Let’s just say this rant was formed around an argument I got into with a now, old friend of mine. He constantly complains about government handouts and how the problem with people today is that they think they don’t have to work for anything because the government simply gives them what they’re lacking; basically people who abuse the system. However, he does not explicitly say “only people who abuse this system” and instead makes it seem the like system overall is the problem. Granted I do agree that there are people who take advantage of the system, but I do not think “getting rid of government handouts” will solve the problem of people thinking they don’t have to work for what they have. This issue also doesn’t stop with careers/jobs, it is a defining characteristic of a person. I know plenty of rich people with this same mentality; they’re taking advantage of the good fortune they were born into. There are people who get hardly anything to nothing at all for assistance who drastically need it for various reasons. There are also institutions, organizations, and companies who need help and barely get any or, again, none at all. And there are also companies who have gotten assistance and have misused it. The argument overall is just not simply as black and white as my former friend makes it seem. And take it from someone who’s not only lived through getting assistance or struggling to get assistance, but also seeing, helping, and being friends with those who have as well –I would not trade not needing assistance and working for getting assistance and cheating the system so I don’t have to work or pay for my own things, namely food. It’s not like these people are living in extravagant homes in supreme neighborhoods with brand new cars, going on lavish vacations with every “luxury” at their fingertips, living “the good life” while you’re out there working yourself to the bone financing their “wonderful lives.”
Let’s start with a little background on me: I became a mom at 17 -before it “was cool” (haha?). However, I not only graduated from high school with my diploma, but I did so half a year early. I tried to go to college for a few months before I dropped out, because it was too hard working, going to school, and trying to do homework with a one-year old who demanded more of my attention than I could spare with everything on my plate. I eventually went back to school after job number two suddenly closed down and I’m still in school as we speak for my Master’s in English. I also need to make mention of all of life’s minute to uncontrollably huge twists and turns from the time I was on my own to present that could fill volumes of books. I cannot tell you where I would be if it weren’t for “the handouts” I’d been given either from the government, friends, coworkers, bosses, family, etc. With that in mind I don’t mind the few who may abuse the system as long as there are people who need the help and are getting it.
Now, background on my former friend. When I became friends with, let’s call him Generic ole John, we were working together in retail. He’s told me that his mother had raised his family mostly on her own and that she’d received assistance from the government. But if he’s saying that government handouts are the problem with people thinking they don’t have to work for what they have what does this say about his mother? I know he loves her and appreciates everything she’s done for him and his family. In fact, she’s one of the best women I know. However, without handouts where would they be? He also told me about ten years ago that my life was essentially what I’d made it; what did I think my life was going to be like with getting pregnant at 17 and leaving the father; I should have been more careful. Generic ole John “made better choices than me” and that’s why our lives were so different. I’ve, clearly, never forgotten this higher-than-mighty mentality he had in regard to why my life was tougher, but essentially my own fault, therefore I shouldn’t complain; lie in the bed I made. Which I can agree with to an extent, but I work very hard and am a good person and am trying to make a good life for myself and my daughter. And many have said in comparison to others lives that my life seems to be tougher than it should with how much effort I put into it. Sometimes it doesn’t matter how hard one works, life isn’t going to necessarily let up.
For those who believe in karma know that a few years after he said all of this to me he broke up with his girlfriend of two years because “she was holding him back in life” and ended up getting a random girl pregnant a month after. Long and short of it is she’s the stereotype of a bad baby mama who made his relationship with his child difficult and ended up dating a (supposed) drug dealer (her, not him). What was enlightening was the fact that he was awestruck in her malicious actions toward him, because he was “such a great guy” and just wanted to be there for his kid. I told him repeatedly that I’d lived this life; the one he told me was my own fault and what did I expect as a result! He’s since gotten into a serious relationship with a woman who also has a child and they now have a child together as well. He moved into his girlfriend’s beautiful home and has also gone to school and is now a cop. With all of this of course I was proud of him, but what’s left out is how he got through it all –I can assure you it wasn’t on his own without any handouts.
The problem lies in the fact that Generic ole John still has this higher-than-mighty mentality and he complains about things with a narrow mind, categorizing people into bad, good, better, and best dependent upon his values and beliefs. This wouldn’t be so bad, except it’s a very narrow scope as you’ll see. Generic ole John posted on Facebook a video along with the caption, “this is what’s wrong with [giving] government assistance to a society of people who think they can get whatever is handed to them.” After seeing countless posts, knowing his history, mine, and many others I just could not sit silently anymore. The argument went back and forth as one could imagine knowing my stance and his. The argument and our friendship eventually ceased when he said the following,
“My mindset, is..I’m all about where the rubber meets the road. The one who is there to stop the bad, help those in need and that is why I’m a cop. Why I’ve always wanted to be one. I admire you steph for all you have achieved. I am proud of you, truly. I’m just not you’re college kid or your book reader, paper writer or master diploma kind of guy. I take more pride and respect for those that pick up the rifle to stop those who wish to see our country implode. My fellow men and women in blue who are out there protecting. You can argue from a intellectual level and I understand that. But…without people like my mindset, you would lose all that bc there are people that want to take away the very opportunities that you work for and hold dear.”
So, first of all, ouch. Wow. That’s what he thinks of me –after all this time? Do I not want to stop the bad and help those in need? Can only cops do this? I’ve always wanted to be a teacher; why does his want of being a cop mean more? According to Generic ole John I’m just this person in an ivory tower of books who only gets degrees and reads about things to form opinions without ever experiencing anything firsthand. I’ve apparently experienced nothing from: being in a good middle class family which ended in divorce, getting pregnant at 16, which has been a struggle for me on so many different levels that could be its own entire article (or 12) –which he’s seen me live through 12 years of struggling, working in restaurants and retail and barely getting by, but yet working my butt off still, taking people in who ended up taking advantage of me, being robbed twice, living in low-income housing, being denied daycare assistance while I was paying child support for a child that was living with me while her father was overseas in the military and not receiving support for 4-5 months (that he didn’t have to pay back or give me back pay), going to school full-time while working full-time (A.A. and B.A.…now working on my M.A.), working as a behavior counselor for low-income only families (in their homes), working as a life coach for the mentally and physically disabled, working in a daycare with not only some of my kiddos being low income, but some of my coworkers as well, oh yea –and all of my friends and coworkers over the years who have been low income and had their share of issues as well, interning with a domestic violence and sexual assault organization, working four jobs and still barely getting by, constantly being broken down and having to rebuild myself… Generic ole John is right, I cannot possibly know, from all of my books in my ivory tower of inexperience what he knows from being a cop for the past, let’s guesstimate, 5 years?
Yes, all of our problems can easily be tied to people getting handouts; that’s it. Instead we need everyone to pick up a gun and fight against those at our doors –though looking outside of mine I see no threats currently, otherwise they are not to be as respected as those who do. There’s nothing more he can learn from my suggestion of reading in general, or specifically ethics books if he thinks this narrow-mindedly. He is justified in constantly complaining about people thinking they don’t need to work for things due to government handouts being readily available –yet he also stated he has no solution to the problem. To which he then turned on me and asked what was my solution to the problem?
First of all, for those who know me I advocate for many things I think are wrong with this world. Many know I’ve created an organization to fight against what society deems to be appropriate regarding body image. I constantly speak out to my friends, family, strangers, etc. when they make ignorant comments or say something that is morally wrong; as my friends do to me as well. I read, research, and educate not only myself, but others on human rights, women’s rights, rape, how men interact with women –specifically regrading dating and things like the Sexual Social Exchange Theory, and so many many more issues. However, I have to remind myself that I can’t fight them all. But to say that I don’t do as much as him through my studies and advocacy because I’m not out there with a rifle or I’m not a cop fighting off those he makes sound like would possibly kill me if it weren’t for him and others like him…well, that’s just ignorant and arrogant. While I do appreciate police officers, firefighters, military persons, etc. I also appreciate those who work on my car, care for my health, teach me, my child, and my community, those who have cared for my daughter so I can work, those who fight for others rights in their own ways…I appreciate everyone who plays their part in society, because I cannot possibly know and/or do everything. I once attended a church service where the message was that the pastor found out he was a terrible carpenter, but he realized he was amazing at preaching and playing guitar so that was what he was going to do in life. What if I tried to be a cop and was terrible at it; should I still do it? I will not apologize for the fact that my talent is being an intellect, seeing different perspectives, researching, writing, reading, and teaching. I do not think my life is more or less than those in positions of potential danger to those who aren’t in positions of potential danger. There are also people who are in positions where there shouldn’t be danger, but it still comes to their door and there are people who are in positions of potential danger and nothing comes close to happening to them. My father was in the military and, as far as I know, has never used it to make himself seem better than anyone else; to make others feel they owed him something. My father has helped me out as much as he has been able to and has never made me feel like I owed him something or that my success was owed to him. That is a good man. That is a humbled man.
I whole heartedly believe that if you think that you are better than others and that you have the right to judge so harshly and place blame without a shred of a solution or advocacy then you are not who you think you are and you are what divides people and slows progress. Generic ole John is big on “hate only breeds hate,” yet I hear more and more his “hate” from him specifically regarding those who get handouts and how he places so much blame for what’s wrong with our society on them. I do not doubt he sees terrible things, but the bad in this world is not simply because of handouts and it is not ever going to be “as simple as” anything.
What’s scary is that he’s not the only one with this mentality. I recently saw a post about Illinois potentially raising taxes on people who make $100,000. The majority of the posts said “$100,000 isn’t that much!” or “Tax those on welfare! That’s where all of our money is going.” or “Do you know how hard it is to make $100,000 stretch?” If they have such a big problem with this I’ll trade the person who makes $100,000 and might be getting taxed more for making under $30,000, feeling like taxes are also killing me, and they can see how fun it is to make that figure “stretch.” But as Generic ole John would say, I’m just not working for it. I’m not trying to get a $100,000 job. I’m just sitting here waiting for one to be handed to me. –Like it was to my friend whose parents worked at the Arsenal, where his father turned in his resume, and his mother created him a position in the department she wanted him to be in…all of this they told me. Does this count as a government handout? Or a handout nonetheless?
I’m not perfect so don’t think I’m saying that I am. I learn every day. I’ve been social since I can remember. I’ve written since elementary school (literally my first book was in thrd-ish grade). I’ve been caring from the moment I couldn’t go to sleep without making sure every one of my Barbies was covered and was “as warm as I was.” I made my stuffed animal dog an i.v. after he had “throat surgery” due to loss of stuffing in his neck. And I’ve also had to work to make sure that I don’t enable people; that I assist them and give them resources without “giving them a handout,” making them reliant on me -as Generic ole John might say. However, if I could give someone something I have. I don’t see an inherent danger in giving someone something I choose to give them.
Oh, I haven’t even gotten into “the handouts” Generic ole John’s gotten over the years. The discounted place to live due to who he knew. Being able to move in with his grandparents who helped with his son. The huge family he’s had that help him, throw him and others in his family big parties in celebration of school, promotions, birthdays, etc. The girlfriend he has that has a gorgeous house in a good area. –I’m also not saying he’s been given everything he has. I know he has and does work hard. I’ve also not lived his life and cannot know exactly how things have been for him and how it’s shaped him. But from what I know and have been a part of he needs to realize that he doesn’t know everyone’s story or struggle and that things aren’t always as simple as he’d like them to be. In my undergraduate studies I studied psychology, sociology, and English. I took an amazing and intense criminology course at Scott Community College from a former police officer. I thrive off of living and breathing other’s lives and trying to understand their motives. “Making one’s life better” is not as easy as one would think or like and for some people no matter how good of a heart they have or how much effort they put forth their ideal life may not pan out. This ignorant, arrogant, and unapologetic post was my last straw with Generic ole John. I can no longer call someone my friend who is so blind, judgmental, narrow-minded, and continually holds a higher-than mighty mentality to others.
I’ve been specifically and purposely reading an ethics book as of late, apparently in my ivory tower disconnected from the real world and there’s just so much, so so much, to take into account in regard to people and their morals, motives, beliefs, desires, drives, etc. There are countless angles, perspectives, things to weigh and take into account… To know one’s life and motives and intentions -even someone with the best intentions can bring about grave ill. The more I read and compare with my [alleged] “non-life experiences” the more I feel it is not in man’s nature to always strive for the overall good. I’m finding that man simply (if one can say so) has a choice, a choice to be good or a choice to be bad and more often than not man will choose what’s best for him; for self-preservation and for happiness. However, what’s good for one may negatively affect someone else. What one’s version of happy may be could be another’s misery. There are many differing beliefs in this world that people are absolutely sure are the right ones. There are people who will literally fight to the death for these beliefs. And there are people who can leave peacefully in a state of difference.
At the end of the day I cannot continue a friendship with someone who respects me less because my talent and passion isn’t for using a gun to “protect” and advocate. I cannot continue a friendship with someone who is so against those “he serves” that do not measure up to his standards, because he sees “government handouts” as what’s making people lazy, and I guess, inherently bad. I wish life were as simple and black and white as that. I wish taking away handouts would force people to work and pay for their own stuff and this would solve all of society’s problems. I’m now in grad school, which many know is much harder for me than my undergraduate work was; much more than I thought. One of my professors told me that grad school is all about the grey. I think life is all about the grey. It’s hard. You cannot possibly know what drives people and what will lead them to where they end up. There is so much to know and so much that can’t be known. You cannot judge so easily and so harshly. You cannot live by deeming something a scapegoat for a much larger problem while also having no solution for it and doing nothing about it except complaining; while being in such a highly regarded position as he is. Well, I guess you can. Because that’s exactly what Officer Generic ole John is doing. And that is something I will not be a party to. No matter what he thinks, his mindset is not superior to mine; nor am I claiming mine is to his. But having people “with this mindset” as he claimed will not protect anyone, it will only breed more hate, which he claims to be so against.