Give me Your Tired, Your Poor

I’m not sure how old I was before I realized the family I grew up in was poor. I knew they’d lost a house during the depression, and I knew we didn’t have a lot of extra cash. I also knew that the men my father worked with at a meat packing plant would often stuff meat into his shirt before he left for home.

In fact, I believed my father to be a bit on the pudgy side until the day I saw him open his shirt and pull out several packages of meat. I was the youngest of four boys and the meat cutters he worked with wanted to be sure we were well fed.

At the time, my father was working as a maintenance man. I construed that to mean he was a janitor. My Big Sister is offended by that definition. “Daddy worked hard all his life!”

I totally agree with the old lady’s remarks, but considering that most of the repairs done on our home were accomplished by Mom, I’m not so sure Daddy knew how to maintain anything. But that’s getting off the subject.

The key thing is that my parents were proud to proclaim that (aside from the meat) they never took a handout. Government welfare had begun under President Franklin Roosevelt, but the vast majority of the poor folks in this country were too proud to take a handout. That’s why the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) and other jobs programs were so successful. People didn’t want a handout – with the shame that came with it – they wanted a hand.

Jesus once said, “The poor will always be with us.”

Growing up in that proud, but humble home, I was stunned as I worked my way through college as an enumerator for the R.L. Polk company. I, and a number of others, would go door-to-door seeking information for the City Directory (and mass-mailing lists). Because of my size (I was six feet tall and a tad over 200 pounds in those days) I was sent into the poorer neighborhoods of Pittsburgh. I was shocked by the number of people who told me they were not employed, but living on P.A. (Public Assistance – Welfare!).

One day I got to talking to a boy who was about eight years old. I asked him what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I want to be on Public Assistance.” He proudly told me.

That’s when I first realized the damage our government had done. They’d removed the shame. The shame had nothing to do with being poor. Being poor is not shameful as long as you’re doing whatever you can to subsist. Shame comes from taking the money or goods that someone else worked for. That was a shame my parents fervently avoided.

And here was a young man who had no shame. He was proud of the fact that he, like his parents, would rather work the system than work for his living.

My father lost a number of jobs during the depression. In desperation, he ordered baby chicks and raised them under the back porch of the home where my family was living. He sold some of the chickens and fed others to his hungry brood – two boys and two girls at that time.

He tended the chickens at night… after working ten to twelve hours at whatever labor he could find. At times, he even took care of some of mom’s sister’s families… causing those families a bit of shame.

I was a middle-aged adult when I learned that a number of my aunts and uncles avoided my parents in later years because they felt resentment that Mom and Dad had food and a little bit of money when they had none. Resentment is something that grows out of shame. Rather than leaving the pain remain inside, humans have a tendency to direct the emotions outwardly. “It’s their fault that I feel this way!”

That’s exactly what has happened with welfare recipients. Instead of feeling ashamed that they have to rely on the labors of others, they turn it into resentment that the others aren’t being as generous as they should be. Those rich folks aren’t giving their fair share.

Several years ago our government took it a step farther. Because people were “embarrassed” having to use food stamps – and being recognized as lazy people living on the dole – the government turned to modern technology. The politicians claimed it was a money saving move. Politicians like to say they are saving the tax payers’ money even when they are doing something completely different.

The solution is known as an EBT card. It looks like a credit or debit card, but the EBT stands for Electronic Benefits Transfer. It’s interesting that they use the word “Benefits”. That’s a term that is normally applied to the fringe benefits that are earned as part of employment. This implies that even people who refuse to work are entitled to benefits.

Now, for the whining Liberals who have been offended by some of the things I’m saying, let me say that there truly are poor people who, for one reason or another, cannot work and earn their own living. It might be mental or physical problems, but the problems are legitimate. I have no problem with these people and agree that the government should step in and help… if their church affiliation is unable to do so.

My problem is with the people who refuse to work and see Public Assistance as a career path. Then, when they are shown on television picketing and demanding a raise, I lose all respect for them.

Speaking of television… Karl Marx called religion “The Opiate of the Masses”. It’s a shame to say this, but religion has been replaced by the television. Perhaps that is why our government has slowly but surely converted our country toward Marxism. EBT cards were just one baby step toward the redistribution of wealth.

How much of a giant step was taken by the Health Care Reform act? And what do student loans and Pell Grants have to do with health care? It makes me wonder how many other unrelated ear marks are buried in the pages of this monstrosity.

Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. But don’t give me your freeloading low-lifes who have no shame in taking what I and other good people have worked hard to attain.

Instead of inventing new ways to redistribute the wealth of our citizens, we need to discover a way to bring shame back into the mix. Pride in accomplishment must be reborn or our Republic is dead.

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