When I restarted this series after a 5-year hiatus, I decided to steer away from politics, religion, and other hot-button topics in favor of more personal subjects.
That said, I’ll dip a toe into that pool only enough to express my concern at the level of divisiveness now facing our country and who actually pays the price for it.
The political climate in America today is toxic, with no end in sight. Everything is viewed only from one side by an ill-informed, angry citizenry and uncompromising elected, uncivilized government officials. Over the long haul, we simply can’t function that way. Our legislators must work together in order to govern, even to manage the most basic issues. Unfortunately, that seems unlikely to change when the only people getting attention are the radical extremists.
Regardless of your ethnic background, or whether you’re conservative, liberal, or whatever, surely there are things we can all agree on, right? For instance, instead of spending hours on cable TV news bickering about who caused inflation, wouldn’t our collective energy be better spent on ways to help people get through it? Meanwhile, our dedicated elected officials spend taxpayer money riding around in limousines, secure in their healthcare, paychecks, and benefits, all guaranteed long after they’ve left office.
More absurd is that, in the most powerful and wealthiest country on Earth, there are still people who can’t get enough food, shelter, or other necessities — particularly the elderly, veterans, and children. No, it’s beyond absurd, it’s criminal. This problem affects everyone. The numbers of working poor continue to grow, most of my family included. Most people are only paycheck or two from ruin. All it takes is one major catastrophe, and boom, we’re on the street. Regardless, people from every side are too busy waving flags and hating each other’s politics to care or do anything about it.
Recently, I did some work at a food pantry and had the opportunity to learn more about the mission of these organizations. I am shocked about how necessary they are in so many communities. In just one year, the number of families served might double, so they must continually find new ways to meet the constantly growing demand.
You might be surprised to know that the people who most need services like this are not homeless or indigent. They are instead the working poor, single-parent families, and, sadly, veterans. No one should feel ashamed of taking help from those who offer it. But I can’t imagine how hard must be for someone who proudly served our country and then is forced to go to a food pantry just to have enough to eat.
The number of military families and veterans who need various types of assistance is also surprising. They include elderly or disabled veterans, military wives and husbands with young children trying to make ends meet while their spouses are deployed, families of all ages and backgrounds, and the kids, wow. Watching a child’s eyes light up over a book or something as simple as a Twinkie or a fresh piece of fruit can be simultaneously enlightening and heartbreaking.
Again, while the politicians ride around in limousines and kowtow to mindless followers during ridiculous cult-like rallies, the people they claim to be fighting for wait in lines at food pantries. They have no money, little healthcare, and a veteran affairs system that’s so broken it needs to be razed and rebuilt from the ground up.
These issues aren’t conservative or liberal, Muslim, Jewish, or Christian. We are so blinded by ridiculous ideologies and political divisiveness that we can’t see the real responsibilities facing our country – poverty, homelessness, substance abuse, an ever-changing job market, and so much more. Certainly, we could all get together on some of these things. Nope, it’s just not going to happen.
The people I meet in these situations don’t want handouts. They want understanding and for their elected legislature to work for not against them. But until we put down the flags, turn off the news, and choose to be better human beings, nothing will change. So, all I have left to say is to quote my favorite president. “A house divided cannot stand.”
Gery Deer is a Greene County resident and columnist. He can be reached at www.gldcommunications.com.