Is this decade called the teens? The tens?
Anyway. . . I am going through a major decluttering. Among other things, that involves going through boxes of memorabilia. Research in my files is kind of like doing archeology work. I stumbled across two posters that I did, some time between 1994 and 1997 when I was a student at Oklahoma City University and responsible for our little Catholic Action at OCU organization. I was startled at how topical they are for the present day, when welfare mothers and food stamps remain contentious political issues. The Welfare Mother parable has one of the “top ten best sentences ever written by Bob Waldrop.” I bet when you read it you will say “That’s it!” Since these predate my internet experience they aren’t available on the internet. So here they are —
Two Parables from the 1990s, still meaningful in the 2010s
Food Stamps in my hand.
A poor woman, bruised and in pain, sat beside the road, food stamps in her hand. And it came to pass that a Cadillac stopped and a rich man with bright diamonds on his hands got out of the car and grabbed the food stamps. And the rich man said to the poor woman, “This is for your own good. You are lazy. Why don’t you get a job?” And the rich man slapped the poor woman and said, “That’s so you won’t forget this lesson.” Then the rich man hurried away to cash his Social Security check and check on his subsidy for overseas advertising. As he drove away, the poor woman looked up and saw a bumper sticked on the Cadillac. It read, “Honk if you love Jesus.”
A poor man sat beside the road. He hears voices in his head, voices which have tormented him since Vietnam. He too has food stamps in his hand. And it came to pass that a sports car stopped and another rich man with bright diamonds on his fingers got out of the car and grabbed the poor man’s food stamps and said, “This is for your own good. You are lazy. Why don’t you get a job?” And the rich man kicked the poor man in the abdomen and said, “That’s so you won’t forget this lesson.” Then the rich man hurried away to calculate how much money he would get from the government for moving his factory from one town to another.
A poor man and a poor woman sit by the road. It’s the Nineties. The budget must be balanced. There are no Good Samaritans in politics. There are only Rich Men. When the government gives money to the rich, the affluent, and the powerful, they call it economic development and they say that it results in social benefits. When the government gives money to the poor, the powerless, and the oppressed, they call it welfare and they say that it causes social pathologies.
A MEMO FROM GOD TO THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA — Those who shut their ears to the cry of the poor will themselves also call and not be heard. Proverbs 21:21
State of Oklahoma cuts 10,875 poor people without jobs or income from the food stamp program. Daily Oklahoman, March 2, 1997.
BEHOLD THE WELFARE QUEEN!
As soon as morning came, the Senate and the House, that is, the whole Congress, held a joint session with the Special Interest Groups and the Lobbyists for the Rich. They bound Welfare Mother, led her away, and handed her over to the President. Clinton questioned her, “Are you dependent?” She said to him in reply, “You say so.” So Clinton said to Congress, “What charge do you bring against this woman?” They answered and said to him, “If she were not a criminally pathological long-term trans-generational dependent, we would not have handed her over to you.”
The Congress accused Welfare Mother of many things. Again the President questioned her, “Have you no answer? See how many things they accuse you of.” Welfare Mother gave him no further answer, so that the President was amazed.
Then the President took Welfare Mother and had her beaten. And the police wove a crown of thorns and placed it on her head, and clothed her in a purple cloak, and they came to Welfare Mother and said, “Hail Welfare Queen!” And they struck her repeatedly. Once more Clinton went to Congress and said to them, “Look, I am bringing Welfare Mother out to you, so that you may know that I find no fault in her.” So Welfare Mother came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple cloak. And Clinton said to Congress, “Behold the Welfare Queen!” When the Congress and the Special Interest Groups and the Lobbyists for the Rich saw her, they cried out, “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
Now on the occasion of the feast the President used to release to Congress one prisoner whom they requested. A man called Keating was then in prison, along with others guilty of fraud in the Savings and Loan scam. The Interest Groups and Lobbyists for the Rich came forward and began to lobby the President for the customary pardon. Clinton answered, “Do you want me to release Welfare Mother?” For he knew it was out of envy, class prejudice, racism, covetousness, and greed that the Congress had handed her over.” But the Congress stirred up the Special Interest Groups to have them lobby for Keating instead. Clinton again said to them in reply, “Then what do you want me to do with the woman you call Welfare Queen?” They shouted again — “Crucify her! Crucify her!”
The President said, “Why? What evil has she done?” They only shouted the louder, “Crucify her! Crucify her!” So the President, wishing to satisfy the Congress, the Special Interest Groups, and the Lobbyists for the Rich, released Keatins the Savings and Loan Criminal and handed welfare Mother over to be crucified.