Thursday, November 4, 2010

It's All About Me

Something sad is going on in our country.  And the recent election has driven this point home to me in a clear way.  The majority have spoken.  They are not happy with the way things are moving along in our current administration.  Things were not changing fast enough, or perhaps things were changing too much, so people voted in a way to make that clear.  This post is not about defending 'my' President or getting digs in at the other side.
 This post is about a trend I see that I do not like and it really has very little to do with politics and a lot to do with elitism and entitlement.

People in this country, especially, in my view, the people who have enough or more than enough income to live on, don't want to part with a single dime for those they deem as lazy or parasitic.  They feel they are entitled to this way of thinking because they have earned that right.  I am saddened beyond words at this philosophy.  I am saddened when I hear people say that a single mom (for instance) doesn't deserve public assistance because she really should be out earning her own way, just like the rest of us.  In a perfect world?  Maybe.  In a world where all things are created equal?  Perhaps.  But we all know that the world (this country) is not perfect and that, indeed, all things are NOT created equal.  This fact seems to have escaped the minds of many of us.  Too many of us.

It would be great if everyone could pull themselves up by their bootstraps, get an education, a good job, pay taxes and support themselves.  This isn't the reality though and those who think it is are short-sighted at best and callously cold hearted at worst.  Do we actually expect a woman whose mom was a barely functioning crack-whore or whose father was an angry out of work alcoholic that too out his frustrations on his kids (for instance) to have the life skills necessary to support herself just like those of us who came from relatively stable two-parent middle-class household?  Really?  By the looks of things, we do.  We expect that she should graduate from high school, have the gumption to enroll in college, find a way to pay for that on her own, graduate from college and live a comfortable life.  That is unrealistic. Oh, I am sure there are many people who could and have done just that and I have greatest respect for them, but I contend they are the exception and not the rule.

Yes, we want people to pull their own weight, but we don't want to pay any extra money to put programs in place to help them acquire the life skills to make it happen.  We expect that there should be enough charitable organizations around that can help people like this.  We expect that people, out of the goodness of their hearts, will donate to charities that help and make a difference.  Well, here we are, back to that perfect world again.  The world is not perfect and people don't give out of the goodness of their hearts.  Not enough to matter on a large enough scale anyway.  I agree that the government shouldn't have to force people to give by taxing us to death.  The reality is that a lot of people won't give unless they are forced to.

I am not suggesting that people should live generation after generation on the tax-payer's dime.  And I know there are people who scam the system.  There are crooks in all walks of life, not just the public welfare system.  Bernie Madoff, anyone?  Enron, anyone?  There is no way to protect ourselves completely from those who want to take advantage.  What I am suggesting is that we see people, every person, for who they are - human beings.  All of whom deserve a more level playing field that what we currently have.

We owe it not only to ourselves, but also our children to put the brakes on our belief that everyone has a fair shot at life.  That is just not the case.  We also need to shed ourselves of the belief that we somehow deserve more than the next guy simply because we made it further in our lives than he did.  That is a selfish notion.  I for one do not want my children to grow up in a country where it is every man/woman for him/herself.  I want them to have a sense of community, a sense that they belong to something bigger than themselves and a belief that helping my neighbor to be better is in the best interest of the country as a whole.

I don't have an XYZ plan in mind to fix the broken system and restore a feeling of community amongst ourselves, but I do know that I want to be part of the solution, not part of the problem.  What about you?