Hardening of the heart

November 10, 2009

There’s so much talk about hardening of the arteries, at least among my age group. Stents. Bypasses. Diets. Medication.

But over the past year or two I’ve noticed another big problem: hardening of the heart.

And I’ve seen it on both societal and individual levels.

On the macro level, some of us spawned from the 60s generation are surprisingly cavalier about those who are less fortunate. And our politics today reflect it.

Some of us who have made our own way and our own security believe that the majority of those less fortunate are there because they’re lazy. They want handouts. That group feels that Glenn Beck, Bill O’Reilly and Lou Dobbs are brilliant thinkers.

I don’t buy that entirely, but it’s true. I know people who stay on the dole rather than get their shit together. More than one. Able-bodied, too. At least for the most part.

And part of it IS because it’s so easy to be on the dole, at least in California. Where the dole is almost a living wage and in some cases more than you’d make if you went to work.

But many, many people genuinely need a helping hand. And I don’t advocate dumping a system that helps people who need help. And the dole does that.

And while I can appreciate the reluctance to support the proverbial welfare moms who continue to have kids without the ability to support them, it’s necessary help because those kids need to be taken care of.

Members of our society with mental illness, many of them homeless, thanks to Reagan dumping them out on the street way back when, also need to be helped.

The unemployed? They need a boost up, too.

This is what we do in a civilized society. We help those who need it. Conservatives want to throw out the baby with the bathwater, so to speak. Because it’s an imperfect system, they want to do away with it.

(Funny how they don’t think the same thing about capital punishment…imperfect system, innocent people killed, hmmm….)

I think it’s hard to make a perfect system, but workfare is one way to get closer. People on unemployment who don’t have small kids or work-impairing disabilities should be doing something, at least part of the time, to contribute to society. Not just sit in their apartments and watch TV or read.

Why aren’t they working in public libraries? or parks? or as volunteers in government offices and nonprofits? Some states, like Colorado, require it. But not many.

I don’t think we can soften a hard heart. But there are people among us who really need help.

I’m not a socialist, but I do believe that those of us who were given more –more brains, more opportunity, more luck and more money– we have a human obligation to help others.

A broader workfare program might help mitigate objections to providing financial support to those in need.

Hearts need to soften, though. That’s the real problem. Hearts need to soften.

It’s a worthy prayer.

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