solution.