Yesterday I drove to the grocery store in a wind-driven hard rain. Waiting at a stop light, I watched a man panhandling on the corner. I don’t know how old he was, but his hair and long beard stood out, bright white against the gray weather on a gray gas station corner. He held an umbrella pointed into the slanting rain and seemed to be expending much energy to hold it, hold a slab of soggy cardboard, and remain steadily upright in the wind. I wasn’t close enough to read his sign. I drove off feeling sad and ashamed. A culture that allows its elders to beg in the cold rain is broken in a fundamental way.
Moments later I parked my car and walked through the grocery store’s lot, stopping to read a bumper sticker.
ARE YOU A PRODUCER OR A LOOTER?
I almost vomited on the pavement.
Are those the only choices, really?
What do you suppose the owner of that bumper-stickered car believes constitutes a “producer”? One who earns a paycheck? Or perhaps he (what are the odds it’s a he?) takes it a step further and only business owners are producers. After all, employees regularly extort money and benefits to which they are not entitled. Unions, need I say more?
Periods of dependency are an inevitable part of life, are they not? We begin and end our lives dependent on the care of others. Are children and the elderly looters? How about mothers who don’t hold outside jobs? In an individualistic culture, raising children is a lifestyle choice, not a productive enterprise. And what of the disabled, the ill, the millions of unemployed—five of them for every available job—are they all looters? If you need help and a family member (your parent, your husband, the sister whose couch you sleep on) provides it, are you a looter? Or is it only those who are not so lucky and accept help from, oh my, the government, the taxpayers, YOU, that get bumper sticker contempt from their fellow citizens?
Have I misconstrued the sentiment? Was the bumper sticker author/displayer referring to Somali pirates, perhaps? Or the smash-and-grab burglars who prey on unattended vehicles? What exactly is a looter?