"If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat."
-- Rep. Kevin Cramer (R-ND)
I have to admit, when I first read this quote before I got to the attribution, I was a bit taken aback to the extent that it almost started to make me re-think my value system. It was said with so much grandiose, poetic majesty that my initial reaction was that it was from God Almighty Himself. It had such a biblical quality to it. Sort of a Ten Commandments-type thing, y'know.
But then I realized, wait, no, that can't be. The Bible is all about feeding the poor, helping thy neighbor, being your brother's keeper and helping your fellow man that that couldn't be from God at all -- but rather the next best thing. Someone acting like they're God. Which can only mean Pat Robertson, or some radical, far-right, hypocritical, evangelical conservative Republican.
There are so many corollaries to this quote that naturally follow. But three that leap to mind first are:
1) "If anyone is not willing to think, let him not speak."
2) "If anyone is not willing to think or feel or act decently like a caring member of the human race, let him not have the authority to vote on laws."
3) If anyone is going to try to act like God, at least act like God.
Indeed, it was just Kevin Cramer, Republican from North Dakota, doing his best to justify his vote to cut $40 billion from food stamps, in hopes of a) not being struck by lightning, b) not getting visited by three ghosts on Christmas Eve, or 3) not betting kept out of heaven and sent elsewhere.
As it happens, not surprisingly, God was not amused. The Almighty's spokesman told the press that God's record on the issue is pretty clear. "As He said in Matthew 25:35, 'I was hungry and you fed me, I was thirsty and you gave me a drink.' You don't get a whole lot more specific than that. I know that sometimes God speaks in metaphor and 'Mysterious Ways,' but this is pretty obvious. And besides, as far as metaphor goes, if it was, even the most heartless should be able to figure that out. And the only thing 'mysterious' is how anyone could misinterpret Him. And be so cold and cruel."
The sad reality is that Mr. Cramer's comment is an old, creaky, pathetic tactic of conservatives in their 50-year effort to try to justify shutting down social programs, from Social Security to Medicare to health care to food stamps. To voting. Whatever, you name.it. They find one person -- hey, maybe even a dozen, or even a hundred (but usually just one) and try to paint that one as proof of general malfeasance. (It's how they shut down Acorn -- for those of you who questioned the reference to voting. And that malfeasance of one person wasn't even Alcorn's doing, but they were the victims of a rogue employee. But I digress...)
Mind you, considering that Rep. Cramer seemingly wants to justify his vote ending food stamp programs, I challenge him to name one person who's actually not willing to work. Without even at least a single name, it's a fool's game he's playing, meaningless and empty -- or as Shakespeare put it better, a tale told by an idiot full of sound and fury, signifying nothing.
By the way, here's a hint to pontificating conservatives for support Mr. Cramer's empty words: being unemployed and unable to find a job is not the same as not being willing to work. People want to work -- almost as much as they want to eat. That said, eating, of course, is pretty basic. so it tends to trump the whole "work" thing. Actually, it tends to trump the whole everything. When someone drops a contact lens, people the world over stop what they're doing, get on their knees and help look for the thing. When someone is parched, people give him or her a glass of water. When someone is starving, you feed the person.
Alas, if Mr. Cramer just wants to disingenuously throw around nameless straw men, we're stuck with that. However, in lieu of his not naming even one person not willing to work, let alone enough to justify not feeding the hungry, I would love to see him at least go to a roomful of ministers and rabbis and clergymen of all stripes who run soup kitchens for the needy and starving, never asking first "Are you willing to work?" before feeding them basic sustenance for life, and deliver his ghoulish message from the Mount.
Of course, he won't. And of course, neither will the heartless others of the far right (sorry, far-wrong) who are likely cheering his statement while swaggering and sashaying around like some venal, unthinking, unfeeling bully, thinking they're the cock of the walk and self-righteous -- the same shameful, hypocritical, far-right evangelical reactionaries who shouted "Yes!!!" and applauded when Ron Paul was asked in a GOP presidential debate in 2012 if someone should be allowed to die if they couldn't afford healthcare. The same pathetic hypocritical "patriots" who embrace the Statute of Liberty with its engraved words, "Give me your tired, your poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" -- and in the same breath, whoop "Let them not eat."
When someone is starving, a good society feeds them first. And asks questions later. Hint: sometimes, when you actually do it, it makes the person all the more grateful. When you give from your heart and from goodness.
That is, of course, presuming you have a heart. Or goodness. And not a cruel political agenda where they should be.
Robert J. Elisberg's new novel The Wild Roses, a comic adventure in the spirit of The Three Musketeers but with three women, recently reached the Top 50 in three Amazon Kindle bestseller categories. His other writing can be found at Elisberg Industries.