So, what did you do last week? For most of us, the answer is not much, as we sat at home and did the Wuhan quarantine. We’re on about Day 10 of this Chinese flu pandemic. Following are a few thoughts.
We all have our Wuhan virus stories that start, “There I was in Kroger trying to find ……..” Let me put this Chinese flu into perspective. Despite being confined at home, not being able to attend church services, having concerts and entertainment cancelled, no school for several weeks, trying to find toilet paper, and voluntarily quarantining ourselves; WE DON’T HAVE IT SO BAD. Think about your individual situation; then think how much worse you’d be if, by the grace of God, you weren’t born in the United States. Out of all the countries in the world, those of us who were “made in America” are some of the most fortunate people in the world. We live in a country where even those who are poor would be considered wealthy, by world standards. If you’ve ever been to a developing country you know this comparison, poverty in America versus the world standard, to be true.
In developing countries, 5% are wealthy and 95% live in poverty. The poor live in shacks, cardboard boxes, or crammed dozens to small apartments. There is no health care; electricity only works a few hours each day; indoor plumbing (if it exists) delivers disgusting water; there is no air conditioning in the tropical heat; sewer lines dump raw sewage into the streets; markets sell rotted food you wouldn’t feed to your dog; and almost nobody receives any formal education. To those conditions, add a government that is completely corrupt from top to bottom. You don’t get a government job unless you know someone or bribed someone. So, loyalties of government workers, from the local policeman all the way to the president, aren’t to the people or to the country; loyalties are to those who got you the job and who will keep you in power. Compare that to America.
In America, 88% are not poor (2018 data) meaning most people are middle class or are wealthy. Yes, we have homeless who live under bridges, and we have mentally and physically disabled who have been discarded by society. Those are the exception. For the 12% who live in poverty, most have a place to call home. That home has running water, electricity, and heat. If a family cannot afford to pay for utilities, there are charitable organizations and governmental funds that will. Most poor people have televisions, actually several TVs, and cell phones. Free public education is available to everyone. (Actually, nothing is free. It’s paid by taxpayers.) Can’t afford college, there are grants and loans for that or join the military. Can’t afford to buy food, the taxpayers have you covered with food stamps. If you can’t afford to have a child, we’ll even pay families to raise their children – and not even ask for work in return. And if a family can’t afford child health care, MEDICAID pays for doctor and hospital visits. In the overall scheme of things, Americans have it pretty good, even those living in poverty. Given all that we have and given our nation’s wealth, I ask how is it that so many Americans cannot see that? It seems that our youth are completely unaware or incapable of perspective – what we have in year 2020 versus what people had (and didn’t have) throughout history.
To expand on poverty, I would argue that over 95% of the people, in this country, are where they are because of decisions they’ve made. If someone is poor, they’re likely poor because of their own decisions, not because America is terrible or racist or sexist or prejudiced but because of their decisions. What do I mean by that? Here’s what I mean: In America it’s almost impossible to be poor provided you adhere to a few rules. 1. Get educated at least through high school. 2. Don’t have children, or father a child, OUT OF WEDLOCK. 3. Don’t get addicted to stuff – alcohol, drugs (legal and illegal are equally bad), gambling, porn, and tobacco (legal but will cost you money and your health) are the most common addictions. 4. Avoid getting into trouble with the law. 5. Be willing to WORK HARD and not rely on handouts. If you do these five things, it’s almost impossible to be poor. On the other hand, violate any of them and your chances of being poor increase dramatically.
The United States provides opportunities for anyone and everyone who’s willing to WORK HARD. Proof of this is the millions of people who try to sneak into this country every year. They’re not trying to sneak into China or Venezuela or Cuba or Nigeria. They are fleeing those countries and breaking laws to get here. Is it mean and cruel to deny someone who wants to come to America that opportunity? Absolutely not, we allow more immigrants than any other country in the world. All we ask is you do it LEGALLY, no exceptions and NO AMNESTY.
So, given the “hardships” of this virus, how bad are things? Things might get bad; right now we’re inconvenienced. There is a group I feel bad for; that’s high school and college seniors who are being denied the last two months of their senior year. To be denied those final months is a shame. Seniors likely had their last class, played their last game, sang their last song, and attended their final activity – all without knowing it was final. For seniors, the last two months are the best time. You know you’re graduating and every class, gathering, activity, and sporting event is greatly appreciated because you’ll never be with that same group again. Let’s pray our high school students can return and not be denied all those final experiences. BOE and parents, it’s your call.
Sloan Oliver is a retired Army officer who writes a weekly column for the Reporter. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.