More Human Than Human
“Consider the following. We humans are social beings. We come into the world as the result of others’ actions. We survive here in dependence on others. Whether we like it or not, there is hardly a moment of our lives when we do not benefit from others’ activities. For this reason it is hardly surprising that most of our happiness arises in the context of our relationships with others.”
This is how these things always start…
I was on Facebook, minding my own business, and I noted that one of my younger (and clearly less wise) cousins had joined a Facebook group called “WE SHOULD MANDATE DRUG TESTING FOR ALL WELFARE RECIPIENTS”. And, yes, it was in all caps like that.
Now, because I try to understand my fellow man (and in the case of my cousin, woman), while I may disagree with your opinion, I’ll always listen to it. Because, if I can understand WHY you feel the way you do, maybe I can figure out how to make things a little less polarized. I’m crazy. I know. And I genuinely do not believe that all issues can be less polarized, but genuinely believe it’s always worth the try. It baffles me how people can look at the same information, and then not come to the same conclusions. Now, I realize that backgrounds, religion, education level, etc. all play into that. I really do. But we’re talking raw empirical data here.
So, being me (sorry ‘bout yer luck there, fellers), I popped in to take a look at what these compassionate Americans had to say. The rest of you are shaking your heads. I can see you. And your all like, “D’uh, Superwife. They think all people on welfare are ‘using money that they don’t deserve…because they’re lazy…and buying illegal drugs. And because the welfare system is so badly broken, we can fix it if we start shutting this phenomenon (only they wouldn’t use that word) down.’ Don’t ya know?” And I did. But I needed to know more. Like, do they have any evidence of this, or is it just made up stuff.
When I got there, there really wasn’t much information at all. But there were discussion threads. Great. Discussion and debate. Just what this situation needs! The first discussion thread I saw was titled something like “Hey, Dudes, you really need to change your opinion”. I popped my head in and the first post was by this clear-headed fellow who cut and pasted information from the ACLU that basically said that approximately 10% of welfare recipients are drug addicts. It also went into great detail about how ineffectual testing is (a minute percentage are actually ‘caught’) and the cost. As well as discussions about how alcoholism is a much more damaging drain on our system and that it’s legally-obtained.
Now this information was pretty much all that was needed to clear up any misconceptions on the matter. Except. Uh uh. Dozens of posts by people outraged by these “facts” and accusing the ACLU of being partisan and biased.
In response, various other studies were quoted and linked. Studies indicating that the amount of tax dollars that go to poverty assistance programs account for about 8% of your federal tax dollars. So…for someone with an average income of $50,000, filing as a single person, they’d pay a total of about $6,200, and of that $6,200, less than $600 a year would go to ALL poverty assistance programs. If 10% of the people on welfare are drug users, that means the average person is paying $60 a year to drug-using welfare recipients. Less if they make less or pay less in taxes. And studies indicating that 78% of welfare-recipients are on assistance for less than five years. And you can’t believe how head-up these people were.
Finally, one woman, when faced with the grim reality (and associated facts) that there are far bigger drains on our tax dollars (like fighting illegal wars and such), and that corporate bail-outs and big business are doing far more to subvert not only our tax dollars, but our poor, and that drug addiction is a societal problem and that maybe we should try to help these people, too, responded with “You people need to take off the blinders and WAKE UP. These are just excuses and it doesn’t matter how much you argue, I don’t care what you say. You are never going to change my mind.”
It’s as if they see the facts and then decide “No. No. I refuse to let the truth in.” And that continues to blow my mind. When you can look at the facts and then make a conscious decision to be closed-minded, I’m astounded. Honestly, I am. And no matter how many times I see the situation, it’s like the first time. I’m like, “Wow. Really?”
It’s as if people would rather hate than love. People would rather judge than understand. People would rather the whole world did things the way THEY, themselves, believe is the best way. Is it impossible to embrace the differences between us? To look at someone else’s experiences and realize that the molds we forge are not one-size-fits-all? It ain’t easy, boys and girls, quit looking for the easy button. It takes more effort to work things out than it does to shut them down, but it's usually worth it.
Personally, I would rather that people on welfare assistance not use illegal drugs. (I’d rather people who are NOT on welfare assistance would also refrain.) I would also prefer not to see people paying for tv’s and designer clothes with welfare money. But all of that is my personal opinion. Here’s another one. Drug addicts who do not have a source of income find one. It’s usually crime. I’m not advocating paying them off with government money to avoid being a victim. I’m just saying that if people are truly trying to fix a broken system (and I agree it is flawed), find the actual flaws and format solutions that will actually correct them.
If you’re looking at spending thousands and thousands of dollars to save $60, and that $60 savings will net you an increase in crime, there must be a better solution. Further, what makes people believe that welfare recipients are the only government assisted drug-addicts? I personally know of two social security recipients with drug problems. Do we want to start random drug-testing every elderly person as a condition of them participating in the program? How about unemployment insurance recipients? (With the current unemployment rates, that’s a whole lotta testing!) At the end of the day, haven’t most people using these programs paid into them with their own tax dollars?
Do we really want some independent board telling anyone receiving government money what they can and cannot spend it on? Would that include the military, the police, politicians, public educators? Don't my tax dollars pay them, too?
What I find even more surprising is the number of those who want to see this change, who consider themselves Christian. But this particular discussion has not devolved into matters of religion, and I’m excusing myself from it before it does.
How far are we willing to go to avoid compassion? How much humanity do we want to shed to feel superior? Why is it preferable to put someone under our thumb, rather than to give them our hand? Don't we realize what happens when humanity fails? Why are we more willing to kill than to heal?