Motley Moose – Archive

Since 2008 – Progress Through Politics

Walking a Mile

I was reading a piece on Herman Cain tonight: a budding GOP hopeful whose credibility–much like current frontrunner Mitt Romney–stems from his direction of a private company (in Cain’s case, Godfather’s Pizza). The article itself dealt with the racial component (Cain is black) of today’s politics, and it is brutally obvious that neither side really gets it or plays by the rules they claim to covet.

The real kicker, however, always comes from the comments section found below the article. The Internet allows for a certain level of anonymity, and the remarks that folks leave are anything but civil. Yet they reveal a basic level of misunderstanding about America among her citizens that bears unearthing more.

In one such comment, “Mark” rails against the American system of economic justice by claiming, “We are already redistributing our wealth to people that aren’t elevating themselves to get better jobs and work harder.” And there it is; the unsettling, uncanny crack in our national shield: “Them.” It’s never about us. If only everyone else would work as hard as we do, we wouldn’t be in this mess.

Who do we think we are? Who do we think we are to judge somebody’s effort level? The countless American men and women who face unemployment realities today aren’t suffering from a lack of hard work or a problem with their elevation, they are facing the reality of a bad economy, deregulation and the whimsical nature of the free market. “I” am just as much a part of this economic conundrum as my neighbor, or the homeless guy on the city corner whose cardboard cut-out sign pressed against his dirty plaid remnant of a sweater reads: “US Army Veteran. Will Work For Food. God Bless.”

Still, more than a few folks point to the slums, the government housing, the urban sprawls as evidence that people aren’t willing to work. And yet, these critics have not walked a mile in their shoes. Even so, they will scour the landscape until they find a couple of blokes who fit their description–deadbeats, drug dealers, delinquents–and trumpet that from their copper-plated rooftops as the rule and not the exception.

There are millions upon millions of American citizens who benefit from the services progressive ideals have won for them–unemployment benefits. Welfare. Social Security. Medicare. Medicaid. And soon, access to basic health care–without breaking the bank and breaking families apart.

In rural, backwoods America, I lived, worked and went to school with many of these folks. They don’t fit the bill of the so-called “Welfare Queens” a former president conjured up to scare him some votes, and they certainly don’t fit the profile of the apathetic whom “Mark” protests against in his comments on Bloomberg’s website.

I played soccer with these kids. We helped each other with our math homework. They shoveled snow out of our driveway so we could get to school in the morning. We laughed together, worked together, lived together.

This isn’t about subsidizing someone else’s poor choices (as if our own are perfect on a daily basis). This is about helping to raise the standard of living for all Americans, from the bottom up. Remembering that you’re only as strong as your weakest link is the much-needed wisdom we are lacking in these troubling times. Faith in one another–rather than pointing fingers of blame or lamenting the hard work it takes to see justice through on a daily basis–isn’t some idealistic slogan. It’s the only thing holding us together as Americans, and saving us from becoming simply asset or debt figures in some corporate ledger.

And a note, to Mark: when one party’s dominant political philosophy is to give more middle class money to the already-wealthy and established–whether through tax breaks, government bailouts or higher prices at the gas pump and checkout aisles–that constitutes a redistribution of wealth. In today’s world, that wealth disparity between rich and modest and poor is greater than it has been at any time since the Great Depression. Standing up and fighting for progressive ideals doesn’t mean you favor handouts for deadbeats; it means you’re not willing to fork over a down payment for the success of those whose pockets are already lined with gold. We’re not willing to mortgage our lives, fortunes and sacred honor for the financing of concentrated wealth and a new aristocracy.

To have confused the misguided GOP position on economic matters with true “American” ideals was in error.

(Originally posted at The Journeying Progressive.)


  1. Progressives are good. They help people because they are people; not because they are dollar signs in somebody’s bank account. Isn’t that what the basis of politics should be? Somebody tell me I’m dreaming.

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