HOFFMAN FILES Hating the Poor in the Season of Giving.
I’ve come to the conclusion that there are three things that definitely make others, be they friends, family, or acquaintances uncomfortable.
Public displays of affection or “PDA’s.”
Public displays of “faith.” (In other words, individuals who wear their religious beliefs on their sleeves.)
Public acts of charity.
Now, I get the uneasiness associated with “PDA’s,” or public displays of affection. Not only are we subjected to all of those wet and juicy sounds that we associate with “affection,” but there’s always the chance that the aggressive attempt at making “amore” could lead to the greatest sin any man can commit, a public display of nudity.
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This is a public display we can all get behind, a “public display of confection.” (You Tube)
There’s also something unnerving about those who profess their love of G_d or Jesus a little to loudly and proudly. Most Americans believe in something, but that doesn’t mean we want to you to proselytize to us with that, “I’ve just seen a burning bush” gaze in your eyes.
While it should come as no surprise that none of us wish to see people “canoodling” in the street, or enjoy being preached to by some modern-day would-be apostle, it’s the attitude of those when you do something charitable that really floors me. I speak of my own recent experiences. Every year around the holidays, (And by holidays I mean Christmas of course. I don’t want to upset the self-appointed defender of the “War on Christmas,” that noted “ass-grabber,” and serial harasser, Bill O’Reilly.) my wife and I participate in a program at my school called “Adopt-a-Family.” Families are chosen by our guidance department, and interested teachers are given families to shop for. Typically we do not know the recipients, which is actually better if you think about it. My wife enjoys shopping for these people that we don’t even know more than any other Christmas shopping that she does. (And she does a lot.) Quite simply, she loves the idea of knowing that children who come from families that are struggling financially, and perhaps in other ways, get to wake up Christmas morning and see a “treasure trove” of beautifully wrapped gifts. She says that the feeling that it must give these children is truly her favorite part of the Christmas holiday.
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According to my wife, every child should be able to wake up on Christmas morning to this scene. Why would anybody be opposed to this idea? You’d be surprised. (Getty Images)
While it certainly would appear that I’m either showing off, or at least telling the world of our charitable endeavor, since I’m now proclaiming in front of G_d and country that we are doing something nice and charitable around the holidays, (By G_d and country, I kind of mean my few hundred followers, but still, once it’s on the internet, the information is permanent.) I really don’t go out of my way to tell anybody at work, or in my family what we do. It’s not because I’m shy, or that I’m ashamed of what we are doing, in fact I’m really proud of our act of charity which in all honesty is driven by my wife. (Conscientious readers of “The Hoffman Files” may recall that I’ve addressed my personal attitude regarding “involvement” in my blog entitled, “Start the Revolution without me, blog.timesunion.com. I don’t believe the fact that I support doing something for needy families contradicts my stand against active participation in worthy causes.)
I tend to keep our act of charity on the “down-low” because quite frankly, it’s nobody’s business. It’s an activity that we have chosen to do, and my wife and I aren’t seeking any acknowledgement, except unless it’s by the hopefully grateful family. A nice note of acknowledgment to the anonymous people who helped make their Christmas perhaps a little bit more special is more than enough. Perhaps, as my wife has pointed out, they will be in a position one day to help a family in need, and pass on the favor that was done for them?
As it would turn out, people end up finding out about our participation in “Adopt-a-Family” anyway. I do after all have to go out to my car, and cart all of the nicely wrapped presents through the school, and on to the elevator so I can get them to the individual who delivers the gifts to the family. It’s while I am pushing this significant bundle of “Christmas cheer” through the building so I can deliver them to their intended destination that I encounter people. While some people stop and ask me about the gifts, and who they are for, others pretty much ignore me and my “item” filled cart. Some of the people who ask me why I am pushing a cart full of gifts are in fact somewhat impressed by our deed, and give smiling approval. Others however seem less impressed, and in fact almost seem disappointed. Again, I’m hardly the most charitable individual you’ll happen upon, but to criticize or question why somebody would go through the time and expense of “adopting” a family for Christmas seems incredibly cynical. (Even to a lifelong cynic.)
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Nobody questioned the Grinch’s change of heart when he brought back the gifts and food that he stole from the “Who’s.” I mean, he illegally broke-in to their homes, harassed their children, stole thousands and thousands of dollars in gifts, and then decided to bring everything back, literally at the last second. For this act of “second guessing himself,” he is celebrated on stage and screen, yet people who do charitable things out of the goodness of their hearts have their motives, as well as the deservedness of those that they have chosen to help brought into question. Very strange. (You Tube)
I firmly believe that the somewhat puzzling responses I received from some individuals for our act of giving is actually part of a larger problem in our society. For reasons that I’ve never quite understood, here in America, we have many individuals who as incredible as this seems, harbor a hostility towards the poor. In other words, in a time of almost absurd political correctness, as well as heightened sensitivity towards all groups whose members have historically suffered at the hands of the powerful and wealthy, the one group left here in America that you can criticize at your leisure, is the poor. This really leads us to two pertinent questions:
Why do so many Americans feel resentment towards the poorest members of society?
Why don’t people call out those who do go after the poor, the way they would if the victims of this vitriol were African-American or Jewish, or Latino, or disabled, or overweight, or female, or gay or lesbian?
For openers, let’s look at the first question, America’s “hate/hate” relationship with the poor. For those who aren’t astute when it comes to American history and culture, allow me to state unequivocally that our society has always embraced the idea of something we call “rugged individualism.” There is this ideal that as Americans, the only accomplishment worth celebrating are the ones we achieve on our own. Although, in all reality, what I really should say is that these accomplishments only seem to be achieved individually.
Historically, many successful businesses here in the United States can trace their fortunes to either the employment of cheap or slave labor, aggressive and sometimes unscrupulous business practices, or government help in the form of subsides or loose regulations. These realities are typically either ignored or overlooked, and so a myth emerged in the area of American entrepreneurialism that the only thing that could possibly hold you back in this great nation of ours was your own laziness.
This idealism of the American self-made man is a convenient myth to say the least. It allows those who have achieved a modicum of success (Success being defined I suppose in the form of material gains.) in our society to willfully and proudly look down upon those who haven’t. In other words, if you’re struggling in your career, or if you are lagging financially, then it obviously must be your own fault, and therefore, how dare you look to others for a helping hand. The only place you need look is in the mirror to face your self-made reckoning. Emboldened octogenarian Senators such as Orrin Hatch of Utah, and Chuck Grassley of Iowa have both recently made this argument, stating that they are sick and tired of having to feel as if they have to bail these “losers” out.
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Yeah, it’s your fault. Look at you! (New York Times)
However, while the idea that poor people are by definition lazy, or have themselves to blame for their struggles might allow some to sleep better at night, it’s a gross oversimplification to believe that everybody who is poor is simply not working hard enough, or blowing their money on “booze and cigarettes.” The causes of poverty in our society are far more complex.
As somebody who has spent his entire teaching career in working class communities, I can tell you that the causes for poverty are as varied as they are complex. Keep in mind, we now live in a nation where over 50% of the children are born out-of-wedlock. This means that by definition, these children are being brought up in homes where there is only one income, and so that parent needs to work, and therefore, can’t be there to provide the supervision and support that children desperately crave, particularly in their formative years. The cynic may ask, “How is that my problem, this falls completely onto the shoulders of the woman who bore the child.” True, but what about the child? Is it their fault as well? Should those who grow up in a disadvantaged home also be expected to strive towards “rugged individualism?”
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Somebody should read this kid Ray Kroc’s autobiography. (You Tube)
Children are coming to school more than ever with severe mental health issues, as well as coming from homes that may involve alcohol and drug abuse, as well as physical and mental abuse. What expectations can society place upon these individuals? Do we abandon them, or do we ask the government to step in and attempt to help these children, as well as those well-meaning parents who may lack the ability to successfully raise their children? Well, right now, the answer to this particular question would appear to be a resounding no. If one takes a look at the tax bill that Republicans are poised to pass before Christmas, there are substantial benefits being given out to rich individuals as well as large corporations. The conservative philosophy states that by creating a low tax, business friendly environment, all members of society will benefit, even those at the so-called “bottom.”
While this sounds nice on paper, it doesn’t necessarily translate to higher wages for those who need it most. The idea that businesses, flush with extra money due to their increased revenue thanks to the tax cuts they’ve now been given, will go ahead and put all of that extra income into salaries has never once in American history proven to be true. The Bush-era tax cuts for example did nothing to increase wages, but instead blew an enormous hole in the U.S. budget.
The issue of stagnant wages for the working class is most likely going to be compounded by expected cuts in entitlement programs such as Medicare and Medicaid, as well as increased costs for “Obamacare” recipients since the Republicans have eliminated the mandate that states that those without health insurance must purchase it or face a penalty. The cuts that we can expect from a Trump White House as well as a Republican controlled legislature will almost certainly have a negative impact on those in society who need government assistance the most.
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For wealthy individuals like the President, these tax cuts cannot come soon enough. Many wealthy individuals in America are barely down to their last few billion. (You Tube)
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not here to advocate for socialism. I’m fine with capitalism, but the American people need to understand that we are not in debt because of the poor, and we’re not running a deficit due to the fact that there are people who don’t have the ability or mental health to hold a job. Further, these problems certainly won’t be addressed by a massive tax cut geared at helping those in our society who need the help the least, especially at a time when the stock market is at an all-time high, and big business is thriving, and we are literally at full employment.
I’m also not arguing for unlimited hand-outs to those who are living in poverty, especially if they are capable of working. However, wouldn’t be better if we passed tax cuts that were a bit more modest, in exchange for programs that would allow for education and training for those who are struggling to adjust to the 21st century economy?
(A great song, and an inconvenient truth. You Tube)
As for America’s rage towards those who are less fortunate, and the fact that most individuals are silent in the face of this for of “economic racism,” I’ve always been of the belief that we always hate in others what we fear in ourselves. Let’s face it, who amongst us, whether we’d like to think about this unpleasant idea or not, haven’t at least considered the idea that we are all just one injury, one illness, one fire, or one lay-off removed from finding ourselves in a severely downgraded economic position. Have you ever considered how you would react to such a downturn in fortune? Would you emerge from such a scenario with your dignity and pride intact? If your family was starving and homeless, would you take a handout? Remember, before you are too quick to stick your hand out, and become a “taker,” in society, you’ve always got “rugged individualism” to fall back on. Chew on that for a while.