Thursday, December 29, 2016

Just Say It

Fox News suggests that we might want to get rid of the food stamp program because fraud is at an "all time high." Never mind that this amounts to 0.09% of the food stamp program, that there are far greater money-wasters in DC, or that this isn't even close to an all-time high (or actually fraud). It's at moments like this that I just want to holler at my screen, "For the love of God, just say it!"

Just say "We don't want to spend our tax dollars on poor people. We don't want to help the poor and unfortunate and downtrodden. We want to keep our money for ourselves, and we want to just let the less fortunate rot."

If you don't want to spend money on schools for non-white, non-wealthy children, just say so. If you would really be perfectly happy if school systems who serve poor minority students just collapsed, just say so. If your goal is to make sure that not one cent of your tax money ends up in neighborhoods filled with Those People.

Honestly, it would help in a lot of ways. For one thing, we could more easily sort of education reformers who are actually sincere or well-intentioned (yes, I believe there are such people) from those who are just trying to burn the system down. For another thing, we could be having a national discussion about the real issues in front of us instead of pretending that we are trying to fix a system that we are really trying to trash. Just be honest. Just say it.

It all takes me back to one of Stephen Colbert's greatest quotes:

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn't help the poor, either we have to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we've got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition and then admit that we just don't want to do it. 

Why aren't folks just honest about these issues?

Of course, there's the "PC" complaint-- "If I just go ahead and say that poor black kids should starve because they deserve to, the PC police will pick on me!" Some folks have apparently been stewing for years that they don't have a safe space where they can be free to demonstrate how much they lack empathy, understanding, or basic decency. Many of these folks have found the strength since the rise of Herr Trump to go ahead and be honest about who they are, and voila!-- as a nation we get to have a conversation about all these issues that we've pretending we'd solved ("What!!? There are still racists in America!!??!!")

But other folks are still holding their tongues and using their dog whistles. Why is that?

It could be a nod to PR realities-- if we are going to sell this, we need something that's widely acceptable. So instead of saying "We need to replace the public school system for everyone with a private education system for Christians" we say "Parents should have school vouchers and the freedom to choose." Because that tests better with focus groups. Of course, if what you have to do is sneak past the sensibilities of the larger culture, you might ask yourself what part of society you are subverting and whether you're right for doing so.

Which brings us to another possible reason that nobody wants to sit on Fox and Friends and say, "Poor people should just be cut off from all government support and left to survive or not on their own"-- because you know you're just wrong. Because the thought of hearing those words come out of your mouth makes you cringe, like imagining yourself calling your spouse the most terrible names, or imagining yourself bashing in the skull of a tiny fluffy bunny-- just the very thought makes your conscience wake up screaming.

This, incidentally, is one of the problems with our increasingly awful political discourse-- it normalizes the awful. After you've heard the unspeakable spoken enough times, it stops seeming so unspeakable.

But back to the point-- if you know, on some level, that you're wrong, why keep being wrong? On purpose? Because let me tell you-- I went through a period of being Wrong On Purpose in my life, and that is some exhausting shit. The mental twisting and warping and just the sheer energy expended making the Wrong seem like Okay is tiresome, and it screws your head all up. But this is one more reason to speak honestly-- because calling the Wrong Thing by its actual name is part of what will set you free and force you to deal with reality. Life is too short. Just say it.

And if you're afraid to say what you really want because people will call you on it-- well, then, I guess you don't want it all that much. Stop trying to weasel your way to it.

Free the allies who aren't really your allies. Stand up to your opponents openly and honestly. Live your life with enough integrity to speak your actual truth, even if it is vile and ugly and, yes, wrong. The first step in getting to a better place is to admit where you are.

Just say it.

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