|Tyranny of Kindness: Dismantling the Welfare |
system to End Poverty in America
by Theresa Funiciello
"Fatima Ali, a thirty-two-year-old middle-class Muslim housewife was attempting to send all five of her children back to Allah, through their apartment window. Her daughter Taisha was pronounced dead at the hospital. Rasheed, critically injured, survived. Just as Ms. Ali was about to toss our her one-year-old, firefighters burst into her apartment. As they were overtaking her, she urged the children to go quickly, as if they would go on their own. All were naked. According to one news report, she said, "We came into this world with nothing, and that's how we're going to leave." Three children and their mother, who intended to jump when she completed the task, were rescued.
Ms. Ali was charged with murder, attempted murder, first- and second-degree assault, reckless endangerment, and endangering the welfare of a child. Neighbors said the mother was loving and the children were always polite and clean, as if that somehow rendered the occurrence more mysterious. And then Fatima Ali and her children vanished from our collective memory, almost as swiftly as they had entered.
When I was young, I could not possibly have understood or forgiven the acts of Fatima Ali. Some of that youth I spent as a Muslim--drapes for clothes, virtually nonstop prayers, my two feet of hair cordoned with a bolt of white cloth bound so tightly I could never really forget it was there. I took this religion as seriously as the religions that preceded it in my life, starting with Catholicism (I went to church every day until I was eighteen). My religion was as solid as a rock mountain, vulnerable only to major earthquakes and dripping water by the century. In later years, feminism finally crept up on me.
In Islam everything, from sex to eating, is ritualized. That's how I know what Fatima Ali was doing with apparent calm while she help Rasheed out the window before letting go. She was praying. In form and function, as in other patriarchal religions, women in Islam are buried alive in an avalanche of contradictions. They are equal; no superior; no, inferior to me, to snakes, to witches. The female self is sublimated under a mass of religious debris. Make no mistake: an Islamic woman without a man, especially a woman with children, isn't remotely like a fish without a bicycle.
This woman had five children, aged one to eight years, and was recently separated fro her husband. She had trouble making her last month's rent. She had been trapped in one alienating system and was about to become trapped in another. She surely feared a descent into poverty, alienation, and probably homelessness. After all, once removed from attachment to a man, her labor as a wife and mother was all but worthless. It would not have been difficult for her to imagine a terrifying future. The streets. Welfare. Welfare hotels. Drugs, prostitution, guns, knives, gambling, drunkenness, and all manner of spiritual death. But for a woman with the option of deliverance, it wasn't inevitable.
A homeless mother of five has virtually no change of being taken in by friends or family for more than a night or two. In fact, were Ms. Ali to become homeless, she would have only a 16 percent chance of keeping her children with her for the duration of their homelessness. The odds are not much better for mothers of fewer children, who would be more typical. In all cases, relatively young mothers and their children who find themselves suddenly without the income of a father (or the unlikely trust fund) might bring, are in a situation fraught with peril."
The story continues, and many others are added which are even sadder, as the book progresses. What the book spells out though is just how flawed the welfare system in the United States is. The book talks at length about food pantries too. I have donated plenty of food to food pantries over the years. I can't say that I won't continue to donate food since I have plenty, but think about this for a bit. I have donated plenty of boxes of macaroni and cheese and Hamburger Helper dinner mixes, cans of corn, green beans, pork-n-beans, peas, fruit, and the like. Non-perishables they are called. However, there is no guarantee that the women who frequent the food pantries will have access to water with which to cook the noodles, meat to put into the Hamburger Helper, a stove on which to cook the food, or a microwave or electricity. Or heat of any description. Shall I keep going?
I found this book at one of the local libraries. If you want an eye-opener and an education about the welfare system from the people who "use" it, this book is a must read. There are people out there who abuse it "the system" to be sure. But there are people who would like to use welfare as little as possible and then only to get on their feet. For those people, sometimes getting back on your feet is easier said than done in a system that is designed to keep you down rather than help you up.
Knowledge is power, my friends, but it is also a double-edged sword. The wisdom it gives you to hack out the evil in the world can also cut you to the quick when you realize you have not done as much as you could, or ought to be. Remember, too, that once you know a thing, you are responsible to do something with what you know. If you don't want to be held accountable for the things you learn in this book, don't read it. If you are ready to be ticked off by a broken system and are ready to do something, to get involved in making the system for providing for our poor work better, proceed with reckless abandon.
I know I said yesterday that I was going to talk about 3 different books today, but I think I'll leave it with this one and I offer these passages of scripture as food for thought:
22 Do not exploit the poor because they are poor
and do not crush the needy in court,
23 for the LORD will take up their case
and will exact life for life.
24 Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. 25 For whoever wants to save their life[a]will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it. 26 What good will it be for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul? Or what can anyone give in exchange for their soul? 27 For the Son of Man is going to come in his Father’s glory with his angels, and then he will reward each person according to what they have done.
Thanks for your indulgence,