Who Cares?

There must be stages of caring, like there are for grieving.

Stage 1: Oh you poor thing.
Stage 2: Here, have a banana. Or would you rather have this $50.
Stage 3: I’ve got some numbers for you to call. Have you tried acupuncture?
Stage 4: (pretend you’re not home)
Stage 5: Pay me to care.

There’s been some discussion lately about the differences between Conservatives and Liberals when it comes to values such as caring. Who cares more? About what? And how?

Betcha anything every one of us, liberal or conservative, have gone through all five stages listed above. Sometimes we find ourselves stuck in one of them.

I think Nos. 1 and 5 represent the extreme edges which define the view that each of us has of the other. Conservatives think that Liberals’ hearts bleed over each and every sparrow that falls – or even appears as if it might fall sometime in the future. All Liberals. Everywhere. They might imagine us at Nos. 2 and 3. But I bet they don’t see us at #4. And #5?

It seems that’s the position Liberals think Conservatives take most of the time. Don’t give a rat’s ass. No. 4 is where a softer-hearted Conservative might come in – not hard-hearted enough to literally snatch that extra bowl of porridge right out of Oliver’s little hand. Just hiding behind the curtain, phone ringer on mute. Some of them might venture as far as No. 3. Especially if they’re church-goers. Nos. 2 or 1? Conservatives might offer them work, but they sure don’t want to hear the sob-story.

I’m with them. I’ve heard enough sob stories to last me a lifetime. Some of them were mine. Sob stories are for the young and tender-hearted, those with enough strength to still believe they can change the world, those whose hearts have not yet been broken, especially by those we tried and failed to help. Not because we didn’t try hard enough, although that’s always a possibility. But because the bastards didn’t want our help. Or they took our help and threw it away. They spent it on ice cream. Or crack.

They didn’t leave the son-of-a-bitch they married, they didn’t get that job, they didn’t clean up, they didn’t read to the kids, they didn’t fulfill our highest expectations of what they could do with the bounty of love and help we offered.

Sick of it. Help don’t help.

But it did, you know.

Because that other woman, she did leave the son-of-a-bitch, she cleaned up, she got that job, she’s reading to her kids. Maybe she’s feeding them vegetables. She ate the banana. She used the $50 to pay down the electric bill.

I think, at bottom, we all care. Conservatives care. I know they do. They donate to charity. They support their churches. They run for the Cure. They watch the Special Olympics.

So do Liberals. And we donate to charity every bit as much as they do, recent studies notwithstanding. Some of us even go to church. Run for the Cure. Watch the Special Olympics.

I don’t think the question is Who Cares? We all care, to one degree or another. And if faced with an “other,” one who somehow resides in a cultural paradigm on which we have pasted the label “unworthy,” why, we’ll help that person out if we have to. We’ll drag him from the burning building, perform CPR on her, call the ambulance for them.

It was said that Ronald Reagan would give you the shirt off his back. What he wouldn’t do was require the people of the nation to contribute a little bit for a box of new shirts.

Is that the difference between us? Conservatives care about people they meet, people they know, people other people they know tell them deserve their care? The deserving poor. Do Liberals assume too easily that all those who want care deserve it? Is there such a thing as the undeserving poor? Who cares?