Sunday, November 11, 2007

In which Bitty gets one inflammatory forwarded e-mail too many

Not As Faraway Daughter (she's not as far away as she used to be) forwarded this e-mail to me recently.

How can this be!!Mom & DadMom was a homemaker and Dad worked all his life and paid into SS.Dad has passed away and now Mom can barely make ends meet. While thepossible "illegal" alien in front of her at the grocery store buys thename brands, Mom goes for the generic brands, and day old breads.She doesn't have out of state calling on her phone, because she can'tAfford it and shops at the thrift shops and dollar stores. Sheconsiders having a pizza delivered once a week "eating out". She grewup during the depression, watched her husband go overseas to fight inWW II a year after their marriage, and then they went on to raise, feedand clothe 5 children, struggling to pay tuition for parochial schools.The Senate voted this week to allow "illegal" aliens access to SocialSecurity benefits. I'm sorry, but how can the Senate justify this slapin the face to born and bred, or naturalized citizens. It is alreadyimpossible to live on Social Security alone. If they give benefits to"illegal" aliens who have never contributed, where does that leave usthat have paid into Social Security all our working lives?Attached is an opportunity to sign a petition that requires citizenshipfor eligibility to receive Social services. If you do not wish to signthe petition yourself, please forward on to anyone you think might beinterested.PETITION FOR: President Bush Mr. President: The petition below is aprotest against the recent vote of the senate which was to allowillegal aliens access to our social security! We demand that you andall congressional representatives require citizenship for anyone to beeligible for social services in the United States .

This gem was followed by 670 names, the last one being my daughter's.

(Before I get started on my rant, I question the wisdom of sending your full name, city, and state of residence around the web. That was in my third reply to Daughter.)

The day she sent this, I sent out a first reply, letting her know that when I had time, I had a few things to say about this. Here, then, was my second reply to her:

Dear Daughter,

I still don't have time to fully address this, but I never will and need to move on. Here are two things on it:

This petition and things like it irritate me for two reasons:

1. The probable intent is to inflame its readers, to make them angry. In this case, its intent is to intensify anti-immigrant, esp. anti-"brown people" attitudes. People read this and when governors or Congress or Presidential candidates try to deal in whatever way with immigration issues, they remember how pissed off they are about those social security benefits and how "the government" is trying to give away the store. What the e-mail DOESN'T do is accurately describe the issue and just serves to make people even more ignorant and reactionary than they already are. Look at how many people signed it without bothering to confirm if it's true or not!!!! This is true of ALL of these kinds of e-mails, which generally stretch the truth to appeal to people's prejudices and fears.

2. As I said, it's inaccurate. The 2nd link above addresses this in more detail than I had intended, but the bottom line is this: NO ONE gets Social Security benefits without paying in.

By the way, my first paying job was with Social Security. I worked in the department that handled claims by foreign citizens. That's right. We've been paying Social Security bennies to foreign people forever. Since the beginning of Social Security, I presume. In these cases, they were legal workers, but they were aliens.

Let's go for a number 3. It's this kind of crap thinking by Americans that makes my job harder; I spend all kinds of time trying to undo pre-formed opinions, a/k/a prejudice.

Don't assume that just because someone said it, it's true. Don't assume that just because it comes in an e-mail it's true.

Don't think with your emotions. Think with your brain.

I spend all kinds of time trying to educate my children, too, apparently.

It's possible that this e-mail was begun by someone who half-heard, half-understood what it was that Congress did and went off on a tear.

It's just as possible that this e-mail was begun by a sly political operative who wanted to further poison the anti-immigrant attitudes in our country.

It only takes one of these outrageous stories, true or not, to get people angry and then motivate them to vote according to misinformation.

Don't assume that just because someone said it, it's true. Don't assume that just because it comes in an e-mail it's true.

Don't think with your emotions. Think with your brain.


Post script: At least 13 years ago, I took a Culture Wars class. I had no idea how engaged I would be in those wars later. Anyway, the professor, 13 years ago, said that there's always talk about how Social Security is going broke, and that it would intensify as the boomers reached retirement age. He said that we will eventually fix it the way we've always fixed Social Security problems: invite a large influx of foreign workers into the country to increase the level of contributions to the fund.

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