As strident as I can be about some things we find to the right of us, the truth is that most of it doesn’t upset me. I often find myself losing faith in the rational faculties of my compatriots, but only rarely getting angry. But, if there’s one thing that really infuriates me about the right it is their propensity to demonize or trivialize the poor. Don’t get me wrong. I know that there are people who by choice or through mental illness could meet some of the criterion of the fascist term “parasite”. I know there are people who want nothing except to be enabled, to get a free ride while they indulge their own appetites. I know also that people abuse the system from every direction. I know it now better than I have ever known it before.
But, you know, if some of these guys would take a cue from Michelle Obama and spend some time in amongst the homeless, I don’t think they would begrudge a guy a working cell phone. If you could sell that phone for the price of a deposit and a few months rent on an apartment, a ride to work, and a few refills on your psych meds – then maybe. But you can’t. And if a guy has managed to keep a nice suit of clothes – or find one at the goodwill – more power to him. It won’t last long, but I doubt anyone who has spent 10 minutes eating lunch with a guy on a park bench will insist he trade it in for rags.
I don’t say that anyone who doesn’t see their own calling as a ministry to the homeless should be asked to go out in the streets. I just think that those who refuse to do it should have dirty socks shoved in their mouth if they use words like “welfare queen” or “parasite” to describe people they don’t know. And those who do go out will find their rewards.