Thursday, April 18, 2013

Romeo, Romeo: Wherefore Art Thy Humanity?

This week, we learned that Rep. Romeo Danais used the House internal email system to broadcast a lesson in what he claimed was irony, to his fellow House members.

On Apr 15, 2013, at 11:31 AM, Romeo Danais <> wrote:
Who is the dependent?               

Here is a short lesson in irony:   
The Food Stamp Program (aka SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), administered by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture, is proud to be distributing the greatest amount of food stamps over to 47 million people this year.   
Meanwhile, the National Park Service, administered by the U.S. Department of Interior, asks us "Please do not feed the animals." 

Their stated reason for the policy is "The animals will grow dependent on handouts and will not learn to take care of themselves."               

This ends today's lesson in irony. 

This lead to an exchange by a number of representatives about the intent of the email and the meaning of irony. 
Representative Danais,

This is offensive on many levels, but perhaps most concerning is that we already all received this "lesson" from a NH resident via an All Rep's email earlier in the day. Not only did you not see a problem with it coming from her, but you felt the need to copy and paste it into a new email as if you were the original and proud sender of the sentiment included. I can't see any reason why an elected official would see the need to send on something like this to our whole body that was so obviously intended to be inflammatory. It is hard to imagine "working across the aisle" when this lack of respect for people who have been hit hardest by the difficult economy is exhibited from among our own ranks. 
Betsy Burtis

NH State Representative
Rockingham District 6
Now we know that Rep. Danais found this missive that had already been sent out to all reps so very droll that he felt compelled to send it out again, on the same day.

Rep. Jordan Ulery wades into the fray:

On Apr 15, 2013, at 11:45 PM, <> wrote:
Rep Burtis;
The so-called "lesson" has absolutely nothing to do with the circumstance in which one finds them self. For me, it takes very little to see the irony in the original post AND the apparent lack of ability to comprehend that irony in subsequent comments.
The lesson is about "government" understanding that giving a living creates dependency in the fauna but failing to understand the exact same behavior is believed to not have the exact same effect on you or me, also fauna.

 Representative Burtis retorts:

From: Burtis, Betsy
Sent: Tuesday, April 16, 2013 12:09 AM
To: Ulery, Jordan
Cc: Burtis, Elizabeth; Danais, Romeo; ~All Representatives
Subject: Re: a short lesson in irony
I think the irony is actually that 1) you think we have missed the intended irony and that 2) the dripping sarcasm of the responses was somehow misconstrued as a failure to "get" the intended point. 

We see the point that was intended, we think it is wrong at its core and subsequently offensive and not ironic in the least. "This ends today's lesson in irony."


On 4/16/13 8:48 AM, Emerson-Brown, Rebecca wrote:
Let's just call it for what it is; Poor people (or gay or women or non-white) are less human in their eyes.

Much like the national GOP and their message, you can't rebrand your way out of hate. No matter how nicely you deliver the message, the content is still appalling.

Rep. Rebecca Emerson-Brown
N. H. House of Representatives
Rockingham 27

And that led to this unique outpouring:

You all should be ashamed of yourselves.  First, whoever started this thread should have known better.  Did you really think that it would lead to a productive conversation?  The worst though part of all of this though, is the offensive, narrow-minded, racist post by Rep. Emerson-Brown below.  Are you a mind reader?  Can you really hear a policy argument and gaze into our souls, discerning what our motivation is for anything?  If you are some kind of super-being, I apologize.  If instead, you are human, how dare you accuse anyone of hate?  Your group assumption is exactly what racism is.  You assign characteristics to an entire group of people based on a  false stereotype.  Pot, meet Kettle.  Will all of you please start acting like you deserve the honorarium "Honorable"?

In case I'm not being clear, Rep. Emerson-Brown, let me give you an example from another topic that people like you routinely use disgusting racial tactics in regards to.

(I hope you're bristling a bit about me lumping you in with some group and assigning motives to your arguments... if you are, you just might understand this)

I take a pretty hard line against illegal immigrants.  I don't think that they should be given anything.  While discussing this position, on more than one occasion, I've been called a racist.  Resorting to the hate/race argument really calls out the ignorance of the person doing it.  My grandfather, Raphael Diaz, was born in Cuba.  He began working the sugar fields when he was 8 years old to help support the family.  When he was in his 20's, our family was fortunate to come here, to be Americans.  He worked hard, took classes, learned English, and after 6 years became a citizen.  He was ineligible for military service during WWII, so he served painting ships in the Brooklyn Navy Yard.  The greatest man I ever knew died at 59 years old as a result of a lung disease from the lead paint.  After his hard work and sacrifice, and always trying to do things the right way, I can not stand giving away what he fought so hard for.  For me, it cheapens it.  I accept that many disagree with me.  I've stated my reasons though, and people should accept that.  My grandfather married a German woman, so I don't look Hispanic.  Nonetheless, ignorant rabble rousers call me racist when I object to a soft line on illegal immigrants.  I submit that they are so consumed by their own hate and bigotry that they are unable to understand the rational arguments for and against.  I submit that they are incapable of seeing me as an individual.  Their bigotry causes them to see me only as a part of some fictitious predefined group.  Sound familiar?

Embarrassed to serve with some with you,

Rep. Steven Smith

And finally: 

Twas a poor lesson in irony since the stated "example" is actually not ironic at all. 
I typically don't get involved in these emails and instead spend hours deleting these SPAM emails while searching for valuable communication from our constituents but I found this email particularly offensive. 

This "lesson" seems to be more of a comparison (a metaphor to be exact since there is no use of the words "like" or "as").  Sadly, it compares humans on welfare to wild animals.  

Irony will be when this email trail, which was intended to get a laugh out of fellow republicans at the expense of those fallen on hard times, makes its way to local newspapers and media outlets and helps increase our democratic majority in 2014...that is truly an example of irony.

Jeremy S. Dobson
NH State Representative
Hillsborough District 43
Manchester Wards 4, 5, 6, 7

Now there's a man who understands irony.

The bottom line is that this is a mean-spirited meme that's been circulated around by conservatives for the last year.  In a criticism of  the new budget, Rep. Neal Kurk was eager to point to the fact that some 40,000 NH residents are out of work. The number of underemployed residents would make that figure explode. I'm genuinely curious - how is it that conservatives can express concern for the unemployed on one day, and be blaming them for it the next?

Applying for food stamps is not fun. There are many, many hoops to jump through. At best it's unpleasant. At worst it's demeaning. One in four children in Coos County benefits from the food stamp program. Is Rep. Danais calling these children of our state animals? Is he calling their parents animals? The unemployment rate in Coos is the highest in the state - and the odds of selling your house to move away are slim to none.  Are people supposed to just quietly starve to death, to please people like Rep. Danais, Rep. Ulery, and Rep. Smith?

The lack of humanity on display here is depressing.

The real irony is that the minority party has worked damned hard to ensure that NH's economy will continue to struggle. We invest almost nothing in education and infrastructure, thereby guaranteeing that more and more NH residents will fall into poverty. When it comes to letting their children starve, they're unlikely to go quietly.

These representatives are the perpetuators of a system they claim to despise. And they're as bereft of real solutions as they are bereft of humanity and decency.

h/t anonymous

No comments: