My father grew up dirt poor, with not enough food on the table. You could tell by the way he ate.
He didn’t chew, but instead inhaled his food, as would a starving man. He consumed it all so rapidly that the meal was gone in a few seconds flat.
As a child, I never learned that one is supposed to wait for all diners to receive their food before starting. My mother would give dad his plate, and by the time the rest of us got ours, his would be long gone.
My mother’s family was poor as well, at least by today’s standards. The family of four lived in a small, two room walk-up in the Bronx. When my parents married, he moved in as well, making five of them. When my brother was born, that made six.
The only view from the window was the subway, located only a few short feet away. As the train whizzed by noisily 24/7, conversation would continually be brought to a stop.
Although my family grew up poor, they were good, hardworking people. It would never have occurred to them in a million years that, because they were poor, they should become criminals. Even when my dad’s family had little to eat, they never stole. They were an immigrant family, proud to be Americans. They never would have done anything to tarnish their reputations or that of their fellow immigrants.
If they had stolen, the strong arm of the law would have crushed them mercilessly. Back then, there weren’t any excuses or justifications allowed for criminal behavior. If a person did the crime, they would do the time. Before the l960s, a single act of theft could have landed a person in the jailhouse for several years. And back then, the prisons were bereft of gyms, copies of The Communist Manifesto, and gluten-free, vegan meals.
Now things are so different. Not only is there an astonishing amount of theft, assaults, and worse on a regular basis, but the attitude towards crime and criminals has radically changed, at least among the duped.
Case in point: I found out recently that there have been a rash of break-ins near my block. Most have been burglaries, that is, no one at home, though this is bad enough. But some have been robberies, home invasions, with occupants held up and threatened as well. Obviously, I have found this to be a frightening and unacceptable bit of news.
The neighbor who told me this was alarmed as well. But then she added, in that concerned and sympathetic voice that I know too well, “It just makes me feel sad that people are so desperate because of the economy to do these things.”
Translation: the reason that people in my parts are robbing, burglarizing, assaulting, etc. is that they are poor. They need the money to feed their families, or else starvation, and soon thereafter, riga mortis will set in.
Of course, this scenario is utterly ridiculous, given the generous handouts around here — welfare, Food Stamps, county and city food banks, and several-course free meals most days at local churches and People’s Park. I retorted, “They aren’t robbing because they are poor. They are sociopaths. They are drug addicts trying to get money for drugs.” She looked at me with that shock I also know too well. “Well, that’s probably true,” she says, then making an excuse to have to run off. If truth doesn’t fit the Official Story, then cognitive dissonance sets in, and it’s adios amigo.
Most people around here believe the very same thing: that the epidemic of break-ins and carjackings are due to the economy. Difficult economic conditions deprive human beings of self-control or free will. Low socioeconomic status equals criminality.
But this makes absolutely no sense. First off, there has been an obscene amount of crime around here since the l960s. Could the economy be blamed for 40 or 50 years of mayhem?
More importantly, poor people are not morally deficient. Throughout the world, people are poor, and yet they remain moral. My family was poor, and yet they did not steal. And back then, there was no government assistance.
Why then do people steal? They steal because they feel entitled to by a culture that continually stirs up envy, hatred, and class warfare. They steal because they can get away with it, particularly around here when even the victims excuse it. And they steal because they’ve lost their innate fear of God and for authority.
To observe so much criminal activity around me is disturbing enough. But what is particularly vexing is the attitude of the populace. It is codependent; it enables and promotes bad behavior, which doesn’t do the perpetuators or the victims any good. But even more than this, the attitude is an insult to poor people. There are plenty of lower income people in my area — and everywhere — who are law abiding. They don’t feel that their socioeconomic status allows them to take what isn’t theirs.
Some are native born Americans — blacks, Latinos, whites — who have been raised in adverse circumstances. And yet rather than preying on others, they work, go to school, join the military, perhaps receive government assistance for a while — somehow, some way trying to better their lives.
Others are immigrants families from Cambodia, Kenya, India, Mexico, El Salvador. . and all around the globe. Many, like my family, are grateful to be in this country, and want so much to be good Americans.
They want to make others proud, to reflect positively on their culture, and to contribute to the common good of the country that has adopted them. And my guess is that they wouldn’t appreciate the prevailing viewpoints out here: that they are so wild, primitive, and morally bankrupt that, because of limited money in the bank, they can or should become criminals.