Paul Ryan's Shameful Soup Kitchen Visit

Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. holds up what he said was his lucky buckeye that was given to
Republican vice presidential candidate, Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. holds up what he said was his lucky buckeye that was given to him by Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, during a campaign rally, Monday, Oct. 15, 2012, at Lunken Airport in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Al Behrman)

The Romney campaign achieved a new low last week when it had Paul Ryan and his family invade an Ohio charity "soup kitchen" for a photo op.

Covering the incident in an October 15 Washington Post article, Felicia Sonmez, citing witnesses, describes the scene:

Upon entering the soup kitchen, Ryan, his wife and three young children greeted and thanked several volunteers, then donned white aprons and offered to clean some dishes. Photographers snapped photos and TV cameras shot footage of Ryan and his family washing pots and pans that did not appear to be dirty.

Ryan had dropped by on the way to the airport to snap footage of him turning a good deed for the needy. This is the new, compassionate Paul Ryan. But this is the same sort of hollow election cycle compassion displayed by his running-mate, Mitt Romney. Remember that this is the ticket that would be thrilled to see such charities closed so that "moochers" and "takers" could" take responsibility for their own lives." Here is another example of just how out of touch Ryan and Romney are with the lives of everyday Americans, especially those who have befallen hard times.

Shameful displays such as this don't usually bring to mind catchy pop songs, but in this case I am reminded of the song, "Common People" by the British group, Pulp. The song describes a rich girl fascinated with the lives of the poor and working class. She wants "to live like common people," as the lyrics go. But, as the singer notes:

still you'll never get it right,
cos when you're laid in bed at night,
watching roaches climb the wall,
if you call your Dad he could stop it all.

Ryan did not get this right. In fact, this little campaign media stunt was absolutely wrong on so many levels. While conservatives bemoan how unfair it is to wage class warfare or highlight class as a campaign issue, incidents like this highlight issues of class by cynically positioning Ryan as a supposedly benevolent one-percenter. Additionally, this illustrates how class warfare is not something waged from the bottom-up, as the right conceives of it, but rather as a war of oppression weighing downward from the top. An elite family blessed by privilege, wearing their Sunday best, drops by a soup kitchen to scrub pans for the common people. And then promptly departs once the footage is captured. They may feel good about themselves but they do so by sacrificing the dignity of an entire community or, dare I say it, class of people.

Ryan and his family did nothing short of exploiting this vulnerable community for their own gain and, based on the photographs, were seemingly having the time of their lives helping "these poor people."

Serving communities in need takes dedication, passion, and commitment. The people who devote their lives to helping others were belittled by Ryan's opportunistic charade. He tried to show how easy it is to help, to lend a hand, to do a good deed. Of course it's easy when it's this sort of poverty tourism. He can always call his dad, so to speak, and we are painfully aware of this obvious divide that somehow escapes him.

The hypocrisy, though, is inescapable and inexcusable. The head of the charity is right when he says that he never would have let Ryan in had the campaign gone through the proper channels. Typical of the Republicans, they show up unannounced, force their way in, take what they need, and then leave in a glow of moral superiority. From any other point of view, Ryan's false act of charity was nothing short of morally bankrupt.