In Defense of the Freeloaders

Tuesday night was one of those nights that will go down in my memory. It was a “top of the world” kind of night. One of those nights where you will always remember where you were and what you were doing (I was drinking a Mexican beer in a Jacksonville Beach bar, watching the muted TV tuned to Fox News like a hawk).

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am a Barack Obama supporter, through and through.

It wasn’t always like this. My admiration for the President was earned throughout his first term.

Sorry, guys. I know you put up with my posts and tweets and buttons, and most of you supported Mitt Romney. Also a lot of you probably just want politics to go away. Once again, sorry. I won’t be offended if you delete me from your virtual social network. You can go ahead and sever that make-believe friendship bracelet now, I won’t mind.

This post is not meant to be silly mindless pro-Obama propaganda.

This post is meant to defend those who support him, and whom he supports.

I live in a conservative hot-spot. Jacksonville, Florida will always go red. It will always be close, but it will always (in my opinion) swing right. My friends are, by a very informal guesstimate, 87.9% conservative. I just made that number up, but it sounds about right. So you can imagine what my social media feed looked like at about 11:30 p.m. on Tuesday, November 6.

I won’t quote any specifics here. A broad paraphrase of 87.9% of my social media feed said this:

People only voted for Barack Obama because they want welfare.

This post, I think, is going to be a hard animal to tame, because I’m already wanting to deviate from my original point and just turn this into one long liberal bitch-fest. But I am restraining myself and getting to my point.

Wednesday night, in the midst of completing a last-minute homework assignment, I became a cyber bully.

I am not proud.

It was a horrible, horrible combination of Bon Iver radio on Pandora, frustration at my assignment, and an attempt to escape with a Facebook break.

The straw that broke the camel’s, or should I say donkey’s, back was a status made by a friend about socialism. I made a quick comment, disputing the fundamental basis of this entire argument.

And then came the actual straw.

It came in the form of a comment by a girl that has long since deleted me, for which I do not blame her. Because when she told me:

“Why should millionaires, who work hard, have to work harder to pay to support lazy and unmotivated people?”

I. freaked. out.

That wasn’t exactly a direct quote (sorry, Dr. Perkins). But you get the picture.

What happened next was, perhaps, the most unladylike behavior I have displayed on the internet in a very very very long time. I took all of the pain and anger that came from each of those tweets and posts from my conservative “friends” had posted in the last 24 hours, and poured it into a soapbox rant, self-indulgent and rude.

I had been watching these people, who in any other capacity I love and admire, publicly post what they thought of me, an Obama supporter, a liberal democrat, for 24 hours. I had never seen such hatred applied to me because of the principles and policies I believe in.

So, I made a fool of myself, probably traumatized poor Lindsay, and made my party look ridiculous.

This is the Spark Note version of what I said:

To imply that people on welfare are lazy and unmotivated is to generalize an entire population of people. Are all black men basketball stars? Are all women silly and emotional and only interested in shoes? Are all rich people selfish and cold-hearted?

No.
I spent my entire childhood living on the government’s dime. Yes, taxpayers of America, you payed to feed me.

I’ll give you some time to mourn the loss of your tax dollars.

Yep. A percentage of your hard-earned income went to me…a poor child! I ate free lunch at school courtesy of the government, went to the doctor when I was sick courtesy of the government, and was able to afford a college education courtesy of the government.

For my first 18 years, I owed my entire life to the government…and taxpayers, of course. I never had a cellphone. My first one came after I had turned 18, had a steady part-time job, and was able to afford it on my own. We never had silly modern luxuries. No cable TV, no designer clothes, sometimes not even a car.

I was the oldest of six in a family of poverty and chaos. I didn’t play a sport or participate in clubs because I needed to work after school. I needed to contribute whatever I could to the pot.

I won’t go into the dark details. I’ll just say there were many many nights I was hungry, many many Christmases with very little under the tree.

I am not on welfare now. I work three jobs to pay my rent, to buy my own food. I pray every day that I don’t get too hurt, or too sick, because I can’t afford health insurance.

My issue with the conservatives (or, rather, my “friends” who claim they are conservative), is their idea that being on welfare is something that a vast majority of poor people enjoy. Most of the people I know through school seem to have this attitude. Also most of them have probably never been on food stamps.

I was.

I hated it.

It is not an enjoyable thing to be on welfare. It isn’t all sunshine and rainbows and free iPhones. It is humiliating. It is jumping through hoops and sitting in offices and completing mountains of paperwork. It is praying the paperwork goes through in time, that every i was dotted, every t was crossed, because it could mean going hungry if not.

It is hating the food at school, but eating lunch anyway, because who knows if there’s going to be enough dinner to go around tonight?

It is driving to the doctor’s office on the other side of town, because that is the only one that accepts Medicaid.

It is wearing clothes from Goodwill, and learning to live without air conditioning in the summer.

It is the teeth rotting out of my mother’s mouth because there is no such thing as “free dental care” for adults on Medicaid…unless you count pulling them all out and getting dentures “care,” which nobody has for many many decades.

It is embarrassing and scary.

Yes, there are many people taking advantage of the welfare system right now. There are people living in government housing, buying fast food and beer with food stamps. People who may have voted for President Obama because they feel entitled.

But I think what separates me from a lot of conservatives is this: If, for every 100 “freeloaders” there is just one me, I believe the system is working.

I don’t pretend to be an expert on the economy. Economics is actually the one AP class I didn’t pass in high school. I do understand that we are in a scary place as a country, economically. And I understand why people see videos like the “Obama phone”  and become upset enraged.

But I do understand what ROI means. A return on investment. I am a return on an investment for the government. For 18 years, I survived because the government (and taxpayers) helped to feed me. For the last four years, I have been getting a college degree thanks to Pell Grants…and a few loans to help cover the rent when waiting tables for $3/hour doesn’t cut it. One day, I will have a career to be proud of, an income I can survive on, and I will happily pay my taxes so all of the other Angela Brunos out there can have a fighting chance. I will not see the freeloaders, but the investments.

I am not lazy.

I am not unmotivated.

I am the reason for welfare.

And I think I was worth every penny.

Graduating high school after 18 years on welfare

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2 thoughts on “In Defense of the Freeloaders

  1. Angela,
    You are SO right! The generalization HAS to stop! All the people on Facebook and other social networks are undoing all the work that us teachers have spent hours and days trying to do. Everyday I have to have a conversation with my students about generalizing and name calling and casting blame and it’s such a shame that there are “adults” in our world doing the exact same thing!!! Now I will admit that I was a Romney supporter, but I completely agree that the welfare system is ESSENTIAL for those folks who need it- like your family! I just wish folks wouldn’t be so blinded by their party and other forces when it comes to issues like this! My school has more than 3/4 of our students in the welfare system so I see its impact and effect everyday . I’m proud of you Angela, you’re SUCH a great example of hard work, determination and the American dream! YOU GO GIRL!
    Xoxo itb,
    Sarah

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