To the editor:
I truly appreciated Mr. Stefan Schemine’s letter of March 1 (“That is how I judge our government’s actions”). He clearly defined his concept of how that judgment should be applied, and he gave two examples of problems at which he feels the government has failed: poverty and crime. His statements were specific, and because of that, I believe an honest dialogue on these issues can now ensue.
Mr. Schemine cited several governmental approaches that have been tried to help the poor deal with their condition, and he blamed the policy of “giving the poor just enough money and food stamps to barely keep them alive — not to help them out of poverty, but to keep them trapped in it.” He went on to ask me if I thought that “government intentionally keeping the poor trapped in poverty is denying them their right to their pursuit of happiness?”
I hope I am correct in understanding that Mr. Schemine is advocating for more effective programs to raise the standard of living for marginalized people. If so, I applaud him, but I think his analysis of the current causes for continued policy are based on an assumption that our government is a monolithic entity that is more concerned with its own vested interests than it is with creating a more egalitarian system of wealth. Yes, there are such vested interests among the ruling class that can purchase the political backing to keep themselves entrenched in power. But this is why elections are so critical to our successes or failures as a representative democracy. As long as politicians can convince the voting public that those others — whomever “those others” are perceived to be — are going to get something they don’t deserve, then they will keep on using their divide-and-conquer tactics. The group being scapegoated doesn’t matter. Muslims, immigrants, welfare “queens,” food stamp recipients, and so on; they are all politically useful tools for helping the privileged maintain the status quo.
It’s always easier to assign blame than actually attack the problem, especially when the problem is generational poverty. The concepts of wealth creation, early childhood education applications, job creation with accompanying living wages — et cetera, et cetera, et cetera — are almost always dismissed as too expensive for our country to consider; so when piecemeal programs do get some minimal federal backing, they inevitably prove less than effective. I would invite Mr. Schemine to sit with me over coffee so we could explore these ideas in more than the few sentences these columns allow.
As far as Mr. Schemine’s assessment on the effectiveness of his monolithic government to wage a war on crime, I think he is confusing the idea of law enforcement with gun control issues. Again, this is one of those issues that keep the political hacks in power by playing to the fears of extremists who think that if they have enough weapons, they will be able to defy the army of a future American government run amok. This paranoia seems to imagine the potential enslavement of our citizenry, but what it is that this fantasy dictatorship will want to force us to do escapes me.
The Second Amendment is not under assault. … Reasonable people can and do disagree as to the actual intent of the Framers when this amendment was added to the Bill of Rights, but the idea that Mr. Schemine seemed to advance — that since criminals will break the law anyway, there should be no regulations for the use of firearms — doesn’t seem particularly convincing. Of course, I may have misunderstood his argument, and if I have done so, I would appreciate having him correct me.
Overall, I feel like Mr. Schemine, with his last letter, has taken a positive step in creating the opportunity for meaningful dialogue, and I hope he will continue his next missive in this same vein. I suspect that there more things we might agree on if we can avoid generalities and focus instead on particulars.