March 7, 2018 by Julia
I can’t write much about gun control right now because the anger goes straight to my head, like one of those carnival strength challenges where you bring a hammer down and see how high the weight goes. My entire being goes DING! DING! DING! with Mom Outrage, Liberal Outrage, Christian Outrage, American Outrage, Intellectual Outrage, Social Justice Outrage every single time I think about it. Straight to the top. That’s a lot of outrage. It hurts. We already know the arguments. We’re sick of them. So, so sick. My head and my heart are too broken by all of it right now to go there, but it’s hard to stay away, too, because I care.
See, I just wrote a paragraph about it. And I’ve lost my mind several times on Facebook, over it. Does that count for anything? I hope so. But I honestly don’t know. I don’t think I’ve changed any minds on the issue. I have faith in the amazing teenagers who are getting things done, though. It does feel like the tides are turning. I just hope they turn quickly enough to prevent the deaths of more children in school. That’s all I can say now, for real.
Instead, I present political thinking on another subject, which has ruminated in me since I spent a few years sporadically volunteering at a local shelter for women and children. This political thinking is a bit calmer, but still frustrated. It concerns the protests I hear regarding government help or money for the “less deserving.”
This kind of complaint concerns me because it changes legislation that helps needy Americans. But it also annoys me because it lacks insight into human nature. And it’s built upon illusions about what really makes people happy.
It’s like when my kids say they would love to never have to go to school again, for the rest of their lives. But obviously we, the adults, know better. We know that lying around playing video games or watching TV and eating junk food all day is actually not all it’s cracked up to be. At best, it can be a fun few days. At worst, it’s endless and terribly depressing. We know they are better off in school, even though it challenges them. We know that we all have to keep growing, and going out into the world, and working. Because those things are essential to our well-being.
There are two major kinds of difficulty that I’ve experienced in life, and one is much harder than the other. Failure, neediness and lack of self-worth is the more difficult; it’s harder than the hardness of hard work. I’ve worked to the point of exhaustion, and I still prefer that difficult feeling of tiredness to the difficult feelings of apathy, procrastination, irresponsibility, loss of motivation and hope…the feeling that you can’t get up and change things for the better. And then giving in to that despair. That is the hardest feeling.
When conservatives complain about “welfare queens” or people living off the state because they’re just lazy, I wonder if they have ever truly failed at anything.
Failing is the worst. Feeling like a lazy piece of shit who can’t get her act together is a terrible feeling. Asking for help is also a blow to one’s pride; deep down, and most of us would rather be the ones with the capacity to hand out the advice, or the money, or the shelter – look how generous and successful we are! No one really wants to beg. Even those who are dishonest about living off government or charity money – do you want to be that person, either? Do you want to know this awful, pathetic thing about yourself, that not only are you depending completely on others for survival, but you don’t “deserve” what you’re getting from them, either?
If you stop to think about it – no one is hoping to be in this position. Let’s do away with the false storyline of lazy, immature addicts happily living off the dime of hardworking taxpayers. People who need food stamps are not spoiled, and even if someone lacks the skill or ability to be self-sufficient, lacking these qualities is not an enviable place to be. Wouldn’t you rather work hard at your job, and let the government take some of your money to give to the needy (even those “pretending” to be needy), than be living off the state? Would you really trade places with them, so you could watch a little more daytime TV, while they get the self-respect of working a job? Don’t you think they’d prefer your life, which is perhaps less stigmatized, less hungry, less devoid of hope?
And do you think you are where you are solely because you work hard, and they don’t? Even if this were true – which it can’t be, because we’ve never yet had a level playing field for all people across the board – even if it were just a matter of laziness versus hard work, or weakness versus determination, or selfishness versus sacrifice – I still pity the people who can’t get it together, and I want to help them, because I have been them, before. We’ve all been that person. Some of us just have better safety nets than others.
Hard work can be difficult, yes. But it is also easy, in a way, if you sense that you are on your way to success. It is much, much harder to give up and collapse on the couch than it is to keep moving, keep believing one’s work and life matters. Yes, hard work costs us something, but it gives us more than it takes, when it is done well. Work is good, and the sooner we realize how much better it is than paralysis, the better off we will be.
So, if you’re going to pity someone, pity the person who can’t pull herself together. She needs your pity more than the person with the ability and wherewithal to work hard. If we have compassion, we will keep our fellows on this earth alive until they are able to do more work themselves. But never alone. None of us can do it alone.