When right-wing blather killed

From Salon:  http://www.salon.com/2012/11/26/when_right_wing_blather_killed/

Irish Catholics peddling nonsense about “dependency on government” need to read a new history of the Great Famine

By Monday, Nov 26, 2012

Taking a break from 24/7 politics after the election, I finally read John Kelly’s troubling “The Graves Are Walking: The Great Famine and the Saga of the Irish People.” Our problems feel small. Ireland lost one in three people in the late 1840s. At least a million died in the famine and its related illnesses; another two million fled for England, Canada, the United States or other ports of refuge.

But I kept coming back to U.S. politics anyway. Hauntingly, Kelly repeats the phrase that drove British famine relief (or lack of it): they were so determined to end Irish “dependence on government” that they stalled or blocked provision of food, public works projects and other proposals that might have kept more Irish alive and fed. The phrase appears at least seven times, by my count, in the book. “Dependence on government:” Haven’t we heard that somewhere?

In fact, the day after finishing Kelly’s book, I found Salon’s Michael Lind writing about the Heritage Foundation brief, “The Index of Dependence on Government.” It could have been the title of a report by famine villain Charles Trevelyan, the British Treasury assistant secretary whose anti-Irish moralism thwarted relief, but of course it was written by well-paid conservative Beltway think tankers. The very same day PBS aired a Frontline documentary revealing that our fabulously wealthy country has the fourth highest child-poverty rate in the developed world, just behind Mexico, Chile and Turkey. And I couldn’t help thinking: we haven’t come far at all.

I don’t believe in appropriating epochal tragedies and singular cruelties for modern political use. Genocide, slavery, famine, the Holocaust; rape, incest, lynching – those terms mean something specific.  A recession, or even a depression, can’t be equated with famine, let alone genocide. Nor can rampant child poverty: we fend off starvation pretty successfully with food stamps, government help and charity today. We still have poverty programs, even though we slashed them in an anti-dependency backlash Trevelyan might have approved. A Democratic president, Bill Clinton, acting at least partly on Ronald Reagan’s insight that “we fought a war on poverty, and poverty won,” eliminated Aid to Families with Dependent Children in 1996 and replaced it with a time-limited, work-incentive program that cut its rolls by 58 percent in the last 15 years. One in five children was poor in 1996; the exact same percent are poor today. (Among black children, the rate is almost 2 in 5.) Whether we’re fighting a war on poverty or a war on the poor, what we are doing isn’t working.

Continue reading at:  http://www.salon.com/2012/11/26/when_right_wing_blather_killed/

4 Responses to “When right-wing blather killed”

  1. steviejayne Says:

    I highly recommend the book “The Whitest Flower” which, although a novel, deals with the subject of the famine from several viewpoints.

    I also highly recommend the film “The Wind That Shakes the Barley”.

    Ireland is the only country in Europe with a smaller population now than there was in 1840. Let’s not forget that the exodus and deaths from the famine are not the only attacks on the Emerald Isle and us Celts. There has been the best part of 1,000 years of British oppression in my homeland and the British wonder why we have continually rebelled and fought against a force of occupation.

    The village that my family come from, Ballingarry in Co Tipperary has the honour of being the first place to raise the Tricolour during a battle with the occupiers.

    Whilst the majority of my homeland was eventually freed (following the War of Independence in which my Great Uncle was imprisoned for his part in an ambush on a British armoured car) there is still the running sore of the illegal occupation of the north of the island.

    The saying that if we don’t learn from history we are doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past is so true.

    Tiocfaidh ár lá.

  2. tinagrrl Says:

    Indeed, our day will come — for all oppressed by bigotry. As was once a cry in the USA — POWER TO THE PEOPLE

  3. steviejayne Says:

    I can’t help but notice that almost all countries which gained independence from the UK were split which led to civil war in these countries. The British government has always had a great belief in divide and rule.

    • tinagrrl Says:

      The ruling class in the USA has always used divide and conquer tactics — from the very beginning, when ruling whites fostered racism to keep the white “indentured servants” (in most cases actual SLAVES) from becoming too friendly with black folks in the same situation they were in. That racism lives today.

      Heck, the only reason The Austro-Hungarian Empire lasted as long as it did was due to very similar divide and control policies.

      As usual most folks fall for the same crap year after year.

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