An Unexpected Question

In Philanthropy, Poverty on April 5, 2008 at 8:41 pm

Two days ago, I got a message from one of my friends on facebook (in the interests of anonymity, I’m not going to use their name).  It was nice to hear from them, but in their post they wrote:

Is you being conservative a joke? Or are you serious? I would think you to be a liberal or maybe a moderate[.]

I was fairly surprised, and a little disappointed – more in myself than anyone else.  I suspected that I knew why they might consider me moderate, or God-forbid a Liberal.  But I wanted to to hear their reasoning for why they thought my being conservative was a joke.  So I wrote back:

Nope, it is most definitely not a joke. Conservative through and through. I’m curious, why would you think me to be liberal or moderate?

I wanted to see exactly why they thought me to be a leftist.  They replied:

because liberals usually believe that people who need help are in that place because of environmental factors, and reasons beyond their control and conservatives tend to feel that people are in the positions they are because of how hard or not so hard they work… Like homeless children. NOT THEIR FAULT. Homeless crack addict, maybe grew up with no family and started using to not feel the pain at the sad age of 12. THEN liberals also usually believe that the government shoudl provide programs liek homeless shelters, rehabs, etc. to help all these people. Where as conservative believe that everyone should pick themselves up by the boot straps… even if you don’t have any boots.[…] hahah i’m actually kind of conservative on a lot of things but kind of liberal on a lot of things as well…. But I heart you no matter what you are. hahha.

That is pretty much what I expected to hear (well, read, actually).  The old myth that conservatives don’t want to help anyone and that liberals have a monopoly on humanitarian work.  At first, I drafted up a long, well-thought out response, but in the end I decided against sending it to them.  There are a couple of reasons for this:

  1. You can tell by the posts from the other party that they aren’t interested in debating (I’m not saying that it’s a bad thing; this is only facebook after all).  Their first message was just general wondering.
  2. I was worried that my response might come off as arrogant or long-winded – I wouldn’t want to read a three page response either.
  3. I didn’t want them to feel like I was attacking them or their beliefs.  It’s not my place to to barrage them with my own opinions.
  4. A short response would probably work best.

So, for these reasons, I wrote this shorter response:

That is one of the myths that I hope I am dispelling by example. It isn’t the amount of humanitarian aid that Conservatives and Liberals disagree on (the exact amount is controversial, yes, but they both agree there should be some amount), but rather the way in which money should be collected. Liberals are (usually) more for government programs set in place that gets its funds from taxes, while Conservatives usually support organizations through personal donations, such as a church. That is the big difference.

And I believe your view is too narrow. When it comes to Americans, I would say that a large portion of the people on welfare (or other comparable programs) are lazy. Disregarding children and the disabled, many people in America have ample opportunity to improve their situations, but choose not to do so. Regarding other parts of the world, I think everyone can agree that they might not be as blessed as the US is.

Just a thought to ponder: Who does a vast portion of the humanitarian work overseas (and in America as well)?

Christian organizations. And in my experience, Christians tend to lean a bit to the right.

I tried to address all of their points without going overboard.  Too which they replied:

well… i’m throwing out there that according to my social work book people on welfare lack opportunities to better their situation. My teacher said that the REAL myth is that people on welfare are lazy and the TRUTH is that people just WISH it was that way. Or something. Take what you want from it…. I was just surprised that’s all. Plus, I think their should be government run programs for people rather than organizations. Because, what if you’re not christian? or something…

I thought that they might disagree with my welfare point more than any other, so I kind of had my response in hand:

I totally agree that there should be programs in place to help people in bad circumstances out, but that we need to not get too carried away. And I know that not all, or even most of people on welfare are ‘lazy,’ but there is a big enough portion to screw it up. I don’t see why anyone should be on welfare for two years, but there are plenty of people who are.

And I believe that most organizations don’t require the people being helped be Christians. World Vision is a Christian organization, but they help anyone regardless of race, sex, religion, etc…

My response is the end of this discourse so far, but I am sure that they will respond shortly.  But I have a few questions for you.

  1. Do you think I handled this situation well?  Was I too critical?  Should I have maybe been more conversational, and less debate driven?
  2. Do you agree with my case or theirs?
  3. Any general thoughts on the issue?  What’s your stance on the balance of humanitarian work?  Does either side of the spectrum get it right?

Also, sorry for such a protracted post; but I thought I owed it to you after such a lengthy cessation in my posts.

  1. These are interesting questions, Jaryd. I think there’s a lot of issues the both of you are attacking here. I’d definitely have to disagree with your view that welfare is a support system for the lazy, though I understand your thoughts and can see from that direction. Honestly, I have no good answer to that, other that in my heart I don’t think that laziness is the real issue. I agree completely that America is, has been and will be, a bountiful, beautiful land of opportunity, but there are still many, many obstacles that get in the way of the poor and disenfranchised. I think that we’re all still quite young and no amount of Googling and Wiki-jumping with give us the answers. Heck, I think this is true regardless of age for anyone. It’s all going to come from experience in the field. The people who are out there every day helping the down-and-out, those are the people who have the ultimate say in this argument. So again, in no means am I trying to side with anyone or get into a disagreement about anything, merely stating how I feel.

    Also, I do feel you handled the situation well. It’s hard not to get too caught up in the moment and your feelings, and you very maturally went about this.

    Good job, keep posting. I like the long ones.

  2. I think that you handled it well. It all depends on the tone that the other person takes. If you know that they will not take your points personally and just agree to disagree then it your debates can be informative and fun at the same time.

    As for the points that you both made, I think that you are correct, Conservatives are driven more to help people through charity and not forced wealth redistribution through taxes. However there is a place for that as well as long as it is a handup not a handout with no limits.

    Also, you correct, when charitable contributions of politicians are monitored, Conservatives almost always give more to charity. For example

    Barak Obama’s Charity History

    2006: 6.1%
    2005: 4.7%
    2004: 1.2%
    2003: 1.4%
    2002: 0.4%
    2001: 0.5%
    2000: 0.9%

    Bush and Cheney

    President Bush and the first lady, Laura Bush, gave a total of $75,560 to churches and charitable organizations, some of which were involved in disaster relief efforts following Hurricane Katrina. The Bush gifts represented 12 percent of their taxable income of $618,694.

    Vice President Cheney and his wife, Lynne Cheney, donated $6,869,655 to three organizations from the exercise of stock options and from Mrs. Cheney’s book royalties. (About %75 of yearly income to charity)

    I am not saying that only Conservatives care about people and are generous, but what I am saying is that the Liberals have been successful in making taking care of the poor a Liberal virtue when in reality Conservative give much more to the poor willingly and out of compassion rather than forced through taxes.


  3. Another great charity site is AIDtoCHILDREN.com. It donates money to children in need through World Vision.

    AIDtoCHILDREN.com is a dual-purpose site for building an English vocabulary and raising money for under privileged children in the most
    impoverished places around the world.

    Check it out at http://www.aidtochildren.com

  4. Jaryd, we thought that your reply to the person that thought you were a liberal was very well thought out and not confronational in least. You might want to read again what he said about being a Christian. I think that he was talking about the person doing the helping and not the people receiving the help. We are very proud of you for the good works that you do.
    Love, Nana & Papa

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