I find myself stumped, stymied and saddened by something Bill O’Reilly said the other day.
I occasionally listen to right-wing radio and television talk show hosts because I want to know what they are saying. I think we ought to know our neighbors, even if we do not agree with them or care for them. It might be that we are living in perception and not truth when it comes to those from “the other side,” and that is never good.
But O’Reilly the other day was criticizing social justice, and said that social justice is for people who want stuff. That’s what “social justice” means, he said. Social justice is when the government pays for people who want stuff.
I was floored.
I think I must have grown up naive, believing in the famous words, “All men are created equal.” I thought those were the most powerful, most true, and most intuitive words ever written …and they were written by our Founding Fathers.
My fantasy was initially cracked when I was a teen at an amusement park, watching people get on replicas of old cars, Model Ts and Model As, and I said that it must have been fun back then to have lived when these cars came out.
My friend said quietly, “Not if you were black.”
He reminded me of how there were not equal rights for people in this country and “back then” had certainly been worse than our present day.
Well, as I grew I watched and learned the painful lessons of racism. I watched my father, a brilliant man who worked for the Internal Revenue Service, cry as he told my mother how he’d gotten passed over for a promotion yet another time. Apparently, he knew that his being passed over was only because he was black.
I visited the South, my cousins in Alabama, and was told to be very careful about talking to white people. I stood in lines where white kids were let on the rides before we were, though we’d been standing there a lot longer.
I went to college and heard white students say that the only reason “we” were in college was because of Affirmative Action.
Stuff. Affirmative Action helped minorities get pieces of America that had been formerly shut down for them. There was the Voting Rights Act, that had to be put in place so that black people could have the right to vote. Stuff, I guess. Health care reform …helps more people get health care. Stuff, right?
O’Reilly alluded to the fact that people wanting “stuff” were those who were not willing to work for it. They want hand-outs, and,therefore, social justice exists, but for O’Reilly and others, it is not a good thing.
All people are not created equal. They are not supposed to have equal rights. God created the haves and the have nots. “People wanting stuff” is a said state of affairs, muses O’Reilly. This country, trying to serve more people, to make it so that more people have nearly equal rights, is going the wrong way, becoming socialist, under the socialist, non-American president, Barack Obama.
As I have mused and pondered over this, it occurs to me that democracy is not about “all people being equal.” It is about free enterprise. Those who have, get more, and those who do not have, get less. It’s the way things are, the way things are supposed to be. Nobody ever meant to say or to imply that all people in this country should have equal rights when it comes to “stuff.”
As government systems go, I am glad to be in America, but I am no longer deluded or fooled by lofty expectations of what freedom in a democracy means. The system is set up so that some people will succeed very well and others will not succeed at all. There are 30 percent more homeless people in this nation this year than there were last year, but democracy does not say or mean that they should have homes (though they are working.)
According to O’Reilly, democracy means that the homeless and poor, the sick and the hungry, are able to pull themselves up and do an “honest day’s work” and be able to participate in this free enterprise system.
You see? It helps to listen to those whom we do not like. We learn a little more about how our world works and how the people in our world think
The opposition to Mr. Obama from the Right is partially racial, that’s for sure, but it’s also deeply economic, a cry of protest against policies that attempt to help more people get “stuff.”
That is a painful…candid observation.