I am occasionally berated for giving money to the homeless people who panhandle on our downtown streets. “He’ll just spend it on booze,” someone will say, shaking their head in disgust. My reply is always that once the money has been given, it belongs to the recipient, to do with as they see fit.
I don’t think the people who say such things are less generous than I am, or are completely bereft of sympathy for the less fortunate. It is simply a matter of their finding it easier to believe that all street beggars are drunks, and therefore the authors of their own misfortune, than to face the reality that millions of good, decent people have fallen by the wayside through no fault of their own, and are more than deserving of help.
And so the path of no resistance becomes ingrained. It is simply easier to believe that the unemployed can find jobs if they tried harder, that everyone on welfare is a cheat, that those bankrupted by medical expenses due to an unforeseen illness deserve their plight because they chose an unhealthy lifestyle, that those who lose their jobs and their pensions are too stupid to have planned ahead for such a catastrophic event.
This way of thinking is just the kind of moral loophole too many people blindly cling to, because it gets them, morally and financially, off the hook. No need to trouble one’s beautiful mind with those who find themselves in dire straits – no need to support social safety nets with tax dollars that could be spent elsewhere, or not spent at all.
The real problem with this kind of thinking is that the Republicans continually validate it. They never pass up an opportunity to portray the down-and-out as undeserving of whatever meager assistance might be available. They never dismiss a chance to drive home the idea that if one person somewhere got something for nothing, it stands as irrefutable proof that everyone who benefits from a tax-funded social program is a lazy no-account who is living large off the government teat.
Sadly, but predictably, the constant GOP encouragement of this mindset is not confined to the recipients of food stamp programs or welfare rolls. It is insinuated into every aspect of the national discussion: homosexuals are deviants undeserving of equal rights, only wanton women are concerned with access to birth control, only anti-Christians support the Constitutionality of the separation of church and state, only those who side with terrorists welcome Muslims into their communities, only those intent on satisfying their own greed are union members.
When one hears the current Republican babble-speak, it seems unbelievable that anyone with a modicum of intelligence, or just plain common sense, wouldn’t dismiss their ramblings out-of-hand: Unionized workers are bleeding the country dry, while CEOs of major corporations collecting multi-million dollar salaries are working hard to earn every penny. Teachers who educate our children are greedy parasites, while bankers and stockbrokers are just doing their best to get by. Firefighters and cops are expendable, while insurance company executives wielding “claim denied” stamps are necessary to protect the common good.
What is being proffered by the Republican Party is not the path of least resistance, but the path of no resistance. Don’t ask the obvious questions, don’t let common sense prevail, don’t attach immoral intent to those making a buck off the misery of others, don’t pay any attention to the fact that the hypocrites expounding the virtues of traditional marriage and family values are often philanderers and dead-beat dads, don’t accept that your duly-elected representative is under investigation for good reason, don’t wonder why the homeless people in your city are veterans who fought for their country, and don’t – under any circumstances – doubt anyone who tells you that you’re a sucker for giving a buck or two to someone who looks like they need a decent meal.
It is a sad day in America when so many are anxious to jump on the no-one-deserves-my-tax-dollars bandwagon, while gleefully cheering the expenditure of those same tax dollars on efforts to purge legitimate voters from the rolls, to deny access to healthcare to their fellow citizens, to promote the exclusion of facts from our children’s textbooks, to ensure that the down-and-out stay down-and-out rather than underwriting every effort to feed them, clothe them, and bring them back into the fold of our society at large.
The path of no resistance does not want for adherents to its self-serving tenets. It only wants for human compassion, a true weighing of what is right as against what is inherently wrong, a sense of self-respect that is inclusive of respecting others, a perspective based on what is in front of your eyes as opposed to what you are being told is obvious, a bit of curiosity as to the facts, a tad of common sense wrapped in common decency, and an uneasy conscience that is not easily salved by those who laud one’s ability to walk past a homeless guy on the street and dismiss his needs as being not only disingenuous, but totally irrelevant.
What we Democrats are up against is not simply a party that opposes our liberal views, but a party that continually encourages our fellow citizens to choose ignorance over intelligent thought, to choose selfishness over the type of charity that all religions preach, to choose mindless political rhetoric over in-your-face facts, to choose the path of no resistance over the straight-and-narrow path – as difficult as that path may be – that leads to one nation, with true liberty and justice for all.