Saturday, June 19, 2010
I missed an opportunity to give some of my money to a boy this past week. He had curly hair and halfway-hurt puppy-dog eyes. A bit wispy for my tastes, but still, a couple of twenties might have made his eyes shine prettily on me for a few seconds. Instead, I got a look that was somewhere between dejected and offended when I said I would not be contributing any money to help in the Gulf of Mexico's cleanup.
It might have been the Natural Resources Defense Council he was seeking members for. I can't remember. I have no doubt that it was a good cause, responsible and legitimate. Mostly I didn't contribute or join because I didn't have money on me. But for a while now, I have stopped contributing to charities.
The last time I gave--and gave sacrificially--was to help New Orleans, a city I love dearly. I donated a chunk of my Visa card to the Red Cross--and to another organization that expressly intended to help New Orleanians who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered (partly because my understanding was that the Red Cross has had a bumpy past with the LGBT communities--an understanding that has been challenged since then by a gay friend who works--or worked--at the Red Cross).
At first I thought the boy was asking for signatures, as he rattled off his prepared spiel. Now a signature I would have given him--even a phone number. But money is a different matter. The phrase "blood from a turnip" springs to mind, but then so does "a cold day in hell."
I love the Gulf of Mexico. The most beautiful beach I have ever seen is the white sands of Pensacola Beach, in 1987. And, as I said, I do not doubt that the organization the boy represented was (is) legitimate.
It's not that I'm a defender of BP or a drill-baby-drill conservative (so ironic, isn't it, that the only things conservatives tend not to want to conserve is the planet they live on and the government of the nation for which the flag they would never burn stands, the same government established in the Constitution they interpret so strictly constructionistically sometimes).
I don't doubt that, had I just been paid, the boy's dark eyes would have melted me, and I would have given him everything I had just to belong to whatever it is he belongs to.
But I don't give to the Human Rights Campaign anymore, or to MoveOn.org, or to the Democratic Party, or to NPR. I've given to all of them in the past and still they harangue me for more. Who can blame them? They need the money. They can do all kinds of good things with it that I can't do. And prior donations of $20 or so have convinced them that there's more where that came from.
I will still sign things. Just ask me. I refuse fewer than a third of the requests I get for a signature.
I am especially reluctant to support financially organizations that lobby Congress. I'm tired of lobbying. It's no longer enough just to write letters to one's representatives. It's no longer enough just to vote. Now it's imperative to send money to organizations that know where and when to pass over a small bundle of unmarked bills to get a favorable vote ... to save the environment, to counteract the religious right, to counteract the greedy corporations, to find somebody who will say a few kind and tolerant words about apostates and homosexuals like me.
I can't see the point of paying elected officials something extra to do the right thing. I realize the real politics roll on money. But the thing is I don't have a whole lot of money. Not only do the bad guys (BP, the Mormon Church, Wall Street) have more of it than I do ... so do the elected officials whose palm is out for some greasing.
So I will keep my money ... unless, that is, I have some in my pocket when somebody pretty with curly hair and sad eyes asks me for it ... and then I may ask if, at the very least, I may stuff the bills into the waistband of his Ginch Gonch.
Posted by Joe at 4:09 PM