Not so sweet charity

Burt Prelutsky
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Posted: Mar 15, 2006 12:05 AM
Not too long ago, I had an argument regarding charity. My friend was of the opinion, shared by many, that one’s contributions should always be given anonymously. In other words, it should be a secret shared only with God and, I assume, that granter of tax deductions -- the I.R.S.

By its nature, most charitable contributions are anonymous. We send a check to a charity and they, in turn, dispense the funds as they see fit. However, when people give in a more direct fashion, I believe the recipients should know the identities of their benefactors. I believe it’s important, not so much in order to receive thanks, but to be in a position to give thanks. There is little enough genuine gratitude in the world without going out of one’s way to diminish the small amount that exists.

Frankly, I don’t like charitable donations when I don’t know exactly who’s going to wind up receiving it. While I did write a check after the tsunami hit Indonesia and another when Katrina struck New Orleans, I sent the money to children’s charities. I figured that, no matter what sort of parents they might be saddled with, little kids were my idea of innocent victims.

Some of you are probably shocked and dismayed that I don’t feel any obligation to lend a helping hand to every last victim of a natural disaster. Some people, to my way of thinking, simply have it coming.

I recall that Alfred P. Doolittle, the father of Eliza, argued in “Pygmalion” and, later, in “My Fair Lady,” that the undeserving poor deserved to receive their fair share of the pie that society was always prepared to dole out to the deserving poor. In making his case to Professor Higgins, he pointed out that even ne’er-do-wells such as himself had to have clothing and food every bit as much as the good folks, and even more than them when it came to drink!

Here in America, Doolittle would be preaching to the choir. Poverty in this country isn’t a condition, it’s an industry. Not only are there charitable organizations staffed by those to whom it’s a lifetime career, but, without the terminally impoverished, many politicians would have nothing to talk about. Without those perennial “victims,” one of the two parties would have gone the way of the Whigs long before now.

The truth is, there is nothing sacred about being poor. In a land with as much opportunity as America offers, it’s virtually impossible for a person of average intelligence and even a modicum of ambition, to remain poverty-stricken.

In the old days, in the windy city where I was born, ward heelers used to pay folks a few bucks apiece to vote at election time. These days, between welfare hand-outs, subsidized housing and food stamps, the only difference between then and now is that the practice is no longer limited to Chicago, and the price of a vote has gone through the roof.

There is an underclass in America consisting of both blacks and whites that, I’m afraid, has been sold a bill of goods by liberals -- and that’s the belief that being poor, lazy and uneducated, constitutes an occupation for which they are entitled to be paid.