Friday, December 30, 2005

You don't know POOR

I didn't know what poor was until I went out of the US. I think anyone who has been abroad for anything other than a vacation knows what I am talking about.

Now that I am in Wyoming, I can say I NEVER see anyone who is truly destitute. Actually what I see is mothers with kids from three different men getting housing, food stamps, medical care and assistance with their utilities from the Wyoming government. What I see is people quitting their second job so their income is low enough to have government housing.

In contrast, in Egypt I saw the porter in the building I was in making somewhere around 100 pounds a month to support his entire family. Here was a guy hauling trash, washing cars, carrying bags for people, and really WORKING... And he couldn't afford the basic necessities. I thought to myself that family is on the edge between survival and being on the streets. If that man lost an arm, became paralyzed, had a heart problem... His income would be gone and so would the housing his work provides. I don't think I have ever seen anything like that here in the US.

I am not saying that the US is superior, or that other governments should do more to help their people; because I don't think that. Egypt for example has government hospitals and Drs who work out of clinics at Islamic centers for nominal fees. In ways Egypt is succeeding in a way that we are not in that area. What I am saying is that America is unusual in this respect. In a way we are spoiled. We don't even worry about the level of poverty that exists in other countries because we know the government will be there if we are ever that poor.

But, contrary to that being good thing I wonder if this mentality isn't hurting us in the long run. How many of the mothers here in Wyoming are ready to go away from getting everything from the state and work to pay the same bills? Why are young healthy people living off the state when they can work (and though the jobs aren't all glamorous they are there)? I guess I just see this increasing reliance on the government among people my age and younger... And this weird mentality that they will be paying it all back sooner or later when they get a "real job" and pay taxes. What happened to the self reliance that people in the US exhibited in the past? When did that get replaced with a grab what you can approach to government services? How much longer can the government keep up with the increasing demands?

These are the things that go through my mind when I am in Egypt and I get stuck in traffic and I see the vegetable cart being tended by an entire family complete with naked toddlers running dangerously close to the traffic. You are looking at their entire fortune there in front of you. Alhamdulilah, I guess I just never knew poor growing up here in the US.


Amani said...

I agree that most people in America don't know poor. However, I think that the incidents following Katrina showed us that the U.S does not/can not help all of it's citizens. After Katrina people sat on rooftops for days awaiting relief. I know a man who lost his wife while waiting for help on his roof. She has a heart attack and died. He had to stay w/ her dead body until the gov't came to rescue him.

After Katrina, many citizens NEEDED help for basic neccesities, such as food, clothing, baby formula etc. The gov't DID NOT always come through for us. I'm not saying that I disagree w/ you, however I don't agree with the "life is a bowl of cherries" attitude about the U.S.

UmmLayla said...

I agree that the US is not all good... I have more than a few problems with the US in the area of government. And the crazy thing is we are actually not just bad but HORRIBLE in some areas. And the frustrating thing is that I feel sometimes the government doesn't respond with the full resources (like in Katrina) and there are plenty of private citizens who would help if they knew how.

I think of health care in this country, and how basically the system is broken... And I wonder why we have the money to give housing to every person in Wyoming and still no program to help un-insured or underinsured people who are working hard with their medical bills. The state has a surplus... Where is it going?

Sarai's Poetry said...

I agree with you Um Layla, after living in other countries, and just returning home. No country is a bowl of cherries, and you cannot count on Governments for all tragedies or, acts of God.
The charitable acts of our people here is what totally amazed and touched me.