free web stats Lost in the Eternity of the Here and Now: Fighting Poverty with Ideology
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Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Fighting Poverty with Ideology

The other day I noticed that my gas tank was getting low. I pushed it to the max that I thought I could go before that annoying little warning light comes on and flashes its stern reminder that the dummy operating it is about to run out of gas. So I pull into the gas station and get out of my car. Given that I live in Houston, and my generally cautious nature, I always survey my surroundings. Taking a quick glance over the area taking careful note of the cars and people around me I begin to pump my gas. While the price gauge is revving up so as to gain the momentum to reach the escape velocity of my wallet I notice movement in the corner of my eye. One of the people who had been standing in the middle of the station parking lot looking bewildered was approaching. If this has never happened to you, you may not be familiar with what comes next. I swear, there must be a national convention every year where beggars all gather to swap stories of how they con all these rich-folk out of their money, you know, the do's and dont's of panhandling. It's probably called something like, "Maximizing your profits without lifting a finger!" So this guy mimics the exact con I've heard before. He approaches with a sheepish look, like he's an honest guy looking for a little help. He holds out his hand in which is about a dollar in change. "Do you have…", he looks at his hand pretending to count, pausing, and then finishes, "thirty-five cents?" If you're not familiar with this one, they do this to make you think that they are just short of a purchase, and if you'll give them that specific, yet small amount, they'll be able to buy whatever wholesome goodness the convenience store offers.

FLASHBACK: The last guy that did this to me was being yelled at by the attendant. Being oh-so-naïve those many years ago, I thought he needed extra money and the attendant was yelling at him to pay him the rest. Only later did I realize that he was yelling at him to go away and stop harassing his customers. END FLASHBACK.

This time I was less naïve and less "compassionate." And honestly, my wallet was empty. It was the end of the month. My account was dangerously low, and I didn't have anything on me. True, I had some change in my car, but you'd have to be insane to put yourself in that kind of vulnerable position where God only knows what he might do. I said, quite honestly, "Sorry man, I don't have anything on me." I swear, before I had even finished my sentence he knew he was getting shut down. He pursed his lips, squinted his eyes and glared at me, I kid you not, as if I had offended HIM! He is begging for change and because I don't have anything to give him, I am somehow the one at fault?! I was absolutely shocked. I stood there dumbfounded trying to wrap my head around what had just happened as he walked away.

Now, the point of this post is not to decry the people who are in poverty, but to address the mindset that shackles them to it. This is AMERICA! No one should starve in this country. There are programs, shelters, churches, and yes, JOBS! Take this guy for example. He was able to stand, speak, at least rudimentarily, provide basic human interaction and display basic cognitive function. He can get work. This post is not about those who are not capable of getting jobs, but those who choose not to because they would rather skate by on the generosity of people who think giving a person a hand-out will somehow serve to end poverty.

I recently had a debate with a friend about the role of government in light of the upcoming 2008 presidential elections. He supports Barak Obama. I ask him every time if he's okay with socialism, because that is what Obama is (and Clinton for that matter). They are people who stand for the redistribution of wealth by means of taxation and welfare programs. And while it appeals to the populist masses, I challenge those who support them to show me where welfare has ever served to eliminate poverty. The fact is, it hasn't. In half a century, billions of democrat dollars spent later, poverty is still a problem. The problem is not a lack of money, it's a mindset. It is people being lied to, tricked into believing that "the man" is holding them down, so the "the man" should help them out. The simple truth is that this doesn't work. It enslaves them to "the man" by making them dependent on him. In the end, it cements the very thing it was supposed to eliminate!

America was built on the principle that all men were created equal. Each of us has the God-given right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Note that small word. Pursuit. The founders had no intention of guaranteeing happiness for everyone, and that includes economic "equality," like the popularist, socialist candidates would have you believe. They devised system in which men had the freedom to pursue their dreams, their goals, their fortunes. They did NOT intend to just give it away. This country, in a little over 200 years, has accomplished what no other country in the world has, neither in this short of a time, nor in scope. We enjoy the highest standards of living, the most wealth (yes, even the beggar is richer than most of the rest of the world), and the freedom to CHOOSE how we will live our lives. From 1776 to 2008, a mere two hundred thirty-one years, the freedoms afforded this great people has allowed us to traverse the five-thousand year leap from farming with rudimentary tools, to the lone standing super-power. America is the greatest nation on the planet for the God-given freedom we enjoy, if only all of her people knew it…

I continued to pump my gas. Eventually a lady pulled up adjacent to me. He played the same game with her, and she shut him down just as quickly. I smiled inside as I drove away that she had not fallen for his con, and yet pitied the poor man, not because he is poor, but because he has chosen such a pitiful existence.


Blogger Jarod said...

Good story. I think most of us have been there, and wondered, "Is this guy about to rape me?" But besides the idea of being sexually assaulted, it is still such a frustrating experience. Here I am, just getting off work, and this loser, whom I've never met before in my life, comes up to me asking for some of that money I just got done working for. As if the 35 cents will make some difference in his life. Please, dude, get it together, and get a job. McDonald's is always hiring. But, eh, why should he? Obama's going to feed him out of my wallet from now on, right?

4/17/2009 12:08 PM  

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