“Romance” Novels

Today I will risk the daggers and arrows as I pluck out the feather from the featherbed of lies by looking at how this country demeans women in the way they look at romance.

Several years ago, my family faced serious economic problems.  I thought that I could make some reasonable money writing romance novels and get the family through.  Come with me over the fold as I tell you about my excursion into romance novel writing.

 

So I decided to research the writing of romance novels.  I mean, really, how hard could it be to write one?  They all seemed to be from a formula, and once I had that formula down, I should be able to crank them out with sufficient regularity to pay the bills.  So I went out and bought a few random Romance Novels from the local grocery store.  I was right – they are written to a formula that one could easily master and crank them out.  But there was something else about them that prevented me from ever writing one.

Romance writing is good money.  55% of all books sold in 2004 were Romance Novels, and there are 2000 new titles published every year.  It is a half a billion a year industry.  As I read the books, I found that I could almost make a database of names, places, events etc. and have the database write the novel by randomly selecting names from the name category, places from the places category and tailoring events from the event category.  Easy money, right?  Well, except one thing.  I had a serious problem with what passed as romantic events.

At the time, I was volunteering with homeless children and with a battered women’s shelter.  To work at the shelter, we had training about what constituted an abuser.  I noticed that the grand climax of every one of these novels was a situation that would have been prosecuted as domestic violence.  In other words, the most “romantic” part of the novel was abuse.  In one case, he slapped her, she slapped him back, he grabbed her arm and had his way with her.  For some reason halfway through she quit struggling and they had a fantastic night of sex.  Excuse me?  In another, it was alcohol.  The one that bugged me most was one where a woman was being nanny to a widower’s daughter in the outback.  Nobody around for miles.  When she finally got too frustrated for words, she tried to leave on foot.  He somehow found her and LASSOED her!  Then his horse kept her on the ground while he ran over to her and … well, you know the rest.  Whenever she would try to get up and get the rope off and run the horse would jerk her down.  This is not romantic.  This is violence.

Then as I read more, I realized that before these romantic climaxes, the relationships were toxic all around.  He (the main character was always a woman) would flirt with an ex to make her jealous.  She would say ugly things to hurt his feelings.  He would say ugly things to hurt his feelings.  She would be sensitive.  He would be insulting.  She would be vengeful … and on and on.  This is how they discovered their deep love for each other?

Finally, I saw how women were portrayed.  While it seemed that she was strong, she was really weak and helpless.  Needy.  Dependent.  Unworthy of respect.  He was strong.  He seemed cold on the outside but it hid a wall of passion.  Stereotypes from the 50s, and never really true stereotypes at that.

Then I would visit my women at the shelter.  One told me that her husband beat her up for talking with an old schooldays friend who happened to be male.  “He just couldn’t help himself, he gets so jealous,” she said.  Where did I see those words?  In the denouement of almost all of these romance novels.  He would explain his behavior by “I couldn’t help myself.  I love you so much and I got jealous.”  Love?  Love does not wish to harm.  Love does not take advantage of the incapacitated.  Love does not tie someone up and take advantage.  Love trusts the person loved.  Where there is no trust there is no love.

Another woman told me, “I thought if I loved him enough he would change.”  Like they do in romance novels.  But not in real life.  You don’t change other people.  Either they change themselves or they remain the same.

So 55% of all books bought in this country are this genre?  Half a billion dollars worth?  Enough to support 2000 titles a year?  Tell me that our 12 year old girls aren’t reading these and thinking this is what love and romance are all about.  Tell me some don’t fall into the hands of boys wondering what girls are looking for.  Tell me that the HUGE numbers of mothers reading them aren’t at least unconsciously passing these notions on to their children.

Remember what that senator said about rape victims?  That when it is inevitable, she should lie back and enjoy it?  The women in these books not only do that, they participate.  That is the message.  The other message is that it is not rape if it is an acquaintance.  Rape only happens when the man is a stranger and ugly.  Even when a stranger, if he isn’t ugly, she secretly wanted it.  Ken Buck, who ran in Colorado for Senate this year declined to prosecute a case a few years ago.  A young woman had attended a party for football recruits.  She was raped.  The players admitted she had said no.  But Ken insisted it was a case of “buyer’s remorse.”  Not rape.

What bothers me most is that these are novels by women for women.  The biggest readers of these novels are women who are alone and lonely and vulnerable.  Women are pushing these dangerous notions to other women.  They are depicting toxic and dangerous relationships as romantic.  The women who read them are then out looking for this as indicators of love.  By the time they realize that love should not hurt so much, it is too late.  They are in one of those relationships that is hard to get out of alive.

The feather I am pulling out here is the one that says that these novels are light-hearted, romantic fun.  They are not.  They are pushing a dangerous notion of love and romance into our society.  These attitudes have been there for generations, but these novels make it harder to counter, to get the neanderthal ideas about women removed from our society.  The writers of these novels are making a lot of money telling girls that love hurts.  They undermine respect for women.  This is another lump for our featherbed of lies.

Where Is the Gold of Toulouse

In this episode, the feather I am removing from the featherbed of lies deals with the tax cuts for the rich.  Or, rather, how the rich seem to have this notion that the more they amass at the expense of their fellow citizens the more comfortable they will be and that their wealth will prevent their children from ever lacking for anything.  It makes them warm and comfortable to see their vast fortune in comparison to the rest of society.  They see themselves passing down this wealth to their children for generation upon generation.  History shows that this does not happen.  So I ask you … where is the Gold of Toulouse?

 

First, I give you a bit of history.  In Colleen McCollough’s book The First Man in Rome, the story of the Gold of Toulouse is laid out.  From other writers I have read, her book is well-researched, although I do not know all of her sources.  One source may have been this.  At one time, there was a massive storage of gold in the bottom of a lake in Toulouse.  Some say it came from raiding Delphi during the Greek empire, others say it simply came from a very wealthy part of Europe.  But the amount was great.  Rome conquered the area and was bringing the gold home to the Mother state.  En route, Caepio, knowing what the legions were transporting, sent his own troops, who ambushed the legion and made off with the gold.  This gold would have made him incredibly wealthy and his heirs wealthy for all time.  Except that a few generations later, there is no sign of that wealth.  After the fall of Rome, there is no sign of his family remaining and living in great luxury.  Nobody knows what happened to the gold of Toulouse.

This is not the only story of vast fortunes being dissipated in a relatively short time.  Where are the wealthy feudal lords?  Why are the castles of Europe in ruins?  We know what happened to the wealthy nobles in 18th century France.  Why are there no wealthy warlords in China?  What has happened to these vast sums that families had at one time?

About five years ago, I sat next to a Mexican businessman on an airplane trip.  He was telling me how in Mexico (a land where the income gap is extreme), he had to keep his children inside a compound and was constantly worried about them being kidnapped for ransom.  He was afraid that even his own security guards would be cajoled into assisting in such an event.  He was hoping that his company would send him and his family to China for him to work, where his family would be safe.  So … his children could not go to the local school and could not leave the compound without security staff?  This is the joy of being wealthy?  And this was before the news reports we now hear every day about the violence in Mexico.  This is a society that saw a huge income gap and people turned to drug sales and other criminal activities to alleviate their poverty.

I present here my theory.  It is nothing but a theory, and I am no historian.  My theory is this:  the only way you can hang on to wealth is for your society to be stable.  When the gap between the haves and the have nots becomes too great, and when the lower class becomes too badly used, the society gets unstable and the economic security vanishes.  It gets carted off in revolution or the economy fails.  Without a stable economy, the wealth disappears.  Instead of having vast wealth for generations, the wealth is either squandered or carried off.

As a side note, it is interesting to me that those individuals (think Warren Buffet and Bill Gates) who have come about their wealth in an open and honest fashion have been responsible in their acquisition and use of their wealth.  They have not tried to amass more by clandestine means, nor have they oppressed their fellow citizens in its accumulation.  On the contrary, they give it away to worthy causes which they research, and encourage others in their situation to do likewise.  It is the ones who hide behind a corporate veil, themselves not well known to the public, who seem to me to commit the fraud and scurrilous tactics.  It also appears that the ill-gotten gains are the ones that turn out to be most precarious.

So my message to those in the wealthy class who are pushing for these ridiculous tax cuts for the rich – you are placing your own wealth in jeopardy.  By feathering your own nests at the expense of your fellow citizens who are suffering, you risk destabilizing the country that gave you the opportunity to become wealthy.  And for what?  Once you have enough wealth to buy everything you need and put some away, what good does it do you?

Economists are familiar with the law of diminishing returns.  Once you have a certain amount of something, the next unit of that something is of less value to you.  We just had Thanksgiving.  After you finished that big meal, how valuable to you was another piece of pie?  When you walked in to the dinner hungry, that pie was worth a lot to you.  But after the big meal?  It may have actually held negative value to you.  You can only wear one pair of shoes at a time.  When you already have a different pair of shoes for every day of the month, how valuable to you is the next pair?  But if you are barefoot, that first pair of shoes means a great deal.  So to whom is the tax cut more valuable?  To the wealthy person who already has what he needs?  Or to the person who is struggling to feed her children or repair the car he needs to get to work?  Economists have a term for this – Welfare Economics.  It is not the economics of welfare.  It is the economics of the welfare of the country – how do you get the greatest value for every unit of resources. In terms of the welfare of the country, the extra $40 to the middle class family yields a higher return than an extra $4000 to the wealthy.  It makes a greater difference in the life of the person who receives it.  In terms of Welfare Economics, the tax cuts for the middle class have a great return.  The tax cuts for the wealthy have virtually no return.

As the gap between the haves and the have nots in this country grows, so does the discontent.  We see the anger already out there in the streets (although the tea baggers have not yet figured out who the villains are).  It is already beginning to destabilize our economy and our nation.  When a nation is destabilized, it isn’t a question of whether it will fall, it is a question of how.  Will it be by forces from within or forces from without?

When you look at the accumulation and retention of wealth, the rich have a greater stake in ensuring that the tax cuts for the middle class pass and the tax cuts for the rich are defeated.  This is why people like Warren Buffet and the group of millionaires who are calling on our government to tax them more are doing so.  They understand that their own wealth depends on having a country with a healthy and satisfied middle class.

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is something to be gained by the wealthy person who extracts greater wealth at the expense of his fellow citizens.  That is a lie.  In fact, he puts his own wealth in jeopardy.

On meditation – Passive vs Active

Before I begin, I must stress in the strongest possible terms that I am no more an accomplished meditator than I am a doctor.  If I could do as well as I can talk, I could do much more with my life than I am doing.  I am not a “human complete,” rather, I am a “human becoming.”

I began my study of meditation decades ago when I read Dion Fortune’s book Training and Work of an Initiate.  In that book she explains that there are two types of meditation, which she ascribes as the difference between Eastern and Western cultures.  She says that Eastern cultures try to reach the soul up to the heavens, whereas Western cultures try to bring the heavens to Earth.  As I look at the behaviors of these cultures (in a less blended form than perhaps we have now), I see her point.  Anyway, to accomplish the cultural goals, which are expressed person by person, the Eastern approach is passive, uniting ones self with the “oversoul,” the Western approach is active, pulling the beauty of the ‘oversoul” to enrich the individual.  Subtle difference, but it manifests strongly in the meditative approach.  You can see the stark differences when you look at the Deepak Chopra approach (Eastern) vs Franz Bardon’s approach as discussed in Initiation into Hermetics.

Today I discuss the passive approach, as I find it is easier to get started in that one.  Over time, migrating to the active approach may be useful, especially to activists who want to see change on Earth.

There are several books out about Eastern meditation practices, and although I tend to lean toward Chopra’s books (and his methods are discussed in several of his publications, so I don’t call one out here) because he communicates his information in words and phrases that the Western mind grasps easily.  I summarize his words here with my own thoughts intermingled.

All meditation literature I have found talks about how our minds have a chatterbox constantly yammering in our heads.  The first goal of meditation is to not necessarily silence that chatterbox, but to make it shut up unless it has something worthwhile to say.  Once the chatterbox is controlled, it can be used for great effect in your life.

Find a quiet place where you can be alone.  While the literature suggests that you can do this sitting or lying down, most suggest sitting if only to avoid falling asleep.  I also find that sitting gives a better circuit for the energies to pass through.  I find that this is best done in the morning, with a different exercise (to be discussed later) as I go to sleep.  Wear comfortable clothing, loose fitting, that will not be a distraction or an irritant.  I recommend a notebook where you will write your impressions and observations when your session ends – it is a great learning tool and way to monitor your progress.

To begin, set a timer for 5 minutes.  It is not reasonable to expect your mind to start training at 30 minutes just as it is not reasonable to expect your body to begin workouts by running a marathon.  Sit quietly and watch your thoughts go by.  Do not engage them, just release them like bubbles in a lake.  To aid your mind, you can keep it busy with a meaningless phrase, such as “so-hum,” with so on the intake and hum on the outtake.  You can also watch your breath.

Your chatterbox will start telling you all these things you have to do, all the offenses you experienced the day before, how your mother is coming for Christmas and doggone it the cat is in your potted plants again.  Don’t engage these thoughts, just let them float away.  Over time, you will notice these thoughts coming slower and slower.  Then you find a way to keep yourself in what Chopra calls “the gap.”  This is the space between thoughts.  This is where you have what he calls “pure potentiality,” that is nothing is already created there so it is open to creation.  The goal is to eventually go the entire session in “the gap,” that is, no thoughts bubbling up for the entire session.

Increase the time as you are successful, until you can do 30 minutes.  Once you are able to do that, you can take a specific goal or thought into your session and it will begin to penetrate who you are.  Some use a mantra, such as “Be still and know that I am god,” or “Peace and calm.”  You pick the mantra based on your goals, beliefs and personality.

At night, your thoughts as you drift into sleep are giving instructions to your subconscious.  Therefore you must be careful what those thoughts are.  Your subconscious does not differentiate between what you want and like and what you don’t want and like.  So if you are going to sleep worrying about debt, your subconscious takes that as instruction to increase debt.  If you go to sleep worrying about how you are going to get everything done that you need to do, your subconscious will make your schedule more harried and you less efficient to meet that instruction.  If you go to sleep thinking about how blessed you are, your subconscious will go out and find more ways to add to your blessings (and you will begin to be able to recognize more of the blessings you have – a good practice for peace of mind.)  If you have a goal, visualize that you have attained that goal.  Do not tell your subconscious how to get there, just where you want to be.  Visualize it until it becomes plastic.  Be advised, that as you get more accomplished in this, things begin to change in your life.  I am always amazed at how fast those changes occur, and more than once it was almost too fast for me to grasp.

There is much, much more to passive meditation that meditators more experienced than I am can share.  But this is a good starting point, and just following these steps should result in more peace and control.

The Logic of Words

For a long time, I have wanted to have logic taught as a year-long eighth grade class, in which four quarters would cover the logic of Philosophy, the logic of Mathematics, the logic of Language and critical thinking, but our school superintendent said teachers couldn’t teach that.  I believe that if we ran political speeches through the known fallacies there would be nothing left of the speeches except “Hello, I am XXX and I am running for YYY.”

There are three major areas of logic, that is philosophy (where logic originated), mathematics and language.  Since mathematics is a language, I consider it a subset of the logic of language.  Computer logic is a subset of mathematics.  I discuss here several logical fallacies,  in a discussion of the logic of Language.  If, as a society, we used these logical failings as a filter on political speeches and ads (is there much difference?)  we could clear out much chaff from real debate. We can discuss real issues.

Back in the day of our founding fathers, Logic was considered a necessary part of education.  During debates, they did not even address the truth of premises until they had addressed the language of the argument.  If the argument failed, the truth or otherwise of the premises was moot.  I am convinced that our education needs to relook at logic as a foundation of the educated person.

I make one clarifying statement here: Just because a statement is derived from faulty logic does not mean it is untrue.  It means it was not proven by the logic used.

  1. Argumentun ad antiquitatem: Argument to antiquity or tradition.  “We’ve always done it this way” is the one I hear most often at work.  Another example is “If it was good enough for my father and good enough for his father it is good enough for me.”  “My dad never got past eighth grade, his father never got past third grade, I don’t need a high school diploma.”  “This nation was founded on Christian principles” (not true to start with and logical fallacy to boot).
  2.  Argumentum ad hominem: Argument against the man.  When the argument is directed to or at the person, attacking the character or motives of a person who has stated and idea rather than the idea itself. It can also be an attack on the source of information.  Name calling is included in this.  “Justice Sotomayor is a racist.”  This also includes innuendo.  “Barack Obama wants to provide the public option in health care.  He is a socialist!”   It also includes put-downs.  “You turned out pretty well given how much your father used to drink.”
  3.  Argumentum ad ignorantiam:  Argument to ignorance.  Arguing that because something has not been proven true means it is false.  “It has not been proven that this drug hurts people, therefore it does not hurt people.”  “It has not been proven that there is a god therefore there is no god.”  (Can cut both ways, eh?)
  4.  Argument ad logicam: Argument to logic. Claiming that an argument is false because the logic in the proof offered is flawed.  Just because the argument that the fact that we are seeing more hurricanes (which could be because we have satellites that can see hurricanes we couldn’t see before) does not prove global warming does not mean there is no global warning.  (On the other hand, please stop saying that because we see more hurricanes means there is global warming?  It just gives the other side distracting ammunition.)
  5.  Argumentum ad misericordian:  Argument to pity.  Claiming sympathy is a good reason to accept the argument.  How many of us were told to eat everything on our plates because of all the starving children in India?
  6.  Argumentum ad nauseam:  Argument to the point of nausea.  Saying the same thing over and over makes it true.  Saying Barack Obama is not a citizen over and over does not make him stop being a citizen.  Get over it!
  7.  Argumentum ad numerum:  Appeal to numbers.  Four out of five doctors recommend our product over every other similar product.  Just because they recommend it doesn’t mean it is better.
  8.  Argumentum ad populum:  Appeal to popularity.  Similar to ad numerum, the bandwagon argument. It involves the claim that everybody thinks it, everybody does it.  Eighty per cent of the population believes in Angels, therefore there are angels (or whatever per cent it is – I didn’t look it up.)  That doesn’t prove there are angels.
  9.  Argumentum ad verecundiam:  Appeal to authority.  Barbra Streisand or Chuck Norris commenting on foreign policy.  Being a popular actor does not make one an authority on foreign policy.  Or reverse mortgages.  If there is no reason to believe that the person has expertise in an area, it is a fallacy to quote them on the subject.  In our society we often associate lab coats with doctors or scientists.  TV ads often feature people in lab coats to give gravitas to what the actor was saying, implying that that person is a doctor. My grandmother was a doctor.  When I was little I used to wear her lab coat.  Did that make me a doctor?
  10.  Circulus in demonstrando:  Circular reasoning.  The Bible is the word of God because the Bible says so.  See the circle?  It says xyz in the Bible.  So how do you know the Bible is correct?  The Bible says so.  Interestingly, every web site I looked at used this example.  Go figure.
  11.  Complex Question:  Implicit assumtion that somethingis true by the construction of the statement.  Also known as loaded question.  This is the traditional “Have you quit beating your wife?” argument.  “Have you paid up those back taxes?”  assumes there were back taxes to be paid up.
  12.  Post hoc ergo propter hoc:  After which therefore because of which.  I got pregnant after moving to my new house.  All our neighbors got pregnant shortly after they moved in (true story).  It must be the water here that made us pregnant.  This fallacy is the foundation for many superstitions.
  13.  Cum hoc ergo propter hoc:  With this therefore because of this.  “We haven’t been attacked on our soil since we started enhanced interrogations, therefore we are keeping you safe.”  Assumes that because of the enhanced interrogations we have not been attacked.  We might not have been attacked for a lot of reasons.
  14.  Dicto simpliciter: Sweeping generalization.  Expanding limited observations to make very general conclusions.  Often leads to stereotyping.  “I got mugged by a preacher’s kid, therefore all preachers’ kids are muggers.”  “My mother had PMS, therefore all women go crazy once a month.”  “It was Muslims who attacked us on 9/11.  Therefore all Muslims are evil.”
  15.  Appeal to nature:  Just because it is natural means it is good and true.  “Carbon Dioxide is found in nature, therefore it can’t be bad for you.”  We all know where this came from.
  16.  Naturalistic Fallacy:  Assuming ethical correctness based on facts alone.  “The world population is growing.  Therefore it is ethical to have more children.”  “Minorities make up the bulk of the prison population.  Therefore we should jail more minorities.”
  17.  Non Sequitur:  Does not follow.  Stating a conclusion that does not necessarily follow from the argument.  “We do not have public option health care, therefore I need more shoes.”  Well, maybe that does follow.
  18.  Petitio Principii:  Begging the question.  Also known as tautology.  Assuming the premise – including what you are trying to prove in the argument as if it is already proven.  “We must have deregulation to improve productivity”  assumes deregulation improves productivity.  As we have seen, it may not improve real productivity.  Using a definition of an event to describe the cause of an event.  “The drop in GNP is the result of the country being less productive.”
  19.  Red herring:  Introduction of irrelevant facts, misdirection, false emphasis.    “We can’t be letting in all these immigrants to the United States.  Think of all the fighting going on in Congo.”
  20.  Slippery slope:  If we go here, we will eventually wind up there.  “If we let in all these Mexicans, pretty soon we will all be speaking Spanish.”  “If we let gays marry, pretty soon we will have men marrying sheep.”  Not to say what women will marry!
  21.  Straw man:  Creating a caricature and arguing against it.  “All these women go out and be promiscuous, then they get pregnant and want a last minute abortion.  We must do what is necessary to make women be chaste.”  “These people have lots of babies to collect a lot of welfare money.  We should not encourage that.”  “These people swindled the finance companies, took on more debt than they could handle and now expect us to bail them out.”  “These people come in to our country illegally to collect our welfare and let us support them.”  I find that an argument that begins with “these people” or some derivative thereof are usually suspect.
  22.  Tu quoque:  You too!  Two wrongs make a right.  “They attacked our trade center, therefore torture is justified.”  “Nancy Pelosi knew we were torturing and she didn’t say anything.”  Enough said?
  23.  Equivocation:  Different uses of the same word.  Some dogs have long ears.  My dog has long ears.  Therefore my dog is some dog.  I love grass.  My joints hurt me.  I should stay out of those joints.
  24. Intentionally misinterpreting sentence construction.  All that glitters is not gold.  Gold glitters.  Therefore gold is not gold.  Have we ever seen politicians intentionally misconstrue what someone says based on sentence construction?
  25.  Affirming the Consequent.  If P then Q.  P therefore Q is correct.  Not Q therefore not P is correct.  Not P therefore not Q is incorrect.  P could be a subset of Q, which would mean that an element could be a member of Q but not of P.  This one is insidious and shows up in political discourse all the time.
  26.  False Dilemma:  Claiming only a black or white selection exists when there are many areas of grey.  “Either you are for us or against us.”
  27.  Suppressed Evidence:  Presenting only the information that supports the argument.  Taking quotations in part or out of context is an example.  The arguments against Justice Sotomayor fit into this one.
  28. These are some logical fallacies.  http://www.don-lindsay-archive.org/…
    and http://ocw.usu.edu/…give many more.

So imagine, next election cycle, if the pundits went through the fallacies before discussing the speeches?  Or making their own claims?  Would we have a much more substantive discussion?

Those People

Today I pull another feather out of the featherbed as I look at what it means when Conservatives talk about “Those People.”  Whenever I get into a conversation with Conservatives about programs that help the indigent, I get responses that begin with the phrase “Those People.”  Whatever the situation, they seem to have some idea of what “those people” are and are adept at reducing anyone in need to this straw man.  Who are “those people?”  What does it mean to be one of “those people?”

 

I start with the homeless “those people.”  To a conservative, a homeless person is a man over 30 who is a drunk derelict drug addict who would prefer to be homeless.  When you give aid to “those people,” they simply go spend whatever they get on drugs or alcohol.  They prefer to live on the streets.  They are too lazy to hold down a job.  We simply encourage their nasty habits when we give them assistance.  We encourage others to become like them (say what?).  Taxpayers work hard for their money and it shouldn’t go to people who are too lazy to contribute.  It doesn’t help that the Salvation Army ad in the paper asking for help for the homeless over the holidays shows a picture of a derelict old man with no teeth.  That is the face of the homeless to many of our fellow citizens.  When you talk to them about homeless children, there are harsh words for their parents, but no concern for the children.  When you talk about mothers who have lost their homes, there are harsh words about the mothers.  “Those people” are living the lives they deserve.  This is a lie.  There are millions of people who have been hard working producers and taxpayers their whole lives who are one bad break away from joining the ranks of the homeless.  And to me, it is never a child’s fault that he is homeless.  There are the homeless veterans, their spirits broken because they served their country.  There are the mentally ill homeless, forced into the streets because we have chosen to drastically cut services to help them.  The ranks of potential homeless include you and me and our parents and our children and our brothers and our sisters.

The next set of “those people” are those who are still in their homes but unemployed.  This set of “those people” are too lazy to go out and find a job.  They are getting rich panhandling and living off the taxpayer dole.  Conservatives seem to have this set of faceless examples of cases they heard about who simply prefer to panhandle and take entitlements to the discipline of working every day.  They tell me about somebody who knew somebody who had a cousin who met somebody who was living in posh conditions off the money they get from us and panhandling.  I ask them how somebody is getting rich off of what we provide in transfer payments.  I am told that these people work the system and are able to live high on the hog.  (Of course, there is a category of people I call the Professional Poor who do work the system, and know how to work others to get by without working, a loophole we should close.)  I ask them if they know how much a person or family can get in assistance and if they have tried to live on that amount.  Of course, they say no, but they know it happens.  In fact, I have tried living on the amount people get in food stamps (an experiment because I wanted to know for sure), and it is no easy road.  Even when you add up food stamps, unemployment and all other assistance it is really hard.  When I point out that when a mother gets a job she loses much of the help and has to pay for child care, they are unconcerned.  She should be working and she shouldn’t have those children.  Conservatives tell me that “those women” just have lots of babies so they can get more welfare money.  They would rather lie around all day having sex than work.  Note that these are the same people who would deny a woman an abortion because she can’t afford another baby.  “Those people” should get a job and if they can’t find one they should create one.  Again, the ranks of the potential unemployed include you and me and our parents and our brothers and sisters and children.

An offshoot of “those people” is the elderly in poverty.  “Those people” enjoyed the high life all their working days and are now indigent because they failed to plan.  They suck up our social security and medicare money and are living off of us who are now working because they were so set on meeting immediate wants that they failed to save for their retirement.  Never mind that the crash of 2008 wiped out a lot of people’s savings.  Never mind that many companies have reneged on their pensions.  Never mind that many never made enough to live on, send their children to college and still put away for today.  Never mind that some never qualified for social security.  Never mind that the cost of living skyrocketed faster than they could save.  It is their fault and “those people” are living as they deserve.  The ranks of potential poverty-stricken elderly could include almost anybody’s parents, and they are often one corporate decision to default on pension checks from being totally wiped out.

“Those people” include illegal immigrants who worked hard for many years and never had a safety net.  “Those people” never bothered to get an education.  “Those people” this and “Those people” that.  The words “those people” separate the human faces of misery from the person doing the talking.  But it has been my experience in working with “those people” that they are you and me with one extra piece of bad timing or bad luck happening to them.  (When conservatives fall into the ranks of “those people,” somehow they are different and “those people” are taking money away from helping them.)

So the feather I am pulling out of the featherbed of lies is that there is a group of “those people” who live high off of the hard work of taxpayers.  Conservatives sleep well denying them assistance because “those people” are not you and me.  They are a different people, almost a foreign people, perhaps even less than human. That is a lie.  In fact, “those people” are you and me in very hard circumstances.  If you would wish for help yourself or would wish for it for your children, you should be happy to provide it to “those people.”  After all, one of these days that “those people” label could refer to you or your children.