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This wasn’t my idea. After reading a fellow blogger’s post titled  A letter to Ann Romney… I decided I’d accept her invitation to write my own letter in my own style. I like her letter and I agree with it and I have no problem with her language. This is just my Yes, And:

Dear Sister Romney,

You don’t mind me calling you “sister” do you? I grew up in the church, so that just rolls off my tongue easier than using your first name. You see, it  acknowledges that we occupy a different level in the social hierarchy. Because we’re not the same you and I.

I’m guessing you’re one of those people who says things like, “Everything happens for a reason,” and “It’s all part of God’s plan” because only someone who has never experienced true senseless tragedy would say such things. That kind of thing is for middle and upper class problems. Nobody in their right mind would say that to a 9 year old girl sold into prostitution, pregnant at 13, mother and child both suffering from AIDS.

In the same vein, claiming that living in a basement student apartment and selling stock to make ends meet is in any way comparable to true economic struggling is, well… clueless. You can’t say “we struggled” and “sold stock” in the same sentence when describing your lowest point and expect to be taken seriously.

This is not to begrudge you your good fortune in life, nor is it to say you and your husband didn’t work hard. But success, you see, is greatly enhanced and aided by where one starts. America loves a self-made man story so much that we often forget that any self-made man needs either fertile ground in which to grow,  luck, or a good solid start. The American Dream isn’t about where any of us end up. It’s about everyone having an equal chance from the start.

Actually, let’s back-up a bit and take you at your word. According to you, you and your husband worked hard, didn’t accept a hand out and did it all alone. Let’s imagine, then that everyone else in America gets to start in the same spot as you. Here’s what it would take to give everyone else the same starting point, which should be simple enough to give to everyone since it is “nothing.” These are things that separated you and your husband from the pack:

    • Top-notch Elementary and Secondary Education
    • A completely paid-for Higher Education
    • Surplus funds enabling you to not work while studying; the ability to completely focus on studies
    • Experience living abroad and learning a foreign language
    • A solid familial and social business network to open doors as you search for work
    • Parents who could mentor you and guide your choices
    • Living personal examples of success and hard work
    • Peace of mind that you’d always have food on the table, a warm place to lay your head and the ability to take your sick infant to a doctor.

So, taking you at your word, then, I would assume you would be all for establishing a playing field where every other young college graduate has these “nothings” too. With these basic “nothings,” others could then achieve their own success. These are all things that were HANDED to you and your husband. You didn’t do a single thing to deserve or achieve them, did you?

But the odd things is that you and your husband oppose social programs that would enhance education and provide such a safety net to others. Suddenly the ground zero from which you started with “no hand out” is too generous, too entitlement-lazy-making to provide to someone else. You can’t have it both ways, Sister Romney. Either you started with a handout or you didn’t. If you didn’t, then getting others to that same point can’t be called a handout.

See, you make the same mistake that I see a lot of high profile public figures make. You can’t understand the difference between NONE, SOME, and ALL. As you’ve described it, you can sympathize with people who only have SOME money and you obviously know what it’s like to have ALL the money you’ll ever need. But you are still oblivious to the experience of having NO money. Yet, the difference between SOME and NONE is the greater gap. That’s the part of this that you have no clue about.

Can you distinguish between NO assistance, SOME assistance and an ALL-out complete silver plated lottery win? You fail to understand that the vast gulf between NO assistance and SOME assistance is far greater than the difference between SOME assistance and an ALL inclusive handout.

I think a good case could be made that you got the latter, but let’s play your game and take you at your word that you didn’t. I think you can at least admit that you didn’t do it with NO assistance as I’ve pointed out above, right?

I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a talented, sought after famous actor or musician claim that they achieved their own success without the help of their equally famous relative. True, without the added element of talent and hard work even they wouldn’t be able to get jobs, but it’s completely naive and ungrateful for people like these who have eaten from the tree of nepotism not to acknowledge that they got SOME things that 99% equally talented and equally hard working but unknown actors didn’t.

They got a start and they were then able to push SOME help into having it ALL. Whether it was an appointment with an agent, or exposure to directors, producers and other decision-makers. They were paid attention to because of a last name or a connection in a way that most actors will never experience. In your husband’s case, he may not have been given it ALL, but he was certainly handed SOME even if it was only stock-paid pasta and tuna. I’m sure there were others in his same shoes who didn’t have his same talent and drive and so those people never achieved the same success. Being given SOME does not guarantee you’ll achieve it ALL. It only makes it possible.

So, I can perhaps sympathize with your defense that you were not given it ALL, but I think it’s also clear that you haven’t got the faintest idea what a person who has NONE endures. That person fears death and sickness. That person has lost all resources from which to establish self esteem, confidence and the very drive it takes to move from SOME to ALL. That person or a family with NONE has no hope. It’s naive and ungrateful for those of us with SOME or ALL to assume that there’s some sort of magic well that any hard-working American with drive can gain access to.

I’m especially sensitive to this right now because I’m currently unemployed and gratefully benefiting from our country’s socialist unemployment program. I’m essentially taking what you might call a handout (even though I’m sure I’ve paid much more over the years than I’ll end up receiving). Without this SOMEthing I’d have no other safety net. I do not have a parent to call to help me pay my rent. I have no stock to sell. I’d be homeless and unable to father my children in any remote way. I’m especially sensitive to how close I am to NOTHING.

I have hope.

I feel no desire for ALL that you have but I think society is better off with me able to provide just SOME for myself and for my children right now.

To help you get a better feel for the gravity of what I’m pointing out, I’d suggest you sit yourself down and reread that Book of Mormon, the cornerstone of your faith one more time. Pay special attention to the passages regarding the poor and how different Book of Mormon societies are praised or chastised for the way the governments (yes, government) collectively do or don’t take care of the poor. Here’s a little help for you…

Helaman 6:39

39 And thus they did obtain the sole management of the government, insomuch that they did trample under their feet and smite and rend and turn their backs upon the poor and the meek, and the humble followers of God.

2 Nephi 9:30

30 But wo unto the rich, who are rich as to the things of the world. For because they are rich they despise the poor, and they persecute the meek, and their hearts are upon their treasures; wherefore, their treasure is their god. And behold, their treasure shall perish with them also.

Mosiah 4:26

26 And now, for the sake of these things which I have spoken unto you—that is, for the sake of retaining a remission of your sins from day to day, that ye may walk guiltless before God—I would that ye should impart of your substance to the poor, every man according to that which he hath, such as feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, visiting the sick and administering to their relief, both spiritually and temporally, according to their wants.

2 Nephi 28:13

13 They rob the poor because of their fine sanctuaries; they rob thepoor because of their fine clothing; and they persecute the meek and the poor in heart, because in their pride they are puffed up.

Alma 5:55

55 Yea, and will you persist in turning your backs upon the poor, and the needy, and in withholding your substance from them?

Alma 35:9

9 And he breathed out many threatenings against them. And now the people of Ammon did not fear their words; therefore they did not cast them out, but they did receive all the poor of the Zoramites that came over unto them; and they did nourish them, and did clothe them, and did give unto them lands for their inheritance; and they did administer unto them according to their wants.

The last segment of this new episode of ABC What Would You Do? shows how many people will treat the poor. Look for this white haired old man at the end. Sister Romney, this is what it looks like when someone who has known hardship encounters a fellow human being down on their luck. People who have always had SOME judge. People who have known NONE don’t.