Voters were frustrated, but not mean-spirited

November 23, 1994|By MIKE ROYKO

The hottest phrase in American journalism the past two weeks has been "mean-spirited."

It's been used by countless irate commentators and stunned liberals to describe the mood of the voters in the recent election.

The voters were mean-spirited, we're told, for electing candidates who talked about shrinking welfare, putting criminals in prison, and cutting taxes and government spending.

The single biggest group of mean-spirited voters was said to be those in California who overwhelmingly approved withholding various social benefits from illegal immigrants.

If it's true that millions of voters were reeking with meanness when they went to the polls, it's a bad sign. That much meanness could turn the entire country into something that looks like Manhattan during lunch hour.

With all that venom flowing, an author whose thoughts appeared in the New York Times was right when she wrote:

"A new form of deadly domestic assault looms on the horizon. This time the male predators are key legislators who are declaring open season on poor women and their children.

"Clearly America has become the most dangerous democracy to live in, if you are poor, female and a single mother of young children."

And could it be that a compassionate woman was right when she called with a sob in her voice as she said: "Those people in California are inhuman. They want Mexicans to do the dirty jobs that nobody else will do. But now they want to treat them like dirt. What is this country coming to when we use the vote to say we hate immigrants?"

Is that what happened to us? Are we so mean-spirited that our hatred for single moms and their children has made this the "most dangerous democracy in the world" for such people to live in?

Can a nation built by immigrants suddenly become a nation of immigrant haters?

Nah! Maybe we were a bit grumpy on Election Day. But we're always a little grumpy when we vote. If we weren't, nobody vTC would ever be run out of office and we'd have a boring one-party system.

It's possible that we might have been a little crabbier than usual. If so, whose fault is it?

We can probably blame the same mass media that declared us to be so "mean-spirited" for making us grumpy.

For several years, we've been picking up our newspapers or turning on the TV and getting almost a daily dose of unfit and unwed moms hanging, boiling, or skinning their children. And if the moms didn't do it, some slack-jawed boyfriend dropped the crying baby down the garbage chute.

We've been stunned by stories of 11-year-olds murdering 12-year-olds, 14-year-olds being ordered by 18-year-olds to go back and shoot the gun-toting 11-year-old so he doesn't squeal on some 25-year-old.

Most people don't hate children. Just the opposite. They cringe and gasp when they read what parents do to their own children, and what children do to each other.

There isn't another country in the world that spends as much tax money on the children of the unmarried as we do.

As for our alleged mean-spiritedness toward immigrants, can anyone name another country that absorbs as many of them as we do -- legal or illegal?

The hand wringers' problem is that they spend too much time listening to each other instead of those who were miffed when they voted.

If they did, they'd learn that people aren't as mean-spirited as they think. Frustrated might be a better description.

One bungalow dweller described his feelings to me this way:

"I'm not going to tell any woman that she can't have a kid, and I don't want the government doing it on my behalf. I'm Catholic, and I came from a big family, so who am I to tell anyone that they shouldn't have children?

"But if you want to have a kid, don't tell me that I have to support it. It's your responsibility, not mine. I'll take care of my own children, and you take care of yours. If you can't, then you shouldn't have it.

"My wife and I waited five years before we could afford a family. We went against the church so we could wait until we could do it. And we've had fewer kids than we could have because we couldn't afford any more.

"So I'm not feeling guilty about wanting welfare tightened. Having a kid is your business. But asking me to support it makes it my business."

As for the illegal immigrant furor, a friend of mine in California explained his vote this way:

"My grandparents came here legally. So I'm all for immigrants coming in the same way.

"But illegals are a different issue. If I hire someone to cut my lawn and trim the bushes, does that mean he has a right to bring his family to live in my back yard or move into my house?

So are they mean-spirited? Not really. They just think they know the rules. They don't realize that the rules have been changed.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.