11/19/2005

hoosiers

I have a crazy aunt. Everyone should have at least one. She's a housewife with nothing better to do with her time than pamper her dogs and bulk-forward to everyone in the family these irritating e-mails that get bulk-forwarded to her by other desperate housewives with nothing better to do than bulk-forward e-mails to each other. Most are of the chain-letter variety: in order to obtain good tidings you should forward the e-mails to at least seven others, and thus is the whole idiotic cycle perpetuated. Most people outgrow this by the fifth or sixth grade, but bored housewives have to have some way to let the world know they're out there, and I guess this is as good a way as any.

Lately, though, my aunt's forwarded e-mails have been getting a little radical. Now, what you should know about my aunt is that, firstly, I do love her dearly. She's an absolute riot. And, second: she very proudly considers herself a Democrat in a state (Indiana) where that's considered sedition. Now, people have all manner of reasons for considering themselves all manner of things, it's true. And, well, who can know the human heart? But when I get things like the following forwarded to my box with her enthusiastic endorsement, I have to ask myself what it means for her to think of herself as "progressive". Here's an e-mail, in its entirety, I received from her just last week...

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Subject: NEW PREAMBLE TO THE CONSTITUTION

This is probably the best e-mail I've seen in a long, long time. The following has been attributed to State Representative Mitchell Aye from GA. This guy should run for President one day...

"We the sensible people of the United States, in an attempt to help everyone get along, restore some semblance of justice, avoid more riots, keep our nation safe, promote positive behavior, and secure the blessings of debt-free liberty to ourselves and our great-great-great-grandchildren, hereby try one more time to ordain and establish some common sense guidelines for the terminally whiny, guilt ridden, delusional, and other liberal bed-wetters. We hold these truths to be self evident: that a whole lot of people are confused by the Bill of Rights and are so dim they require a Bill of NON-Rights."

ARTICLE I: You do not have the right to a new car, big screen TV, or any other form of wealth. More power to you if you can legally acquire them, but no one is guaranteeing anything.

ARTICLE II: You do not have the right to never be offended. This country is based on freedom, and that means freedom for everyone -- not just you! You may leave the room, turn the channel, express a different opinion, etc.; but the world is full of idiots, and probably always will be.

ARTICLE III: You do not have the right to be free from harm. If you stick a screwdriver in your eye, learn to be more careful, do not expect the tool manufacturer to make you and all your relatives independently wealthy.

ARTICLE IV: You do not have the right to free food and housing. Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need, but we are quickly growing weary of subsidizing generation after generation of professional couch potatoes who achieve nothing more than the creation of another generation of professional couch potatoes. (This one is my pet peeve...get an education and go to work....don't expect everyone else to take care of you!)

ARTICLE V: You do not have the right to free health care. That would be nice, but from the looks of public housing, we're just not interested in public health care.

ARTICLE VI: You do not have the right to physically harm other people. If you kidnap, rape, intentionally maim, or kill someone, don't be surprised if the rest of us want to see you fry in the electric chair.

ARTICLE VII: You do not have the right to the possessions of others. If you rob, cheat, or coerce away the goods or services of other citizens, don't be surprised if the rest of us get together and lock you away in a place where you still won't have the rightto a big screen color TV or a life of leisure.

ARTICLE VIII: You do not have the right to a job. All of us sure want you to have a job, and will gladly help you along in hard times, but we expect you to take advantage of the opportunities of education and vocational training laid before you to make yourselfuseful. (AMEN!)

ARTICLE IX: You do not have the right to happiness. Being an American means that you have the right to PURSUE happiness, which by the way, is a lot easier if you are unencumbered by an over abundance of idiotic laws created by those of you who were confused by the Bill of Rights.

ARTICLE X: This is an English speaking country. We don't care where you are from, English is our language. Learn it or go back to wherever you came from! (lastly....)

ARTICLE XI: You do not have the right to change our country's history or heritage. This country was founded on the belief in one true God. And yet, you are given the freedom to believe in any religion, any faith, or no faith at all; with no fear of persecution. The phrase IN GOD WE TRUST is part of our heritage and history, and if you are uncomfortable with it, TOUGH!!!!

If you agree, share this with a friend. No, you don't have to, and nothing tragic will befall you if you don't. I just think it's about time common sense is allowed to flourish. Sensible people of the UnitedStates speak out because if you do not, who will?

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I mean, if this is what passes for progress in the heartland, it's a lot worse than I thought. The thing that baffles me--it's the same thing that baffles me about the Right's monomania when it comes to abortion and gay rights (although I have to admit, a certain faction of the left is obsessed with these two particular issues as well, to the detriment of any viable nascent progressive movement there might be at this moment in America, but more about this later)--the thing that baffles me is, here are all these rich bitches in Indiana, and elsewhere, apparently, for whom these aren't in the least concrete or relevant issues.

At the very most, the issue of language (article X above) is a mild annoyance when it comes to communicating exactly how you want the help to clean the john, or getting your jelly donut at Dunkin' Donuts on your way to Bed Bath & Beyond. I mean, cut the immigrants a little slack here. You don't want to do the work yourself, don't want to pay someone a living wage to do it for you, so quit complaining.

There is also that very pernicious strain of very perceptible racism in this that we saw bubble up in the "toxic stew" left by Katrina. Where blacks were "looting" while whites were "searching for food." I don't say that the blacks weren't looting, but then so were the whites. Here, in article I, who do you think they're talking about? What do the rich care who has a goddamn big screen TV or how they got it? The rich have too much time on their hands, obviously, if they're sitting around grousing about poor people having too much stuff.

There was a recent poll that's sort of relevant here, conducted by the Marguerite Casey Foundation that found that, as the AP reported, "Rich, Poor See Poverty Very Differently." Big fucking news flash there, eh? The discrepancy had to do with,what else but who's to blame, with the rich blaming the poor and the poor blaming the rich, or as Ms. Casey had it: "The poor largely believe they were dealt a bad hand while the rich are more apt to say poverty is from lack of effort."

Now, this wouldn't be such an obnoxious analysis on the part of the rich if it weren't for the fact that many of them have exhibited the same effortlessness in amassing wealth. I mean, take George Bush, for example. He is the poster boy for "lack of effort" and he's a multi-millionaire. Inherited wealth is pretty effortlessly acquired, as it happens. Which lends at least a wee bit of credence to the poors' suspicion that the cards are stacked against them.

Personally, if I were rich, I would rather the poor had TVs and whatever else they required to occupy their time than to have them bored and hanging out on the streets making a big ruckus, or (as in article VI) kidnapping, raping, intentionally maiming, or killing (usually babies or rich people), which, as we all know, is what the poor get up to when they don't have big screen TVs, or are not out stealing or looting them. I would also rather they were happy, despite what the most ungenerous of the above articles, article IX, says. I mean, there's nothing worse than an angry mob of poor people. Did we learn nothing from the French Revolution?! Sacre bleu!

I think that's the thing that gets me about this. I mean, how ungenerous it is. How humorless. How toxic. But this is really how a lot of people see the world. The poor are cheats and loafers, who want to steal your big screen TV.

The truth is, I'm a little disappointed. You'd think the rich would have better things to do with their time. I had always imagined lavish dinner parties with cornish hens, for some reason, and an ice sculpture as a centerpiece, and a harpist, and hot toddies all around. And, oh, the conversation! Wildean wits trading barbs while the ladies titter behind their fancy painted fans. Alas, maybe I was wrong about wealth all along. Maybe the rich are actually as greedy, grubbing, and gauche as the rest of us. Say it ain't so!

I'm actually not one to bang on about money. I will never be rich. I have reconciled myself to mooching off my rich friends. It works for me, and they don't seem to mind. I put out. No one's complaining, anyway. But I'm not the one who declared class war. And make no mistake, we're in the midst of a particularly nasty period of redistribution of wealth. I have nothing against self-made men and women, who come by it honestly. But that's not Bush & Co., or any of the rats in Congress, who, as one of the last of the old money patricians with some sense of civic duty, our own Ted Kennedy (say what you will), observed earlier today, have voted themselves seven raises totalling $28,000 a year in the eight years since the minimum wage was last raised. This was apropos of the defeat of his latest attempt to get the minimum wage raised to $6.25 an hour, a pitiful amount that doesn't even approach a living wage. Kennedy pointed out that a single parent with two children working a minimum wage earns $10,700 a year, $4,500 below the poverty line.

But I digress. What I'm really trying to understand is why those who are prospering are so angry and ungenerous towards those who aren't. Bugaboos like "free healthcare" that the right are always harping on about (article V), as if universal health coverage meant gulag-style clinics, shows a breath-taking lack of imagination. Even in nations with universal coverage, you can certainly pay more for a private clinic if the care in public clinics--or the wait, or whatever--doesn't suit you.

It boils down to people who apparently want strict and stringent social controls for the underclass. Shut up and do your jobs and don't complain--you have no right to happiness, after all. And yet, in the middle of this tract advocating unbridled meanness being circulated amongst America's desperate housewives, the writer of this shameful screed can assert, sans irony, that "Americans are the most charitable people to be found, and will gladly help anyone in need."

But it'll cost ya.

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