Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Soulless bastards

Anyone who averts his eyes from the hopeless lives many of our fellow citizens lead and tells himself and others that these men and women only have themselves to blame, is either a fool or a soulless bastard.   - from "Bleak House" by Charles Simic, writing in The New York Review of Books 

It seems to me that what is truly wrong with American society is that it is overrun by soulless bastards, people who have no concept of or empathy for what the lives of their fellow citizens who are less financially successful are like. Charles Simic writes movingly of these people in his piece that I quoted from above.

They are people whose lives are totally invisible to a certain segment of society. It is unfortunately a powerful segment, this soulless bastard segment. This country that once waged a noble "War on Poverty" often seems to have waved the white flag to the bastards and has given up the battle to try to assist in making life better for millions of its less fortunate citizens.

The most obvious examples of this mind-set are in our dysfunctional Congress that continues to insist on cutting back on the food stamp program and extended unemployment benefits while the unemployment rate is still high and the economy is still struggling to rebound from the Great Recession of 2008. Their theory is that such programs discourage recipients from finding jobs or from finding better jobs because they are worried they will lose benefits. These are people who quite often are working two or even three minimum wage jobs just to survive and support their families and the millionaire congressmen are so very concerned that offering them a very little help encourages them to be lazy!

And then we have the efforts of the Republican majority in the House of Representatives which has struggled mightily to overrule the Affordable Care Act and deny health care to millions of Americans, even though the law was debated, voted on and passed by a majority of the House and Senate, was signed into law by the president and its constitutionality was ratified by the Supreme Court. These are people who do not believe in the rules of governance that apply to a representative democracy. They are essentially anarchists who believe in every man for himself and survival of the strongest (i.e., richest), death to the weakest (i.e., poorest).

But the Republicans in Congress are not alone in their soulless bastardhood. We have billionaires in this country who have devoted a sizable portion of their fortunes to deepening the misery of their fellow citizens by denying them health care or any type of assistance from the government, as well as trying to stop regulations meant to make their air, water, food, drugs, and environment safer. These are people like the notorious Koch brothers with their fake grassroots organizations like Americans for Prosperity, or Tea Party Patriots, Club for Growth, Young Americans for Liberty, Freedom Works, etc. If it is an organization that has a name that includes the words "patriots," "liberty," "freedom," or "prosperity," you can almost be guaranteed that it is being financed by some billionaire with an axe to grind.

(I don't mean to tar all billionaires with the same brush. After all, we have people like Bill and Melinda Gates or Warren Buffett and many others less well-known who give enormous amounts of their wealth to causes around the world that make the lives of millions of people better.)

All of those aforementioned faux grassroots groups have spent millions, perhaps even billions, of dollars since the Affordable Care Act was passed to spread disinformation about it and to convince the gullible among us that catastrophic harm will be caused to the economy by providing health care to the uninsured. Their campaign is driven by the cynical political calculation that if the program is allowed to proceed and succeed the population will be so grateful to the Democratic Party for providing it that their opponents will suffer a severe electoral disadvantage. But, frankly, it also seems driven by a streak of pure malice and sadism which marks a total indifference to the suffering of others.

Our society has allowed too much power to fall into the hands of these soulless bastards. We need to remember once again that we are all in this together and that if one of us is suffering it weakens the whole. Selfishness and greed are not the bases of a strong society and we need to reject them by rejecting the emissaries who preach their gospel. Inclusiveness and a just society where everyone has a chance to succeed is what we should strive for, and we need to elect officials who will help us to achieve that and throw out the soulless bastards who are obstructing the way.


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