People are always blaming their circumstances for what they are. I don’t believe in circumstances. The people who get on in this world are the people who get up and look for the circumstances they want, and, if they can’t find them, make them.~G.B. Shaw, Mrs. Warren’s Profession, 1893
Of course they say that! Of course they talk about welfare mothers and drug addicts and lazy people, because how could you SLEEP at night knowing that there’s a family of four who is struggling to put dinner on the table because their father, a miner, got cancer and is bankrupt from the medical bills. How could you SLEEP at night thinking of those children?
Truly, the legacy of Ronald Reagan – dehumanizing those in need so thoroughly that we are able strip away their basic human rights without the crushing moral weight of knowing that we have chosen to let innocent men and women die. Ingenious though, as it plays on Americans’ greatest hopes and fears - the hope that they’ll one day be wealthy enough to benefit from policies such as a flat tax, corporate welfare, estate tax, private schools, private healthcare… and the fear that that creates these archetypes – the “welfare queens” and drug addicts that they could never become, that no matter how bad things get, their mothers, their sisters, their friends, themselves, they will never end up like that.
But no one wakes up one morning as a drug fiend, shifting hopelessly through the streets in tattered rags and matted hair. Those drug addicts we’re all so quick to dismiss as “not like us” were exactly like us. At some point the people close to them looked on with denial - this was their son, friend, student, father – this was a human being, not one of those demons… until one day when he/she wasn’t anymore, when they no longer resembled a person but instead a thing that we can watch die in front of us and are still able sleep at night.