Monday, January 25, 2010

Charity starts at home; so, apparently, does anger

If you are a Facebook user you probably saw this one floating about this past weekend:

"Shame on you America: the only country where we have homeless without shelter, children going to bed without eating, elderly going without needed meds, and mentally ill without treatment - yet we have a benefit for the people of Haiti on 12 TV stations. 99% of people won't have the guts to copy and repost this."

Sadly, I saw at least five people pass this along for others to read. Needless to say, I am troubled not so much by the sentiments, but the venomous hintings that the Haitian are undeserving of our aid. Oddly, I agree with some of the points the posting raised.

Most troubling to me were some of the ensuing comments by various readers. I read some comments that were downright hateful and racist--and angry. It shames me to think so many fellow citizens can be so hardened to the plight of those unfortunate.

I was so upset by the original post that I fashioned my own retort:

"Shame on some Americans for decrying we help a people (the Haitians) befallen by a horrible tragedy! And yeah, shame on us that we don't set enough time, money and energy aside to help our own. AND shame on us that we have more than 18 million people out of work, looking for jobs while our politicians and people devote not enough time and energy worrying whether all Americans are treated equally with health care, equal marriage laws and that we complain when someone talks about spending money for research to better our world's environment. Yeah, shame on us self-centered Americans who can see no further than our own wallets."

I was heartened to read more positive letters coming in afterwards. I'd like to think that the current economic conditions are the root cause of some of the hateful words I read, but I still ponder the source of all this anger and resentment.

I also wonder if Americans realize that in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that Haiti--yes Haiti, one of the poorest nations on this Earth, offered financial aid to our disaster survivors in 2005. In the end, our nation did not accept the Haitian government's kind offer, but it is the thought that counts. In kind, how can anyone begrudge our people's act of kindness and generosity in light of this horrendous disaster that has, so far, claimed more than 150,000 lives?

In recent years while reading various blogs and comments on online news stories, I have come to a disturbing conclusion about a great number of our citizens.

We are an angry people.

Angry at just about everything, and everyone and maybe at life itself. But I ask why?

It doesn't take a genius to see this, especially after watching some of the town hall meetings last summer. It strikes me ironic the people who criticized our people for providing aid to the victims of Haiti are also saying we need to do more for our own people. To me, these are the same people who think our government is destroying our nation by sticking its nose into every avenue of our day-to-day lives.

Many of these same people who shouted down voices of dissent at the town hall meetings, it seems to me, are the by-product of Reagan doctrines who shut down medical facilities for the mentally challenged; shut down countless programs providing shelter and aid to the indigent. Those same people said these are best issues left to local government, not federal concerns.

Where were these people's concern back then? People took heart when they assumed their federal tax burden would be alleviated.

The problem, in my opinion, was their logic was misguided.

Sure, the federal government can cut its costs by cutting programs left and right. It can pass off these concerns to state and local governments. And yes, perhaps local entities can better address these issues. BUT there is a trade off. The feds can cut their costs by curtailing its services, but in reality they are passing along those same expenses to local governments.

In essence, one hand dropped its load while the other has taken on the additional weight. The costs remain the same, only the provider has changed.

We have become a nation used to its government entitlements, at least in part: Social Security, Food stamps, Medicare, Medicaid, Home Start, pre-and post school programs, public schools, the interstate and state highway networks, local and federal police forces, and a myriad of other state and federal programs, all designed as a convenience or as a security net in time of need. The list is endless and the costs are vast. AND none of them are free.

These programs are based on moral tenets that we provide aid to those in need.

For those who ask why so many of our people not tended to properly, ask yourself this: Where were you last week when Massachusetts held its special election to fill the late late Ted Kennedy's seat? Why weren't you attending the town hall meetings asking our leaders why aren't they doing more to guarantee health care for ALL of our citizens, no matter what? Do you write your congressmen and women asking they support programs to better serve our people?

Worse still, I have--and I am sure you have too--heard people blame the victims for their plight. Just this past summer after our local CBS affiliate ran a story about the attempted break-in to my home one early August evening; after the story had aired, I read a number of online comments blaming me for the incident.

Point is, we are so busy being angry at God-knows-what, that we spend a great deal of time and energy looking for reasons to lay blame rather than solving the root cause of our problems. I am reminded of the old maxim that is takes but seven muscles to smile, and more than 20 to frown.

Michael Moore, controversial filmmaker, once raised the question (in his documentary Bowling for Columbine) "why are we so afraid?"

I put to each of us to the question, "Why are we so angry?"


  1. Why are we so angry... and I noticed that you tagged this with the word 'hypocrisy', which has been a recent theme in my own life (as far as understanding the word and its application)

    Anger is an emotion that is easily manipulated and distracting. People are so busy being mad and feeling slighted, that they don't notice the more tangible effects of the negative emotion.

    Opportunity lost and hearts hardened. It is really a shame.

  2. I think the key to the anger is that we are a spoiled and self centered country. It is first about what is in it for me, and then, maybe, how can I help as long as it does not really affect me. It is a sad state of affairs.