Earlier this week, my father was arguing on Facebook. This really wasn’t all that surprising. After all, my father is the one from whom I inherited my questioning nature, rude sense of humor and confrontational behavior. Also, as far as Facebook is concerned, I believe some people use the website specifically to start arguments with strangers. It is for this reason alone that I deleted my account months ago. I would go on to post the occasional joke, only to be baited into a conversation about the social responsibility of whatever it was the joke wasn’t taking seriously in the first place. Example: I write something about how “tea parties” are for little girls with imaginary friends, and then get roped into a conversation about how the “left” controls the media’s dialogue.
Anyway, the argument my father got into was about a bill in Kansas that every year gets shot down. If passed, it would require drug tests to get food stamps. Somebody my dad was friends with posted a link to an article about it then mentioned how it was, “the best bill that never passed”.
I explain all this to explain another point that my father made to me, and it is one that we discussed at great length: People love to lie when it concerns the homeless. Any time there is a conversation about social programs, the argument typically devolves into some fabricated story about how so-and-so’s cousin saw a mother of eight buying Jack Daniels with food stamps. These stories come from the collective myths that have been created about those who have “fallen through the cracks in
Take for instance the Reagan motif of “poor people are poor because they want to be poor”. There are a lot of ways to break apart this myth, but by far the easiest is to point out how utterly subjective it is. There’s a term for sweeping generalizations made against an entire demographic of the culture: stereotypes. Also, process it logically. Swish it around in your brain, and honestly ask yourself how much sense it makes. Poor people want to be poor. Hmmn. Well, if you objectively consider the logic, one question will inevitably rear its ugly head: Who the fuck wants to be poor? We all have the option to be rich, and some people will inevitably just choose to have no money? Come on
In situations like these, I find it is best not to engage in the back-and-forth and just call people on their bullshit. By coincidence, the day after hearing of my father’s argument I was reading Bartleby the Scrivener in my short-story class (a phenomenal read, by the way). When we got to discussing the fact that Bartleby was living in his office, inevitably somebody had to bring up a self-affirming lie for why they didn’t like Bartleby. A girl in class told all of us, “I saw a homeless man beg for money once, then drive of in an Escalade”. Immediately, almost without thought, I blurted out, “Bullshit”.
It was. I know there are a thousand red herrings to be had about the issue, from the matters of social responsibility to swindlers, but all of that is secondary to the fact that this story was made up. There are no poor (or secretly rich) people begging for money and then driving off in Escalades. It’s simply not true, and that’s what I told this girl. Immediately, people began interjecting. “Well, there has to be at least one case where…” “I work to make what I…” “There are those who beg for money who aren’t…”
Ugh. I don’t even care about the generalizations, but at least be honest with yourself. If you want to feel better about your lifestyle by shitting on others less fortunate, be as selfish and indifferent as that behavior entails. Just don’t be dishonest about it in the process. If you have to lie just to make your point, then that speaks volumes more about your motivations than anybody ever could.