On March 7, I read an alarming letter by Travis Middleton. He began by describing a variety of groups as spineless, self-centered parasites, including African- Americans, gays, Hispanics, union members, welfare recipients, abortion advocates, potheads and environmentalists. His list appeared to expand well beyond Gov. Mitt Romney’s contemptible comment about the 47 percent and referred to these groups as possessing a “herd mentality” made up of those who trade their votes for political favors.
His words suggest his having joined a different herd, one co-opted by the fear-based rhetoric of the last six or seven years. Recall that the longtime tradition in our great nation has been less one of every man for himself and more one of we’re all in it together. Only recently have we been urged to abandon our compassion and view the underdog as the enemy. Barn raisings, quilting bees, baby showers and a neighborly casserole represent our habit of helping one another in time of need. Middleton seems to have bought into the notion that the needy are “leeches living off the blood, sweat, tears and sacrifices” of the rest of us. He claims this pattern is an affront to our Founding Fathers and those who fight, suffer and die for our right to vote.
This man’s words echo what many politicians have ranted about, especially during this time of economic downturn in the world economy. Millions of Americans have experienced considerable hardship during this period and many are still in difficulty through no fault of their own. While some are unemployed, many, including numerous military personnel on food stamps, actually work hard at low-paying jobs. For Congress to reduce the amount provided for food stamps and to lessen the duration of unemployment benefits during this same time span is unworthy of this great nation.
Judgment of the needy is based on the assumption that “I will never need help, and those in need have brought it on themselves.” Further, the venom expressed toward specific groups targets them as scapegoats. No doubt, we have all experienced a measure of fear, but the needy have been blamed instead of the financial industry that was culpable regarding the recession.
Like the tea party representatives, I, too, want my tax dollars spent for worthy causes and, hopefully, a tax reduction. Of course, foolishly shutting down our government wasted billions of dollars unnecessarily. A certain amount of fraud (estimated at $3 billion) does exist in our safety net programs; however, castigating entire groups is a mean-spirited and ineffective solution. Instead, we could hire and train more people to better evaluate applicants, but indiscriminant cutting of programs during this desperate time violates our traditions, and it encourages a culture war.
For perspective, consider that each year the oil industry receives $4 billion and agribusiness many millions from our government. Add to that the trillions of dollars we have squandered on military ventures. We justifiably praise our troops, but, based on similar fear-mongering, we have been sold war after expensive war from Vietnam to Iraq to Afghanistan.
In his last line, Middleton refers to the offending groups as “leeches living off the ... sacrifices of hard-fighting Americans devoted to God ...” What Middleton refers to as godly is, in fact, self-serving and not supported by any faith.
Roby M. Kerr is a resident of Macon.