Pity Neal Boortz. A handful of super-rich white men have recently demonstrated their sense of social responsibility with generous charitable donations, and he needs to find the dark underbelly hidden in the mainstream media’s coverage of their largess.
Boortz whines that the media portrays this sort of generosity as “giving back” rather than simply “giving,” with the implication being that these men did not work for their money, but instead won some imagined lottery. Of course, it’s a ridiculous parsing of words, but that only leads one back to pitying Boortz who, trapped in his conservative world view, simply must reinforce the tired Horatio Alger parable that informs his ideology. Boortz sees it this way:
Something in the illogical and irrational way that liberals perceive our world has rendered poisonous the very idea that anyone who has achieved great wealth actually did so through hard work. This “giving back” nonsense completely negates the reality that the people doing all of the donating actually earned that which they are giving through hard work, good choices, responsible decision-making and perseverance.
Boortz does a neat job of summing up the essence that informs conservative policy-making when it comes to social issues – that is, if you are financially successful it’s because you are smart, have a good work ethic and you are not deterred by barriers or setbacks. In fact, the more impediments one has to overcome, the better. They make you morally stronger. Feel free to pat yourself on the back and take full credit for your success. You are a special person, deserving of your wealth and not at all like the losers and leakers for whom social safety nets are designed.
I suspect that what really burns Boortz’s butt is not the media’s portrayal of individual giving as “giving back,” but rather the act itself as recently demonstrated by men like Warren Buffett and Brad Pitt. Because, what is this level of generosity if not a stark slap in the face to conservatives like Boortz?
“Hard work, good choices, responsible decision-making and perseverance,” are qualities and ingredients for success that no one would, or should argue against. Unfortunately, they are often not enough to compensate for the color of one’s skin, one’s gender, one’s health or one’s position, by virtue of birth alone, in our supposedly class-less society. Men like Buffett and Pitt know this, and their gifts are reminders of how capricious, how tentative great wealth and success often is. Being in the right place, at the right time, having a pretty face, a daddy with a few connections, an inspiring teacher, obtaining that Green Card before the wall goes up – any of these could be the make or break difference between abject poverty and a simply middle-class existence.
Perhaps the best example today are those young men and women who, lured by the promise of an education, health insurance and the opportunity to lift themselves up to a higher societal rung, made what they believed was a “good choice” and joined the military or the National Guard. Their reward has been to test their luck in Iraq. More than 2,500 of them have lost that lottery already.
For some reason, I doubt that Boortz, himself a Vietnam War avoider, will be advising his own daughter to choose that particular route to success.