Give A Fish, Teach To Fish, Take the Fish

Check out this NCR piece on the experience of doing mission work in Kentucky. Amy also posted the link today, but as of early tonight, she hasn’t opened the doors for her commentariat, so I’ll chime in here.

First, I think the general Republican approach is “Take the Fish,” not “Teach to Fish,” otherwise why would so many American businesses gleefully bail from their responsibilities for overseeing their workers’ hard-earned pensions while elevating their sometimes criminal CEO’s to celebrity status? The Republicans as a whole have offered nothing to anybody but their donors. The Dems are not much better, for the record. Both establishments cater to the American sense of entitlement. Maybe it dates back to the colonial period or some Manifest Destiny thing. If it goes back to the 60’s, it must be the 1760’s, that’s for dang sure.

Second, I think that entitlement is a dangerous sensibility to cultivate in anyone, and not just the poor. I remember when my dad’s side of the family descended on his uncle’s home after the move to the nursing home and the funeral. They were seething that an estate worth half-a-mil was mostly heading to charity. My father stuck to the plan, agreeing with them that family should come first, but that the old guy had a right to determine if he was going to use his money to stick it to the rest of the family. When my dad passed away ten years ago, I stayed clear of the tussles over his guitar, golf clubs, and other possessions. My brother has often said I should have had the guitar. I told him I remember how dad sang and played and I don’t need to get sucked into an undignified turf war.

I remember working with the poor in rural central Iowa. We turned people down for assistance. Visiting their homes to hear cable tv running in the background … I didn’t always feel too bad about saving our parish tithe for someone else. On the other hand, people on food assistance will sometimes buy microwave pizza and such … not because they’re too lazy to bake bread or toss a fresh salad. Some people just don’t know any better. Others can’t afford an oven or refrigerator. But many of them do have the talent, means, and opportunity to emerge from poverty. As is true in Kentucky, and even Republican gated communities, they have a hard time emerging from the pickle jar of drugs and alcohol.

Amy’s playing her comments close to the vest. No doubt her commentariat will cluck poetic about the values of pseudo-libertarianism, bootstraps, the immorality of the poor, and all that. It makes me think the best thing this country could do is pull out of southwest Asia tonight and put all three-hundred million of us in some tough-love twelve-step therapy. Even the illegal immigrants.

That’d teach us how to fish.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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