Thursday, January 31, 2013

Drug Testing the Poor—It's A Puzzle

Just last week, I got a note from someone asking how it is I don’t completely implode from the vitriol and ignorance and hatefulness that gets spewed on Facebook—she assumes I don’t implode—and I told her that I block those posts, or those posters, from my newsfeed. There is more to a person than politics, so by putting a wall between their offensive views and my sensitive disposition, I can still like the person for their other qualities without seeing them with warts and fangs. Besides, sometimes someone can have a differing opinion that isn’t based on ignorance. It’s just different.

But still, I know what she means. There are people who are just unpleasant and negative and arrogant, and they assume everyone else wants to know about their politics because they, of course, are right and point straight to the truth. Those people I don’t mind seeing as is, warts and all.

Otherwise—I’ve noticed lately that some of my friends “like” a post about requiring welfare recipients to be drug tested, and then that action appears on my newsfeed. Now I know which of my friends thinks that way, that poor people should be tested, I assume to prove they are deserving of food and shelter at public expense.

Instead of commenting on Facebook, I’ve decided to respond here. That way my opinions won’t automatically appear in front of people—people will have to actively choose to come here and read what I think.

So, here it is, what I think.

I think that drug testing is a form of searching, as in searching someone’s trunk during a traffic violation stop because you suspect they might have suspicious contraband locked up in there, or as in searching someone’s home because a judge has given you a warrant to look for something that might prove their guilt. We have laws governing how we can be searched so that law enforcement can’t just barge in or pull us over or strip us down for no reason.

What is it that poor people have done to suggest they are guilty of some crime, to justify our needing to search them? What is criminal about being in need and asking for public assistance?

I have known some very responsible, dignified and innocent people who have found themselves in need of public assistance. They are hardworking businessmen or women, church personnel, artists, people of all walks who have been downsized or aged out or just plain fired. So when they suddenly ask for public assistance, I do not understand why it is now acceptable for us to ask them to pee in a cup and to prove they don’t take drugs. We didn’t subject them to this indignity when they were financially self-sufficient.

And what of the welfare recipients who are mentally or physically disabled to the extent they can’t support themselves financially? Being born with a disability or being injured to great extent isn’t enough proof they are deserving of help? And then there are those with severe illnesses who couldn’t afford health insurance, and they have lost everything to cover their medical expenses. That’s just criminal, is it not?

If the issue here is that we are so tight with our public funds, then why don’t we campaign to test everyone who is paid from the general pool? Why aren’t my Facebook friends clamoring to test the governor or the kindergarten teachers or the guy who drives the big street sweeper?

If the issue is something else, if it’s that we generally don’t trust each other, and we especially don’t trust anyone who is weaker than the average, then we have a gaping, festering problem at our core, and it has nothing to do with drugs. It has everything to do with selfishness, vanity and greed.

My post here is full of questions because, honestly, this is a puzzle to me. This is especially a puzzle because so many of the people I know who support drug testing the poor are Christians. So here is another question—how does being suspicious of the poor and requiring them to prove their innocence simply because they are poor fit into the Gospel code of behavior?


Anonymous said...

Good morning! I think I might recognize a few of the people and personalities you mentioned here. ;) I'm not sure why, but I am feeling less implosive in the last few days, perhaps in part due to some of the uproar of ignorance subsiding. ("Some" being the key word.) It has helped too, reaching out and knowing that I am not alone in the liberal thinking world.
I may now in turn be able to help shed some light on your question of drug testing. You mentioned "why aren’t my Facebook friends clamoring to test the governor or the kindergarten teachers or the guy who drives the big street sweeper?". I can't speak for those exact professions, but I can tell you that many people I know are in many different jobs that routinely require random drug testing - for reasons I have yet to completely understand. It is not a punishment or a test to prove we are worthy of our paychecks - our work evaluations should cover that. No, we just accept that at any given moment we can be asked to step into the bathroom with the blue water bowl to pee into a cup. I can understand if they are concerned about doing drugs while working, but its not just current blood alcohol or illegal drugs still slightly circulating through you from an offshift party 3 days ago that they are looking for. I've known people who were let go because there was a trace of a prescription medication - ANY prescription medication - that they themselves do not have a prescription for. So don't even think about taking one of those left over pain pills from last year's toothache for your backache now - because even though that WAS prescribed to you, the script has now expired.
OK, thats a long story to say that I may have been guilty at some time of being one of those people who have said that sure, I have to be tested for no reason to get my paycheck so why shouldn't they. I don't think of it as punishment or passing judgement, I think its just fair. And if they aren't doing anything illegal they shouldn't care just as I don't care that I might randomly be tested.
I have heard a harsher side of this argument that the drug testing is meant to assure that the government monies they are receiving are actually going toward food on their tables and clothes on the children's backs instead of subsidizing their drug habits. Perhaps I am being smalltown naive, but I don't see that kind of abuse of the system enough around here to warrant the expense of testing, but maybe its worse elsewhere.
Don't unfriend me!! LOL!

Anonymous said...

PS - me again. In closing, I WOULD be completely in favor of anyone receiving a government check having to be randomly drug tested IF that included the politicians who get THEIR government paycheck and health benefits from us as well!!!