Thursday, December 19, 2013

Hate and Love At The Closing Of The Year

So a Republican candidate for Senate wants to make poor kids sweep cafeteria floors before they can have a free school lunch. 

I try to be empathic. I try to understand that other people have different points of view and different ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I try not to be knee jerk and, when possible, to avoid unthinking jingoism. And I understand that left leaning progressives are just as susceptible to reflexive, unthinking adoption of liberal memes as anyone else, and I try to actually think things through and try to see them from other points of view.

I get that conservatives do not necessarily 'hate poor people'. In fact, many conservatives are poor people. And I get that the underlying emotion in all the 'punish the poor' tropes that are going around -- get rid of the social safety net, 'workfare, not welfare', 'no free lunch', all that stuff, is probably, by, at the very least, poor working class conservatives themselves, meant more or less honestly. These are people who work hard, don't make much money, have lousy benefits, and they pay taxes. Even if they're too poor themselves to pay much or anything in the way of income tax, they still pay sales taxes, gas taxes, other taxes. And they don't like to see the taxes they pay spent on 'freeloaders'. And that's an honest reaction, and I can respect that, I really can.

But the conservative politicians who propose this crap aren't poor. They're never poor. They're affluent or straight up rich pricks who have never swept a floor in their lives. Some of them may be 'self made', they may have started out in life poor, but if they did I guarantee you that somewhere in their past, they have benefited from the social programs that they now affect to despise (Paul Ryan, for example, wouldn't be screwing things up in Congress today if his family hadn't made a fortune in government contracts over the last 100+ years). And the ones that came from affluent backgrounds have never done anything particularly difficult or unpleasant in their lives. 

And that's what's really going on here. Affluent/wealthy/superwealthy conservatives are accustomed to living lives of indolent luxury. They have never had to do any hard, uncomfortable, or dangerous physical labor in their lives, and they don't want to, and they don't want their kids or grandkids to ever have to, either. But there is always hard, uncomfortable, and/or dangerous physical labor that needs to be done, and affluent/wealthy/superwealthy conservatives need to make damn sure there are always desperate poor people out there willing to do it... and they want to be able to pay those poor people the least amount of their inherited, fraudulently obtained, or softly earned (at comfortable executive jobs) money as possible, too.

This is why affluent/wealthysuperwealthy conservatives hate 'government interference in the free market' (like minimum wages) and are deadset against 'freeloaders'. It's why they make up stories about black Welfare queens driving Cadillacs and black Welfare bucks eating sirloin steak on your dime. Because if you're going to convince poor people to vote against their own interests, you have to make those poor people think they're not doing that. 

But it's not simply the (wealthy, trillion dollar) conservative propaganda media that is to blame. There is a genuine streak of mean spirited hatefulness that runs both wide and deep in the conservative movement, and nowhere is that more evident than among poor conservatives. If conservative demagogues appeal to these people and win their votes by serving up endless shovelsful of hate, resentment, and fear, still, these people swallow that shit by the 55 gallon drum and beat their spoons on the table shrieking for more. 

The conservative poor in this country will scream and shake their fists in the air when a President tries to give them affordable health care insurance, and why? Because their conservative Congressman, Senator, or Governor tells them that their tax dollars will be subsidizing poor freeloaders who don't look like them. 

The conservative poor in this country will howl in outrage if a 'liberal Congress' tries to extend Unemployment benefits, despite the fact that many of them have been living off those benefits for an extended period... and why? Because they've been told that a lot of those benefits go to support freeloaders who don't look like them.

What are the conservative poor willing, even happy, to see their taxes spent on? More prisons for people who don't look like them. More and more guns for local police forces who do look like them, to be used to lock up people who don't look like them. More airplanes, more cruise missiles, more military ordinance of every kind, all to be used to blow up people who don't look like them. And by all means, let's pay more money and give more benefits to the soldiers who invade the countries populated by people who don't look like them. 

If your entire political philosophy boils down to "help people who look like me/hurt people who don't look like me", you're not part of the solution. You are, in fact, the problem.