Friday, December 19, 2008

A Republican Christmas Carol

The National Review Online: Ebenezer Was Right, Or, how I became a compassionless Conservative.

by Jennifer Graham

Except for a brief, irrational fling with Jimmy Carter during my high-school years, I've always been a Republican.

Until recently, however, I was a squishy one, teetering dangerously to the left on a few select issues such as coastline management and welfare reform. I want to be a good conservative — really, I do — but I've got this weakness for intact sand dunes and latchkey kids.

But then I met Tiffany. Or, more precisely, Tiffany's mother. And, after a ten-month crash course in why the poor are poor, I am squishy no more.

Tiffany moved to our cul-de-sac in February, the same week that we moved in. Initially, we were thrilled to see another set of movers unloading Little Tykes products a few houses down. But it didn't take long to realize that Tiffany's family were not, as we Grahams lightly put it, PLU: People Like Us.

Okay, I thought when I read this, this has to be parody. But this person is dead serious, because the rest of Tiffany's story is just too depressing. What's even more depressing is the writer's reaction to it.

I'll summarize the rest: I met a poor person, and she was kind of icky, so now I hate poor people.

And so it is, that on the eve of the merriest of seasons, I have finally become a compassionless conservative, because of a deadbeat mother who bowls. I now stand in defense of Darwin and natural selection, and of Ebenezer Scrooge, the real Scrooge — before he went soft like me — Scrooge, at his noblest, the way he was before the onset of those pesky midnight visitors. I think of him fondly and recall his inspiring words: "Are there no prisons? Are there no poorhouses?"

It's time to rethink old Scrooge. Ebenezer knew the truth: No good deed goes unpunished.

Apparently, this good Republican hasn't read the story to the end. The part where Scrooge, after being shown where the compassionless life leads--to a lonely, unmourned and unhappy end--goes out on Christmas morning with a song in his heart and actually helps people, even though they're Not Like Him.

He had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards; and it was always said of him, that he knew how to keep Christmas well, if any man alive possessed the knowledge. May that be truly said of us, and all of us!

And so, as Tiny Tim observed, God Bless Us, Every One!


Gerard Saylor said...

I you sure it isn't a parody? I have not yet read it but those excerpts are pretty dang weird.

As I was going to get a coffee this morning Father Christmas by the Kinks was playing on the car radio. I was thinking I should have chosen to buy more presents for needy kids than I did.

Gerard Saylor said...

I meant to write "Are you sure".

Stupid internet.

JD Rhoades said...

:-) I got what you meant.

If it's parody, she's really really bad at it.

One of the biggest reasons I'm not a Republican is that I'd have to be associated with people like this.

David Terrenoire said...

To be a Republican do you have to have an empathectomy?

Have they never once thought, "There but for the grace of God..."

Bill Cameron said...

Typical, really. Have a bias, find a single case that supports the bias, then declare: "See! SEE!! This proves it!"

To be honest and fair, it's something that probably most people do to some extent or another. We're pattern-matching creatures, and when we detect a pattern that seems to gel with our understanding of the world, we latch on to it.

But there is something particularly savage and cruel about the way the right wing pundit class seems to to do it. I wouldn't presume to know how ordinary conservatives think, since I have no way to know (except a few acquaintances and relatives) -- but a wealth of pundit thinking is available all over our teevees and our interwebs, and there is a consistency of reptilian indifference to suffering, a of selfishness to be found there. Could be I'm pattern-matching too, but we're not talking about a special case cherry-picked, but all of them. Every time someone from the conservative chattering class opens his or her mouth, it's something like this.

I wonder if a piece like this isn't a symptom of a niggling doubt hiding underneath this woman's hard, cold crust. Deep inside, perhaps she knows how awful she is and is attempting to justify it. Poorly perhaps, but perhaps there's hope for her. Perhaps, someday the doubt will break through and rather than try to rationalize it away, she'll find a way to accept it and become someone less bitter and cruel and selfish.

Bill Cameron said...

Perhaps, he said.

Anonymous said...

Wow, if all it takes to get on her bad side is losing $5, some rolls of toilet paper, and giving her kids a case of strep, I'm glad she can live with being such a bitch.

Oh, sure, Tiffani seems to be an uneducated, somewhat unmotivated, and loose woman, who may be a more active particpant in creating problems for herself than a sensible person would be. If that was the writer's reasons for not wanting to get involved, I'd have to say I could see where she was coming from, as getting involved in those scenarios is seldom a win-win for both sides. However, her harping on a paltry sum of money (even including the TP, and antibiotics)is just plain snotty rudeness - otherwise referred to as conservative superiority. Of course, it's not superiority, it's petty bitchiness and hypocrisy.

JD Rhoades said...

There was a time, I understand, when conservatism was an actual coherent political philosophy and not an attempt to justify being a raging asshole. Savage and cruel is giving it too much credit. Savagery and cruelty can sometimes have a certain horrifying majesty to them. Kate's right; this woman is just petty, mean, and small. I'll give her an ounce of credit; she at least took a slap at helping the eight year old Tiffany. But then it just got too bothersome and she dumped the kid back on her awful mother and walked away whining about the ingratitude of the poor. Wonder how little Tiffany felt about that?

Gerard Saylor said...

Okay, I read the column. That eight year old girl is a horrible person. Attending school while homeless? Getting strep throat? Having a crappy mom? No wonder the writer got fed up.

Anonymous said...

Oops, I meant that Tiffani's mom was uneducated, etc. Eight-year-old Tiffani is a victim of circumstances beyond her control. Getting mad at all poor people because of this one case, and not wanting to ever help another one is just stupid (and petty, mean, and small). What's that John Stuart Mill line about stupid people and conservatives...?

Anonymous said...

Have they never once thought, "There but for the grace of God..."

No, because being poor is a sign of God's disfavor -- when it's not the poor person's own fault, that is. Either way, no empathy is called for. If that poor person deserved a better life, God would give it to him or her.

I only wish I were kidding.

JD Rhoades said...

Celine: that is unfortunately true for a large cohort of those who call themselves "Christians." OTOH, you have churches like the one my in-laws attend which has a slew of outreach programs to the poor and homeless. Some people, thankfully, take the message of Matthew 25:31-46 seriously.