October 1, 2013

Another View: Being poor does not take away a person's 'political clout'

A column that implies that people with little money can't stand up for themselves is wrong.

By ZOE GOODY

In a recent column ("Governor's war of words on welfare is a war on the poor," Sept. 18), Greg Kesich misrepresented the very population he was defending when he asserted that "poor people ... have no political clout."

There is an insidious and untrue assumption that a person without money sufficient for their needs is therefore an unintelligent and undereducated person without the wherewithal to articulate the very social concerns that directly impact them.

What we are dealing with is not just unpopularity, but prejudice and arrogance.

The reasons why a person may find themselves in financial straits are as myriad as people themselves. Very few of us have unlimited resources to provide for all of our needs if extended illness, job loss, divorce, old age or disability hit. (And I am naming just the most obvious sources of financial distress.)

I have been impacted by all but one of the above in my 54 years, and (do I dare admit it?) have been quite poor twice.

But I never experienced a diminished intelligence, nor did I lose my right to vote, or the capacity to write a letter to a newspaper or to a representative. I did not lose my ability to assert myself.

This may not be the kind of political clout that Mr. Kesich meant, but every person has the ability to be a positive force in this society. And history shows how powerfully one small action may change things. Think Rosa Parks.

There is no such thing as "poor people"; they aren't some distasteful "other." The reality is, we all may find ourselves suffering an unlooked-for fate someday, and thankful for a safety net we shouldn't arrogantly deny those in present need.

Zoe Goody is a resident of Cape Elizabeth.

 

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