I’ve been really impressed with the discussion on my Gene Cranick threads here and here. You guys have raised some really good issues, and it’s stuff like this which makes me glad I have a blog.
I really haven’t focused much on the moral issues at play here but I do have something to say about that. To me, focusing on why Cranick didn't pay that $75 fee is almost -- almost -- as mean and heartless as focusing on how the fire started. Fires get put out whether they were caused by a lightning strike or a kid playing with matches or someone burning their trash in the backyard despite a statewide fire advisory (and let me say, this is the first I’ve heard there is a statewide fire advisory. The governor’s office might need to do a better job of getting the word out.)
Sure, if the family were indigent and couldn't afford the $75 fee then that would reveal yet another flaw in the county services. But really to say "he's a freeloader and loser trying to get something for nothing" the way Glenn Beck and a few anonymous folks over here did is just another way of piling on someone who obviously made a mistake.
What, you people never made a mistake? Ever? You’re the only ones, then. It's safe to say Mr. Cranick has learned his lesson the hard way, and has paid a terrible price for it. So shut your yaps.
On second thought, don’t shut your yaps. The Glenn Becks of the world who sanctimoniously (though accurately) claim that Mr. Cranick should have known better and whatnot prove the point we Dirty Hippies have always made: yes. There will always be people who don’t do what they’re supposed to do. That’s correct. Thank you for admitting that. Now the question is, what do we do about it?
Is it best for the community as a whole to let the man’s house burn down, possibly spreading the fire to the homes of neighbors who did do what they were supposed to do? And add a homeless family to the community’s burdens? I mean yeah you can feel all self-righteous that you were right and they were wrong and perhaps that makes you feel better but then what? Does you feeling better benefit the community more than making sure everyone has a home?
And we can take this example across a wide array of social problems. Food stamps, education, you name it. Yes it annoys the hell out of me when people come over here and blithely say “those people should just get a job!” when in case you haven’t noticed, there are no jobs. But that’s really irrelevant. There will always be people who don’t work, even as there are people who can’t. It doesn’t matter, because it’s still an issue we need to deal with.
One of my more clueless commenters claimed that, “there was a time when if you were hungry, you went out and worked to get food. Fish, plant, forage. If you didn't, you starved.” Actually, as any student of anthropology knows, that’s utter bullshit. Every culture around the globe, modern to prehistoric, has developed a way of dealing with those in the community who aren’t doing their fair share. Even those people who inhabit harsh environments -- the Inuit and the !Kung bushmen, for example -- do not let their people starve. They deal with their freeloaders in other ways: public shaming, for example. And perhaps our right-wing commenters like Glenn Beck are serving a valuable community role in this respect as being the public voice of scorn. They sure seem to have that shaming thing down. So, there's that.
Tough noogies might make some people feel better and it might have a role to play in keeping a big chunk of the population in line but it’s not the basis for an effective social policy nor does it build community. There needs to be something else in place, too.
The silver lining in all of this is that we are at least having a national debate about an issue that gets at the heart of what ails America today. Taxes, infrastructure, the role of government, privatized services, etc. I had hoped we could talk about this a little more but our media appears happy to just hit the highlights. Oh well, it seems the conversation has continued on blogs and in other media. This is a good thing.
I'm actually feeling pretty positive about all of this. And I'd like to thank Gene Cranick for -- no pun intended -- sparking a serious conversation about an important issue.
For those of you who don’t lack a cooperative gene a fund has been set up for the Cranicks. Keith Olbermann spread the word about it here.
For those of you who lack that cooperative gene, you can feel all warm and toasty that you did the right thing by paying your bills (you have, right?) and the Cranicks did not and nyah nyah nyah.