After a split second of reflection, I'd have to say...yes, they are. And I suspect Stokes agrees, deep down, given the effort he expends to paint his fellow citizens as a pack of schemers and thieves who will only be further corrupted by "our" misplaced compassion.
What if some people get money who don't deserve it, Stokes asks? Nathaniel Hawthorne had a pretty good answer:
There is so much wretchedness in the world, that we may safely take the word of any mortal professing to need our assistance; and, even should we be deceived, still the good to ourselves resulting from a kind act is worth more than the trifle by which we purchase it.But what if they not only don't deserve it, but are the sort of horrible, despicable people we hate mainly because it's such an enjoyable distraction from our real problems...like, for instance, Nadya Suleman, who's evil because she's crazy, or vice versa?
Of course, the Suleman story is objectionable and infuriating to us on so many levels because she clearly seems to be deranged. Or maybe she is just depraved. Maybe she is a manipulative, scheming, deceiver, who is thinking only of self. I am not trying to bash the lady – that line is really too long.The line is pretty long...but fortunately, the express window has just opened:
After all, if OctoMom, as she has been dubbed, is indeed trying to “work the system” with the mother of all scams (literally), is she really all that different from many others right now? I’m talking about those who are already slowing down on the personal responsibility side of things because we have a cool new government in place ready to stimulate all of us. Nadya Suleman may be more like the not-too-distant future of America than we might care or dare to admit.Well, it worked in the Reagan years, so why not try it again? Pick one person, preferably female, paint her as lazy, dishonest, and sexually irregular, and make her the official representative of The Poor. Above all, make it clear that if she "gets away with" surviving, she'll be laughing at us while she lolls around in her Welfare Cadillac, or her million-dollar condo full of ill-gotten babies, or what have you, so that we can displace the rage we should feel at the crooks who are actually robbing us onto our fellow suckers.
Stokes goes on to paint a pretty picture of the world as a den of vipers who are hoping to pick the pockets of the unwary. Needless to say, all of them are at or near the bottom of society, which proves once again that crime doesn't pay.
Still, we can't simply throw stones at other people...at least, not without making high-minded excuses for it. We need to understand that "we all bear a moral-DNA similarity to OctoMom" -- even those of us who've managed to avoid dehumanizing the woman by calling her idiotic names. By casting people like Suleman into the outer darkness where they belong, we triumph over the inborn evil they represent, which is why oppressing the poor and the unfortunate is not a convenience so much as a moral duty. (Which might suggest to a better theologian that this outlook is as sinfully self-interested as anything it attacks, since it allows us to profit from creating scapegoats who justify our preexisting meanness.)
Unfortunately, the idea that kicking people when they're down has an ugly side to it, no matter how spiritually gratifying it may be, belongs to what Stokes calls "dominant secularism and sterile religion." Stokes is concerned with grander things: the glimmer of evil in the eye of the homeless mother; the crimson lust that begat the hungry child; the passion for worldly things that inspired the foreclosed homeowner to imagine that her loan broker was an honest man acting under a system of laws. By turning its back on God and capitalism, secular socialism gave up on the Christian idea that everyone is bad, and the capitalist idea that being bad is good. This is what has brought us to the state we're in today, where a single welfare mother threatens us with spiritual destruction to the precise extent that she inspires compassion, which is capitalism's version of original sin.
Do we really want to admire nations where people surrender significantly more than half of what they earn to a government in exchange for state-run services that are chronically insufficient, incompetent, and impersonal?It shouldn't be done; the mere effort corrupts us all. But to make matters worse, they do it incompetently...which means that they only save some people from dying on the street. And the system is impersonal, too...which I guess means that it tends to take the word of "any mortal professing to need our assistance," instead of piously withholding aid and explaining that suffering builds character (and who asked you to get knocked up anyway, ya goddamn slut)?
Which is a roundabout way of saying that I do admire those nations, at least compared to ours. And I'm just patriotic enough to believe that we can become even more competent than they are at treating people like human beings, once we stop listening to the lunatic propositions of dead-hearted, pietistic scolds like David R. Stokes.
Either because he's completely cynical, or really, really stupid, Stokes wraps things up with a butchered quote from Walt Kelly:
If so, then we need to be fair and concede that, as Pogo might have put it, we have met Nadya Suleman and she is our future.After reading that, I wished for a moment that Kelly had lived long enough to deal with Stokes. But then I remembered that he did.