About a month and a half ago, I put up a post discussing the distorted view this country has of The Poors. In truth, my own contributions were limited; most of the post was devoted to links to articles at Cracked.com, articles that were surprisingly well-researched, gave first-person views from the inside of poverty, and yet were entertaining enough that I had reason to hope that readers would keep reading.
I haven’t had another facebook fight like the one that precipitated the last post, but as long as the political tone in this country is (and is likely to remain) “the Poors aren’t suffering enough, what else can we cut?”, there’s always room for more. And once again, the good writers at Cracked have provided.
The latest article by John Cheese discusses – as the title might suggest – four types of people who get lost in the political debates about welfare. Though to be honest, I think he may have cheated a little to pad out the list. Groups 4 (people who only need a bit of temporary help to get on their feet and are off the rolls in seven months or less) and 1 (children) are indeed distinct groups of people, but groups 3 and 2, not so much. They’re more of an excuse for him to discuss conditions that trap many different kinds of people on Welfare. Namely, that many people just don’t have the resources to better their lives (you need money to make money, as I’m reminded every time I put on my interview suit), and/or have lived their entire lives in a setting where poverty is normal, prosperity is a pipe dream, and going off welfare is a significant-to-crippling financial loss.
It’s actually the last group, the kids, that gets to me the most. Not out of pity, per se – I really don’t like kids, so while I know intellectually that they need and deserve the most help and resources, it’s hard for me to get emotionally involved – but out of guilt. When I was in elementary school, the kids would call each other “Welfares” as an insult: “You’re just a Welfare”. Like it was a noun or something. They had no idea what it meant. It was like “fag” or “queer” – even if someone had told them what it meant, they wouldn’t really have understood, but they knew it was bad, and so they used it.
I say “them”. To the best of my recall, I didn’t participate. Some of the Welfares were kids I’d liked back in Kindergarten, before we’d learned the word, so I didn’t want to be mean to them. Theoretically, I could have used it on kids I didn’t like, but I think I was afraid of it getting back to the ones I did like. Even back then, I knew that “I didn’t mean you” wasn’t likely to work.
Besides, even back then, I had a real thing for using words correctly. More than once, I’d used big words that didn’t mean what I thought they meant, and I hated looking the fool. I didn’t want to have an insult turn on me by using one I didn’t understand on the wrong person.
But I can’t be absolutely sure. It was a long time ago, and that was Camden Elementary at the time. So if there is anyone out there reading this that I called a Welfare back then – I’m sure you remember better than I do – I’m so very sorry. I hope that trying to help the next generation counts for something.