So I posted a meme on Facebok and G+ last night that said, “A conservative says If It Hasn’t Happened To Me, I Don’t Care. A liberal says This Should Never Happen To Anyone, That’s Why I Care”. I agree with the meme, and posted the following story to accompany the meme:
This happened to me 30 minutes ago.
I was walking home. 1 block from my house, I saw someone that I hadn’t noticed before that moment fall on the sidewalk. He was an elderly man with a cane laying on the sidewalk beside him. I asked him if he was okay, and if he needed something from me. He had a very thick accent, so I couldn’t understand most of what he way saying. The only word I could make out was, “shelter”. So my mind started doing the math; I don’t really want to take him home, but I can’t leave him laying on the street. I was closing in on calling an ambulance.
At that moment, another woman in a car pulled over to ask if she could help, not knowing if I knew the man. I told her that I didn’t, and that I couldn’t really understand him. She tried asking the same questions I had asked. We agreed than an ambulance was what was needed. The only other 2 people walking down the street both stopped to help (both men). One of them noticed a hospital bracelet on his arm. At this point, the woman was on the phone with emergency services, so an ambulance was on the way. At some point, we noticed another plastic hospital bracelet on his other arm that said, “fall risk”. We still couldn’t get much information from him, as to his circumstances.
At some point, I realized that his accent was Russian and it occurred to me that he had come here for a better life.
The EMTs took him away. It wasn’t until after they got him on the gurney, that we noticed a pool of blood where his head was laying. I was fairly freaked out by the amount of blood. Now that I’ve thought about it, I’m kind of glad that he had an injury that would get him admitted into the hospital for the night. It wasn’t life threatening blood loss, but it was a warm bed for the night blood loss.
My only thought was that this shouldn’t happen to anyone, especially to someone that came here for a better life.
I also added the following comment;
Let me add one thing. I believe that a conservative, or even a republican would have done exactly the same thing I did. Because I know that you’re only heartless and self serving in theory, but not in practice. I just need for you to bridge that gap that I know exists.
I then got a few comments from republicans, who missed the whole point and crushed my sunny optimism. I’m not going to speak to the comments that were just purely hateful because there’s no point. I’m going to speak to the ideological comments making the “nanny state” and “dependency” arguments because those arguments are, in my opinion, the biggest fallacy republicans have ever put out. The “dependency” argument arose when I asked one commenter to give me one example of a piece of legislation that republicans passed that helped most Americans (I actually asked this of several commenters, but only bothered to answer). When he couldn’t come up with a single example of republicans helping people, he fell back on the old “we should help ourselves because it’s not government’s job to do it” crap.
This is the biggest bullshit argument I’ve ever heard and frankly, it’s designed to absolve republicans from any responsibility for doing anything helpful for the American people. Government help does not disincentivize people from helping themselves or others around them and to claim it does, is to ignore the world around you. Time after time, we see communities coming together after a natural disaster or a traumatic event. We always see people coming to eachother’s aid.
Look at what happened during Hurricane Sandy. Immediately after the hurricane struck, dozens of groups formed and organized to get food and supplies to neighborhoods that took the brunt of the storm. I happen to live in a part of Manhattan that wasn’t affected at all. I heard about Occupy Sandy gathering supplies, food, and donations to help lower Manhattan (other areas too, but I live here) victims of the storm. I headed down to one of the meetup locations here in Harlem with flashlights and food that were taken down to the lower east side. Everything south of 30th street was completely without power for nearly a week. Thousands of shops and bodegas that were on the border between “first world Manhattan” and “third world Manhattan” strung extension cords and power strips outside their shops so that the “third worlders” could charge their electronics. People came together to help eachother on an island where 74% of us are registered democrats. We believe that government is there to help, and it was. FEMA was here putting people into hotel rooms and issuing checks so that people could get temporary housing until their residence was inhabitable again. They set up headquarters next to high rise buildings that were completely flooded so that they could directly respond to the needs of the hundreds of people who could no longer get into their building. Where FEMA fell short, neighbors took up the slack.
We knew that the government was coming, and we still sprung into action. We worked with the government to fix everything. We didn’t sit around waiting for the government to fix everything. This isn’t unique to New Yorkers. This happens all the time, all around the world and all across the country.
We are not disincentivized by government assistance. $30 a week in SNAP benefits or a lifetime maximum of 5 years of welfare benefits isn’t keeping anyone from getting a job. The lack of jobs is what’s keeping people from getting a job. If you believe otherwise, you know nothing about human nature and how self esteem works. If you don’t think that being on public assistance is a deeply humiliating thing for the vast majority of people, you really need to get out more. Or more likely, you need to stop thinking of yourself, or your friend who needed unemployment insurance for a while as “worthy” or “the exception to the rule”.
Until you can show me how this helps yourself or anyone else, you need stop perpetuating this bullshit argument. You need to stop trying to absolve yourself from taking any responsibility for contributing to the world you live in. Be honest with yourself about who you are, and stop with the big lie that you’re only trying to help by doing nothing and advocating for nothing. Personally, I will continue working with the government to make things better, while I fight for better government.