Ideology Versus Decency

Eric Cantor and the Joplin Tornadoes

I don’t live in Representative Eric Cantor’s district in Virginia but I do live within a short morning drive to the ravaged Joplin, Missouri area. I’m in a location that very well could have met the same fate; storms raked our area the night prior, but through sheer chance, did not reduce us to rubble. We had glimpses of the raw power as a myriad of funnels pulled out of clouds — menacing, but ultimately retreating in most cases. It wasn’t a miracle; it wasn’t anything but random chance. And I’m awed enough by the power to feel a kinship with the stricken areas. We are people like them, but we still have homes and the ability to help.

The storms may be abating, but the Joplin area isn’t done being ravaged. The first assault was from an unthinking storm, but this time it’s a plotting Representative using tragic circumstance as an opportunity to advance an agenda. A more opportunistic creature is hard to envision. Raw nature can be understood, it has no malice, but this is beyond comprehension.

I’m talking about Eric Cantor of Virginia. A man who has made the bold assertion that spending cuts must accompany any aid that will go to the largely working class burg on the cusp of the Missouri Ozarks. Bold, that is, if you think that extortion is a noble trait. In the unthinking world of right-wing politics this may sound like a reasonable request, that of making ends meet. But in a world of balance books that rely on a faith based economy threatening pain in this manner is not based on fiscal responsibility, but on cruel agenda.

Perched atop the great Ozarks, Joplin, Missouri is not known as an affluent area. Even in the relatively low income Missouri, it trails behind. Estimated 2009 median household income came in at $36,873, lagging behind the overall Missouri amount of $45,229. It is full of struggling individuals and families trying to exist in the wake of $4.00 gas and ever rising grocery bills. They are on a treadmill not unlike the ones being worn down all over in working class towns around the nation. It is not a sophisticated place, and like so many places, the folks barely have time to catch their breath; the treadmill is wafting smoke.

If not known for wealth, the Ozarks are known for holding insular and suspicious members of this great American union. They are accustomed to being on the periphery of decision making and they plod forward with the activities of daily living as best they can. In a perfect world the homes would all be reinforced concrete, built at least partially in the ground, but sustainability and safety aren’t good for the bottom line. Common stick construction is good enough for the masses, and making the only low income option in the area that of the wildly unsafe trailer…, well that’s just good for social stratification. Not only do you need to punish the working poor with uncomfortable dwellings shaped like coffins, you need to place a proper social stigma on it. That’s just good Calvinist practice.

The distrust of strangers is certainly founded on reason. I present one Eric Cantor as stranger du jour. A man willing to hijack a tragedy to further his dreams of continued privatization and dismantlement of social safety nets.

Joplin is the sort of place that has military recruiters prowling high schools. These are the epicenters that bleed for the Empire. One hopes that the citizens will wise up, but the lack of opportunity breeds this, and towns in the 50,000 range provide ample cannon fodder. They give their youth willingly, and they get hit by tornadoes. And then they are used as pawns in an ideological battle.

I should update you on Eric Cantor’s fiscal responsibility. And really I don’t mean to pick on him. He is fairly pedestrian in his pork inclinations, but since he waded into the body and rubble strewn Midwest, which is not his home, I feel inclined to point all of this out.

By his own report, Eric Cantor is against wasteful spending. One recent example is that of 8 billion for high speed rail. Well, he’s against it until he isn’t. If it gets earmarked for Virginia — well, not so porky, according to Eric, more of a fresh veggie taste to it. This turn-around was even enough for Mr. Cantor to win the coveted Buzzflash Hypocrite of the Week award last year. That statuette is only mildly less desirable on the ebay market than the Razzie. Kudos, Eric. How inspiring that you’ve moved on to strong-arming areas with large numbers of crushing and blunt trauma injuries.

These areas of the country are largely ailing and unable to fund their own recoveries due to the worst of the neo-liberal stewardship from both the Republicans and Democrats. They have turned these areas into working class disasters, with little opportunity.

But one thing the Ozarks are rich in is wildly colorful language and this saying seems fitting:

He could talk your arm off, then curse you for being crippled.

Eric is pleased to point out wasteful spending if he can’t get his hands on it. The worst type of toddler behavior that we are so accustomed to in our sociopathopolitical class.

Attempting to deny humanitarian funds as a method to advance your low man agenda of small government (in terms of anything that might help 99% of the citizens) and big government for the 1% (those who benefit from pork, corruption and outsourced death)… well-that is shockingly vile and the bar is very low.

It’s not difficult to figure out why strangers aren’t trusted in the Ozarks.

Kathleen Wallace Peine welcomes reader response. She can be reached at: Read other articles by Kathleen.