Swift’s ingeniously written (and ironic) essay “A Modest Proposal” has no business being in the same sentence as South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer. However, if you haven’t read Swift’s satirical work recently, it begins with this:
A Modest Proposal for preventing the children of poor people in Ireland, from being a burden on their parents or country, and for making them beneficial to the publick.
Swift then proceeds to suggest, among other things, that dining on the growing poverty-stricken population is a potential solution. I couldn’t help but think of it after hearing Bauer’s comments about the poor in his state, except that he reminded me of the student who is horrified while reading Swift’s essay because he missed the author’s use of irony. But Bauer’s comments are no laughing matter. Here is part of the controversial statement he provided the other day:
“My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals. You know why? Because they breed. You’re facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don’t think too much further than that. And so what you’ve got to do is you’ve got to curtail that type of behavior. They don’t know any better.”
After looking at the rest of his remarks, I see what he was trying to say, but his emphasis on the words, “Because they breed” was a bit chilling. His remarks do seem to suggest that the poor are similar, in some way, to animals and that cutting off their access to food is a possible solution. Even if some believe Bauer’s intentions were good, his positively poor choice of analogy destroyed his message.
I can’t imagine telling a student, “Timmy, you can’t eat lunch because your mom couldn’t come to parent-teacher conferences” or “Sally, you can’t have breakfast since the governor thinks your dad is a dead-beat.”
Hyperbole aside though, kids don’t choose their parents or the situations in which they enter the world, and I have a strong suspicion that Lt. Governor Bauer’s message was lost because of this enormous gaffe. If he really thinks of people in such a manner, I fear for the needy in his state.
I had a friend of mine whose mother refused government assistance, and his cupboards were regularly bare. He recalled being given warm water to drink for dinner instead of cold water because the warm water made him “feel fuller.” It was a teacher who kept granola bars in her desk for him, so he could have breakfast every school day. (This is why I keep them in my desk now as well.)
On a personal note, the greatest irony to me in this entire debacle is not Bauer’s unthinking comments–I know many people who judge others without fully understanding the judged–but the idea that he’s advocating potentially reducing services at a time in modern history when those services may be the most needed. He was already a controversial person in his state, and this may be associated with him for the rest of his political career.