I took the title for this post from one of my favorite stand-up comedians, Lewis Black (are you surprised?). It seemed appropriate for the new attitude I keep seeing on the news and in my community.
Let me begin with this article from the L.A. Times, because everything about it makes me angry. Infuriated, in fact. Called “The Upside to Being ‘Poor'” (yes, poor is in scare quotes there), it highlights what it calls “stereotype-shattering” facts about America’s poor, like the fact that roughly 42% own their own home, most have microwaves and flat screen TVs, and a lot of poor kids have Xboxes. An article from the website good.is gives an interesting counter-perspective to this, in which the writer sought out the prices for many of the goods mentioned in the Times article, and found he could buy them all for roughly $375.
But beyond this, what is more disturbing is the “screw everyone else” attitude that Americans seem to be taking toward each other. Rather than feeling bad for a family of four that somehow scrapes by on $22,000 a year (I make $14,000 as a single person and find living a middle class lifestyle extremely difficult, which is essentially what the Times article is arguing that having a tv, microwave, etc. amounts to–because it’s not ‘being poor’), we say, You’re Not Poor Enough! When asked if a man without insurance should be left to die in a hypothetical situation, audience members at the CNN-Tea Party Republican Debate yell, “YEAH!!!!” We applaud Gov. Rick Perry’s capital punishment of over 250 people in Texas, and virtually say, Die, Fellow Citizens, Die! We have eliminated collective bargaining rights for teachers and other public servants (see Wisconsin); we say, Screw you, greedy teachers, you don’t have real jobs! To the firefighters and police officers who risked their lives to run toward a set of burning, collapsing skyscrapers in the middle of Manhattan and who worked for months at the site of what was perhaps one of the most horrific moments of American history to search for survivors and the remains of the dead, we say, We don’t want to pay for your cancer treatment after you inhaled months’ worth of all kinds of carcinogenic debris to save lives!
This is a non-partisan question that I am raising here: why have we all taken up the attitude of “screw you” toward our fellow citizens? It is a question of American collective pride and support. It’s a question about who we are as a people, a society, a nation, when to our most vulnerable, hardest working, most deserving people, the ones that deserve our pity, our respect, or our help, we instead say “Screw You.”
Just think about it.
And hope you’re not at this point by the time you’re done.