Other Writing Index

The Bush-Bootstrap Defense

Those poor, uninsured kids, they just don't turn out in great numbers during the all important election years, do they? And when it comes to fundraising, well, frankly, they stink. Really, the only thing they've got going for them is that they can grow up to serve in the military.

Surprise, surprise, our President, George Bush, having vetoed a bipartisan bill that would extend the Children's Healthcare Initiative, has once again made it clear that he has no interest in the part of America that cannot, in some way, be of personal or political help to him and his base/special friends/base special friends. The bill comes again before the House tomorrow, and as our representatives consider an override veto, I'd like them to consider something else, as well.

Jim Wallis, in a recent post, reported that once, long ago (or he should have said "Once upon a time" because that is how we start stories we know to be fiction), George Bush claimed to have an interest in understanding poor people. He told Wallis that he grew up not knowing any, he didn't "get" them, didn't understand what they thought or how they felt.

As is evident to Wallis and to everyone else, the president clearly still doesn't "get" them, and appears to have no intention of "getting" them in the future.

I don't know the president personally, but I trust Wallis on this, and I have my own experience with some other, shall we say, privileged old white men (okay, yes, Republicans, there, I said it) who have demonstrated a similar disinterest in the poor and disadvantaged. I know a very pleasant gentleman, who, when asked why he did not contribute to a well known food drive in his hometown, said "Well, I don't really know where the food goes."

What on earth could he have meant by this? Well, I can think of two things. The first is that there is a vast liberal conspiracy to collect food for the poor and then eat it ourselves. The second is this: hungry people do not really exist. Which means there is no one to give the food to. There is no one in this country so poor that he cannot feed his children, keep them warm in the winter, or afford to go to the doctor.

How is it possible to believe this? Well, let's see. George Bush said he didn't know any poor folks growing up. I'm sure that was quite pleasant. And it certainly is easier to justify lower taxes for the rich, for example, or sending our poorest citizens off to war, or the unremedied devastation of New Orleans' Ninth Ward when the people those policies harm don't exist. I guess if you don't see it, then you don't have to be responsible for it. It is easy to deny healthcare for impoverished children, when you don't think there are any. (Although, I know a lot of people who believe in God who've never actually seen Him!)

There is another possible explanation for this behavior. The believe that if there are citizens of This Great Land of Ours who have found themselves destitute -- or, like many even middle class Americans, barely scraping by -- well, it is their own fault. They must be lazy and stupid and perhaps they want to live on the dole. They have not pulled themselves up by their bootstraps. And, for goodness sakes, why should we help people who cannot help themselves?

Except, um, isn't that what we say we're doing in Iraq?