On Thursday, the Washington Post published yet another story, this one by Terrence McCoy, about rural white “working” class Americans titled “Disabled, or just desperate?” Although the intention of this story appears to be to evoke pity for the people profiled, the protagonists are not exactly sympathetic. At the end of this story, I was left aghast, amazed at how people can mismanage their own lives so badly. Is it really worthwhile to sympathize with hypocrites who mooch off of the government using fake excuses while preaching personal responsibility for people of color and voting to take away the social safety net?
What these people really need is a good dose of their own medicine.
Many of the problems that the protagonists in this article face are clearly of their own making. For example, Desmond Spencer seems to have problems with pain, even though he hasn’t yet turned 40.
His body didn’t work like it once had. He limped in the days, and in the nights, his hands would swell and go numb, a reminder of years spent hammering nails. His right shoulder felt like it was starting to go, too.
I wonder why Spencer is having problems with pain.
[Spencer’s] knee was hurting once more, as it had on and off ever since he fell from a roof during a construction job two years ago. He’d never had it checked out because he’d never had insurance…
Most adults know that if you fall off a roof, you go to the hospital or at least visit a doctor, no matter how much it costs. Even if getting medical attention costs an unreasonable amount of money, bankruptcy exists to protect debtors. Of course, this mention of bankruptcy is completely unnecessary. Obamacare has subsidized health insurance for the poor since 2010, which was five years before Spencer’s accident. Spencer’s failure to get healthcare is his own responsibility, and now he pays for it with wrongly healed bones and body parts.
Spencer’s entire family also seems to have problems with their health.
His mother, Karen Ruby, 60, who has cirrhosis of the liver, was sitting at the kitchen table with her head in her hands, saying, “I don’t know when I’m going to be able to get back into church.” His stepfather was stooped beside her, next to a wheelchair, smoking a cigarette.
I wonder why Spencer’s family is having problems with their health.
“I need angel food cake,” his mother told him before he headed out to the store. “Write it down…”
He collected cake mix and three 12-packs of Mountain Dew for Harris, who he knows can go through 24 cans in a day…
“Desmond?” she said, her voice raspy from a case of strep throat. “Is that black lighter in there?… I got a sore throat.”
Angel food cake, Mountain Dew, and cigarettes don’t exactly satisfy the recommended daily food groups. Spencer’s family, who are all adults, could be using their disability checks to buy food that nourishes the body instead of destroying it. However, they are filling themselves up with sugar, caffeine, and nicotine, causing their bodies to fail prematurely. Nobody has the time to force four adults to eat a healthy diet, so their poor health is completely their own fault.
Also, cigarettes are not an actual treatment for strep throat. The fact that a 60 year old woman thinks that they are is hilariously sad. The correct thing to do when you have a strep throat is to go to the doctor and get some antibiotics. Failing that, you can use actual medicines like Tylenol and Chloraseptic to treat your strep throat instead of damaging your throat further by smoking.
As an aside, Gene Ruby’s health problems aren’t completely his own fault (and he has the distinction of being the only person in this article who this is true for), but the 24 daily cans of Mountain Dew certainly don’t help.
Elsewhere in the article, McCoy describes Spencer having problems getting a job.
He saw a large roadside banner that said, “APPLY NOW IMMEDIATE OPENINGS,” and cursed to himself. He didn’t know how many times he’d gone in that upholstery factory and asked about a job, any job, and was turned away. He saw another factory, this one an equipment supplier, where he thought he’d need an act of Congress to get hired… Meanwhile, he tried to sign up for a welding class at a community college, but failed the enrollment math exam.
I wonder why Spencer is having problems getting a job.
He grew up just outside of Peoria, Ill., dropped out of school at 14, secured his GED, served two stints in prison for felony burglary before he turned 20
If you want a job, don’t commit felony burglary. Most of us somehow have the self-restraint to refrain from committing violent crimes, so his plight is completely his own fault. This fact being thrown into the article as an afterthought instead of receiving the emphasis it deserves is an impressive sleight of hand by McCoy.
Also, you cannot fail the math exam given upon enrollment at most community colleges, as the exam is generally a placement exam. The worst that could happen on scoring 0% on it is being required to take remedial math classes. The fault here lies solely with Spencer for refusing to take remedial math classes. He makes mendacious excuses instead of taking action to improve his own lot.
Of course, multiple people, including McCoy (inadvertently), offer Spencer solutions to his problems, but he naturally refuses to take any of them.
There aren’t jobs for you here, a friend said. Think that’ll change anytime soon?…
He glanced at a sign outside a Sonic fast-food restaurant: “Now Hiring All Shifts.” He sometimes considered applying for a fast-food job. But how, after making $20 an hour at some jobs, could he take one paying $7.25?
Sometimes, you have to take a pay cut when you have a criminal conviction for felony burglary. Sometimes, you have to move when there aren’t any jobs in your area. Sometimes, life isn’t fair, but there’s no point in whining about it besides conning the government into giving you disability checks.
The recent flood of stories in the mainstream media telling us to take pity on the non-working white “working” class is getting old. Maybe the white “working” class should take their own advice (that they have shoved down the throats of people of color since time immemorial) for once and assume some personal responsibility for their own actions.
Would that be so hard?
Before you leave a response, please note that I will block and report anyone making personal attacks (such as “you are a racist”) or leaving other harassing comments, and that Medium support is highly responsive. Such comments will not stay up for long.