2010-04-28 / Letters to the Editor

No shame in seeking assistance

Popular columnist, The Walrus, writes: “There was a time in this country’s recent history when families felt it was their responsibility to take care of their spouses and children and were ashamed and embarrassed to take handouts from the government. Where have our values gone?”

Despair not, dear Walrus. I think those values are still here; they haven’t gone anywhere.

Asked if they’d rather be working and supporting their family or suffering the humiliation and poverty of unemployment, and the devastating humiliation of being forced to apply for assistance in order to feed, house and provide minimal medical care for their family, I’m pretty sure most people would prefer a job.

I believe that American values are still here, not gone at all. What does seem to have disappeared, however, are integrity and ethical behavior on the part of corporate and political sectors, both nationally and locally, allowing for rampant greed, personal gain and prejudicial treatment of the American working-class and the poor. Yet these are the people being given “hand outs”?

Unemployment, disability, social security benefits, medical assistance, assistance to families with dependent children and nutritional programs (once called “food stamps”) etc., should not be considered “hand outs.”

These social programs were put into place by, and paid for by, the American worker a.k.a. the American people, a.k.a. the American government, as safety nets to be utilized by Americans during times of hardship or need.

Citizens who have worked hard all their lives to support themselves and their families, have paid their taxes, have contributed to their communities, even sacrificing sons and daughters in order to keep this country free and great, should not be looked down upon, or treated disrespectfully, because they exercise their right to seek the assistance provided for them within our American system.

These are “privileges,” not “hand outs.”

Let’s not forget the immortal words of Emma Lazarus: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore, Send these, the homeless, tempesttossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door.”
Cynthia Peloquin

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