The Other USA: Shockingly Primitive and Unaware

You will hear that America is the world’s greatest democracy, that Americans enjoy an advanced culture, that they are generous and evolved – rightful leaders of the free world. And it’s all arguably true.

But the vexing paradox is that America is also home to some spiritually ugly people.

I am not talking about the serial killers, child abusers, wife beaters and other brutish creatures we constantly hear about on television and read about in the newspapers. I am referring to ordinary, everyday citizens who wave you a cheerful good morning and offer you grapefruit from their tree. These same people can sound like soulless trolls when they discuss politics.

bauerTake South Carolina’s Lieutenant Governor, a man named André  Bauer (photo at right). I don’t know this man but he looks quite decent. Indeed, the 40-year-old bachelor professes deep faith in Christianity and supports financial assistance to military families.

But a couple of days ago, this seemingly normal human being compared poor people to stray animals and suggested the best way to control them is to take away their reduced-price school lunches. Here’s what he said:

My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.

No, I am not joking. You can read the story at:

www.truthout.org/gop-hopeful-people-public-assistance-like-stray-animals56335

And while Bauer’s choice of words was peculiarly shocking, his sentiments are shared by a surprising number of Americans. The other evening, while I was walking Maxi, I paused to chat with a friendly neighbor. We were comparing recent disasters that had afflicted our homesteads – burst water pipes, expired air conditioners and such – when the conversation turned to the economy. And I was taken aback when she promptly proposed ending welfare as the solution to the country’s economic woes. The system makes people shiftless and dependent, she explained.

Obviously, a massive welfare system can produce unwanted results, but what’s the alternative? Letting children starve?

How ugly is that?

My instinct would be not to end or reduce welfare but to make it better. For example, I am convinced that most people are not naturally lazy, that they are remarkably energetic when you engage their interest. Perhaps, if the system included providing appropriate guidance and educational opportunities for the lost and aimless, there would be a lot fewer people on welfare. Indeed, many of those who are now a burden on the state would become productive, tax paying citizens. Some might even come up with discoveries that change the world for the better. And if not them, perhaps their children or grandchildren.

In short, welfare should be regarded as an investment in human capital instead of a drag on the public purse.

But that’s not the point of today’s blog. My point is that in a civilized society, no one can be allowed to fall by the wayside. At the core of any society – however primitive – is the concept of mutual assistance.

Furthermore, all citizens, especially children, have a legitimate claim for assistance on moral grounds.

Flawed though America’s current welfare system might be, it is inconceivable to me that anyone would suggest abandoning it. Yet that appears to be the current “conservative” mantra. And I see that as really, really ugly.

gwgraeme

I am a Jamaican-born writer who has lived and worked in Canada and the United States. I live in Lakeland, Florida with my wife, Sandra, our three cats and two dogs. I like to play golf and enjoy our garden, even though it's a lot of work. Since retiring from newspaper reporting I've written a few books. I also write a monthly column for Jamaicans.com

You may also like...

4 Responses

  1. Sandra says:

    I think almost every day the same thing. As the president of the United States goes about his day making decisions we can’t imagine making, does he think about his mother and what she would say. Stanley Anne Dunham was a hero and her son, I believe, will live up to the ideals she taught him… in rhetoric and in deeds. Bravo, George! A moving and beautiful blog.

  2. Liz Ayers says:

    Very good George. Thank you. I have the same feelings about this war and the same questions.

  3. billyg says:

    All I can say is, Obama’s comment might very well be, “This ain’t no picnic for me either, buster”! He seems to be stymied at every step, even sometimes from his own party. His mantra may now be,”Et Tu, Brutus, then die Ceasar”

  4. Louis D says:

    Death by good intentions is what the nobel peace prize to Obama might very well represent. He did not award himself but tell that to those who have increased their attacks on him.
    He should not have been awarded the prize. One should not be rewarded for good intentions or future good intentions. All this has done is increased negative focus on him, perhaps setting all of us up for great disappointment.