This morning I had reason to do some food shopping at a local ShopRite store. Normally, I don't do the grocery shopping around here, except for the occasional "Ooops! We're all out of X!" kind of shopping, but my Mother is recovering from her knee replacement, and so this duty now falls upon me.
I was armed with a list, and a bad attitude, that left me very little patience for anyone this morning, as this is something I really don't like to do, but hell, I like to eat, too.
So, there I am, looking the douchebag, pushing a shopping cart up and down the isles very carefully following the list (because if I forget something, or get the wrong thing, I have to listen to a symphony of whining and complaining, because I'm a useless retard, you see. Mother doesn't actually come out and say that, but from her demeanor you know she's thinking it. The older she gets, the more aggravating and ungrateful she becomes. Anyways, while I'm re-enacting my Hunter-Gatherer heritage in the modern day, air-conditioned landscape of the supermarket, I caught sight of "Bertha".
Now, I don't know if her name really is "Bertha"; it's just that when I saw this incredibly massive lump of humanity, that's the name that popped into my head for her. She looked like a blob of raw cookie dough on thick, stumpy I-think-you'd-call-them legs. Easily 150 pounds overweight, she had more chins than a Chinese phone book, and she quite possibly might be the only women in the world that could make a cement floor creak. You could hear her thighs rubbing together as she stumped past. I never knew denim could make that kind of sound, or was that heat-resistant. I could have sworn that she might burst into flames from friction at any moment.
Bertha has four children in tow. Two of them, probably 8 or 9 years of age, are the sort one might associate with a Charles Dickens novel; they are dirty, given to outbursts (with especially-foul language for children so young). They are dressed shabbily. The older of the two, a boy, looks the sort who tortures animals for fun, and one day will grow up to be a convicted felon. The second, a girl, appears as if the words "toothpaste" and"dentist" are not to be found in her vocabulary. She has a set of protruding buck teeth that hang over her lower lip, and if you really had to, you could probably open a beer bottle on them.
The two younger children (perhaps 4 or 5 years old), have a hunted appearance. They are sullen, and silent. One is a habitual nose-picker, and the other has the most grotesque birthmark (I should hope it's a birthmark!) that covers the left side of his face from ear to cheekbone. They too are filthy, and appear underfed.
"Bertha", however, is resplendent in that trailer-park-ghetto sort of way; she's got bling. She's got cornrows festooned with multi-colored beads, a gold tooth or two, and has more rings than Saturn. She's also wearing a gold medallion on a chain that reminded me of a hood ornament. The Bluetooth headset hangs from her ear, and she's talking a mile-a-minute, jabbering in the Urban Patois, sprinkled liberally with the word "muthahfuckah". I would say "muthafuckah" and it's variations constituted every third or fourth word in the one side of the conversation that I could hear.
I would see "Bertha" and her herd every few minutes. Perhaps five or six times during my meandering up and down the isles. She's always talking, stopping only occasionally to threaten one of the kids who's misbehaving, or perhaps just to stop for breath. The little kids are riding on the wagon's rails, until she swats them off because, she complains, she "can't push this muthafuckin' cart with your asses hanging all over it." The older boy and girl are breaking packages open as the little brood wanders the market, pilfering food when their...ahem...mother...isn't looking. The smaller boy manages to bring an entire case of apples down when he grabs one from the bottom, spilling them all over the Produce section's floor. He's about to take a bite when he gets slapped across the face. Not because he's stolen something, mind you, but because he's "embarrassed" her in public by making a mess that the store manager might make her pay for.
I run into "Bertha" again at the checkout counter. She is in the next isle. Still talking, still spraying the "muthafuckahs" between short intervals of yelling at her children, who are now into the candy at the register. "Bertha" has $211.00 of groceries. She "pays" for them with Food Stamps, and leaves, while I'm still being "rung up".
My last sight of "Bertha" was in the parking lot, as she drove by in her tricked-out Navigator, complete with what I like to call "Ben-Hur hubcaps"; those chrome monstrosities that have a sort of spiked hub protruding from them, and of course, the counter-rotating food-processor-like blades on the interior of the wheel. I can see the seat-back DVD players...plural. The last sight I get of them as they leave is the nose-picker, his face plastered against the glass of the rear passenger window, and he's got that Thousand Yard Stare that one normally associates with an infantryman in combat.
It struck me, for perhaps the ten-thousandth time this year, that "Bertha" is probably what democrats call "working poor". People who use food stamps, and utilize more social services than one might imagine actually exist, but who somehow manage to afford cellphones, Navigators with DVD players, and enough bling to finance a small country. They're so "poor" that they're grossly obese, their distended bellies the result of too much KFC instead of the ravages of malnutrition.
We have the first generation of "poor" on Planet Earth who are overfed, and suffering from diabetes and food allergies, I'll bet.
The Welfare System in this country no longer exists to help people in need, or to provide for people who cannot do so for themselves; it now subsidizes a lifestyle in which it is no longer necessary to even make an attempt to provide for yourself, and the neglected children you've borne, while you go out and somehow (probably illegally) obtain the means to load yourself up with gold and luxury automobiles.
"Poverty" no longer means deprivation; it's only a relative comparison of obvious material wealth. The "Rich" and the "Poor" all have the same things: automobiles, cellphones, fattening food, cable television, air conditioning. It's just that the "Poor" don't have to work for it, and the "Rich" are compelled to provide it for them by the State.
The problem with all this "Tax Cut" talk in Washington these days isn't that the Rich "have too much". It's that the "Poor" can't be maintained in the lifestyle to which they've become accustomed, complete with SUV's and free food, if the government can't take (steal) enough money away from those who earn it.
Just don't expect that simple truth to be told during the "debate" over the "Bush Tax Cuts", which itself is a serious -- and deliberate -- misnomer.