Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Barbara Bush, compassionate conservative

Former (Democratic) Governor of Florida, U. S. Senator, and hapless Presidential candidate Bob Graham featured "workdays" as part of his political schtick. He'd go off for a day of more or less real work in a real lower- or middle-class job. While it served as a photo-op, Graham actually did the work. He'd experience the muscle aches and mental stresses of what "ordinary" people go through on a daily basis.

In a Sun-Sentinel article from 2004 (no longer easily available on the web), political writer Buddy Nevins reported that Graham

has done just about every job there is to do in Florida. He's cleaned fish and floors, picked fruit in the fields and sorted fruit in the market, been an actor and an assembly line worker. He's sold tires and driven a truck, been a photojournalist and a sports writer, worked on a commercial fishing boat and a farm.

Graham said working beside other Floridians made him sensitive to their needs and wants.


"Sensitive" is not the first word many of us would use when describing members of the Bush family, as Barbara Bush (the matriarch, not the Presidential daughter) reminded us as she reviewed subjects in a Texas shelter. (Reported by Marketplace, and re-reported by Editor & Publisher.) Mrs. Bush declared,
referring to the poor who had lost everything back home and evacuated, "This is working very well for them."

[...]

Barbara Bush said: "Almost everyone I’ve talked to says we're going to move to Houston."

Then she added: "What I’m hearing which is sort of scary is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality.

"And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this--this (she chuckles slightly) is working very well for them."


Scary. Scary? Scary is living in an overcrowded shelter without power, food, water, or restrooms for days. Scary is wading through muck, past floating bodies, searching for safety. Scary is living on a baking interstate for days, watching trucks and buses drive by. Scary is facing death by hurricane and then by flood and then by neglect and incompetence. Scary is NOT people moving into Texas by the thousands.

People have a tendency to presume poor automatically equals lazy. After all, we still generally believe in the Protestant work ethic. Those who work hard get rewarded; those who don't get what they deserve. However, surely all the working poor and many middle-class folks know better.

Many, many "underprivileged" (and I could parse THAT word, but I don't have the rest of the day to spend on it) people are working poor, not lazy poor. Let's not assume that an influx of "underprivileged" are scary drags on the community, which might be what Mrs. Bush was scared of.

As Marketplace's article pointed out, the sudden appearance of thousands of new citizens will cause problems in the community, but that's a challenge to be met, not a thing to fear. Many of the new residents will pull their own weight, given the chance.

And let's not even think about disaster as a golden opportunity that allows the undeserving to move up the class ladder.

Perhaps if Mrs. Bush rolled up her sleeves and helped out with the rescue effort Graham-style, she too might become sensitive to the needs and wants of the Katrina survivors.

I'm not counting on it.

1 comment:

Freewill said...

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