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FALL RIVER, Mass.--In terms of exciting the big, dumb beast of extreme belief, it was a nearly perfect newspaper story.
It ran in the paper for which I work as a reporter, and briefly, it announced a program designed to provide computer access for low-income families. The local cable company, upon proof of poverty, will give families a $149.99 voucher for an inexpensive computer and Internet access for $9.95 a month, with no increases and no activation fee.
This being 2012 America, where many people are offended by the idea that poor people get to eat regularly, the article caused a veritable teacup worth of tempest.
The "comments" section under the story was festooned gaily with the words "freeloaders," "baby mamas," "welfare bums," and, of course, the names "Obama" and "Romney."
More than any one phrase or word, however, the comments section was decorated with certainty, absolute, pure knowledge that the speaker is right and everyone else is wrong and bent on "destroying America."
Gives me the creeps, that kind of certainty, particularly when it is directed at people who are sometimes too poor to afford as much food as they need. Oh, I know, the certain will bellow at me that the poor are literally buried in food, what with all the socialist "gimme" programs that literally thrust lobster down the throats of the broke.
And lemme guess, you've got a story to tell about this one time when you were in the grocery store and the person in front of you was buying steak and lobster (it's always steak and lobster) with an EBT card. Having seen that, how could you help but be certain?
Me, I'm not so certain. A decade's long course of living among, writing about, hanging out with, and sometimes dating the very poor has convinced me that, shocking as it sounds, poverty is no picnic. I believe that being poor is a very hard job, which is why so many people don't do it very well.