Take My Crap and Be Happy

Since I’ve moved to Tennessee, I have pretty regularly had these conversations with people about how having the government provide basic things for people is a crock because it’s the government performing a role that should be performed by churches or other charitable organizations. This morning, I read this post, about how a woman came to an organization that’s been doing a lot of difficult work helping flood victims (a charity, we could call it) and, in spite of the organization being clear about not taking used clothing, the woman got pissed because they wouldn’t take her used clothing.  “Beggars can’t be choosers,” she said.

I also overheard a man in Bordeaux talking about how folks kept bringing in expired canned foods for the flood food drive (I think at his church, that was my impression), and not just a few months, but ancient canned foods. They basically just had to throw them out.

And I’m not trying to make an argument that the government is necessarily the better alternative to charities. I don’t think that’s the case at all. Local organizations have knowledge and flexibility that a huge bureaucracy is never going to have. And I think we all know families who have struggled who would never take food stamps, but who appreciated a box of canned goods left on their doorstep every now and again.

But I think the thing I’d say is this. We are all deeply fucked up. And, at least, with a bureaucracy, no one expects you to be grateful for whatever crap they give you. In a best case scenario, you don’t get crap, of course. In a best case scenario, every step of the way you have people who are willing to say “No, not good enough,” even in the face of people who mean well (or who are angry). But we don’t always get, or often get, the best case scenario.

Often you get people who expect to be able to hand you their crap and have you be happy about it.

10 thoughts on “Take My Crap and Be Happy

  1. we all know families who have struggled who would never take food stamps, but who appreciated a box of canned goods left on their doorstep every now and again.

    Yes we do, but that’s the same attitude (oh, I would never go on food stamps! That’s for losers! Not for someone like me who has pride but is a bit down on my luck for a while) that leads to giving years-out-of-date cans to a food drive, or used clothing to organizations that don’t accept it. We’ve done a wonderful job, in this country, demonizing the poor. So first we tell them they have to take whatever garbage we throw their way, and then we have to be all morally superior and not take help that we could use. I mean, no one says “my car was totalled in an accident but I would never put in a claim to my insurance agency. But I sure appreciate it when someone offers me a ride.”

  2. Even at my wonderful, progressive, liberal, Dem-leaning church I was SHOCKED at some of the crap people “donated” for our homeless program. I’m talking used UNDERWEAR for crissakes, and not just underwear but underwear with HOLES in them. Beggars can’t be choosers? I’ll go commando, thank you. People donated tennis shoes with holes in them. I mean, cripes. The homeless already have tennis shoes with holes in them. What are they thinking?

    I’ve done a gazillion blog posts on this, had a gazillion conversations with people from all faiths and no faith. I’m almost tired of having the same conversations over and over about it. Look, no one is saying to replace charitable programs with government ones, but for hundreds of years civilization operated with the church being the sole provider of alms to the poor and care for widows and hospitals and orphanages and soup kitchens and yada yada and the result was massive poverty, disease, illiteracy, orphans living on the street, you name it.

    We simply can’t rely on the generosity of the human spirit to fulfill every human need because as any student of human nature knows, mankind is greedy and selfish and fearful. We just are. We are broken. Jesus said: “the poor you will always have with you.” Prophecy? No. It’s an indictment of human nature.

  3. I’m talking used UNDERWEAR for crissakes, and not just underwear but underwear with HOLES in them…

    Three words: Stupid should hurt.

  4. SoBeale, it’s just like I was telling you the other day. These conservatives are only justifying the decisions they have already made. They don’t object to government programs for the poor and disadvantaged for philosophical reasons, they object to it because they are the stingiest, most self-absorbed motherfuckers on the whole God-damned planet, and by God, THEY get to decide whether or not their tax dollar goes to swarthy brown people.

    You’re never going to argue them out of that position. It is pointless to even try. The only reason to ever argue with those people is for the benefit of those who might overhear, but don’t think for a second that you’re putting the slightest dent in their comfortable selfishness.

    With apologies to the Apostle Paul, we wrestle not against powers and principalities, but against weak flesh and thin blood, against the subjects of the tub-thumping would-be rulers of this world, against physical decadence in the low places of stone hearts. Liberals, progressives, and other normal people have more important things to do than argue with people who aren’t open to ever, ever changing their minds.

  5. I’m about feeling like we all need to make good friends with a Republican legislator so that we can have his patronage and protection. Otherwise, I think next year is going to be all punishing the people who don’t vote Republican and rewarding the people who give Republicans money.

    That’ll suck for ordinary Republican voters, who won’t be able to get their attention, but it’s going to really suck for us, unless we find someone we can be vassals of.

  6. Thanks for your post. I told someone who wanted to donate used clothes that we could sandbag the entire city with what people are trying to donate. Thankfully, he laughed and said he understood.

  7. Perhaps we can send the holey underwear to the gulf – it might be better suited there. But seriously, aunt B, you make a good point. Someone else’s crisis should not be seen as an opportunity to discard our trash for free. And it doesn’t mean anything to “give ’til it hurts.” If it’s true charity, the giver continues after it hurts. And since that demands more than human nature is generally willing to provide, setting up an orderly system of meeting these needs within society seems like the minimum responsible thing that government could do.

  8. Someone else’s crisis should not be seen as an opportunity to discard our trash for free.

    Speaking of, how many Nashvillians decided to take advantage of Metro Public Works’ flood debris pickup to clean out their non-flooded basements and get their junk hauled away for free?

    You folks know who you are. You should be ashamed.

  9. I know exactly what you mean. After a month of being very silent about any plans to help the community, the company I work for suddenly announced with much fanfare and a special logo and T-shirt, their plans for all employees to take the entire day off and volunteer for flood clean up on June 17. What? I know there is more that can be done, but wouldn’t an extra 1000 or so volunteers have been more helpful 3 weeks ago? And now they want to have a clothing drive and more? Uh, most people have already gotten help and if they need clothing that badly they now have funds to purchase and replace their clothing instead of taking our worn, out of season castoffs. I really have no interest in participating in a carefully marketed and coordinated corporate response to a dire community emergency that happens too late to help those really in need.

    Personally, I already took time off, volunteered and donated.

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