March 28, 2008


Sis B left a comment in the last post. Excerpt:

As far as entitlement... I'm always at a loss here. I have been in situations when I desperately needed a hand up. I have friends who have needed that as well. All of us have used what little we could get by with and managed to get back up on our feet. That's the way "the system" should work.

However, I also know people who have lived in public housing for SIXTY years. Without ever trying to leave. People like that ruin things for everyone else who just need a boost.

I totally agree with this. This is what Bill Whittle meant when he said, "we no longer have a safety net; we have created a safety hammock." I agree that there are times when people need help, and there should be someone they can turn to in a pinch. But I fear there just aren't that many "The Pursuit of Happyness" people out there. I think once you get used to getting something for free, it's hard to let it go. Or once you get used to the government taking care of things, why do it yourself?

I have had a battle raging in my head like this for months now, over something so trivial but completely representative of my beliefs. And it's become a value struggle for me. It's over prenatal vitamins. In the military, we get all prescriptions for free, including prenatal vitamins. But only after you get pregnant, not just while you're trying. I've been buying bottle after bottle of these vitamins for over a year now, and every time I buy them, I get a little mad that I have to shell out the eight bucks myself when I think the Army should just let me have them. For the past six years, I haven't asked for hardly anything from Tricare, so I feel entitled to those damned vitamins, especially since they'd give them to me for free if my body would just cooperate and get pregnant. And when I did get pregnant, I got a bottle for free. When I miscarried, I wanted to go in before the pharmacy found out I'd lost the baby and grab more of the danged vitamins.

It's so stupid and trivial that it seems laughable to write about it. But I think about it all the time: why do I feel entitled to those silly vitamins? Why does it make me mad to pay for them? Simple: because in different circumstances, I would get them for free. It makes me feel like I should get them for free all the time.

How I hate to admit that I have had such a thought.

It's really playing mindgames on me. I don't like the realization that I think the government owes me prenatal vitamins. I don't like the fact that I want to get them for free. I am considering punishing myself for my bad behavior by forcing myself to buy them if I get pregnant instead of taking any of them for free; that's how ashamed I am at my entitlement mentality. And I think I have a pretty hefty libertarian streak in me; I can only imagine what other people think the government owes them.

OK, so let's expand out to something less trivial than vitamins. My husband went in the field this past week. He needed certain gear from CIF, but they didn't have everything he needed. So he was in a bind: he had to have it for the field, but he couldn't get it from the Army at that moment. So he had to buy his own gear, stuff he could've gotten for free if the supply sergeant hadn't been on leave when my husband inprocessed. Stuff like a pistol holster, magazine pouches, etc. It was infuriating to spend all that money on stuff he's entitled to. But it made me think about Kim du Toit's Walter-Adam Fund. His readers raised money to buy things that the Army was theoretically supposed to provide for soldiers, like scopes or rangefinders. But the du Toits insisted that soldiers who fought in our Revolutionary War fought with the guns they owned and shirts on their backs. That our nation was founded on people providing for themselves instead of waiting for the government to hand them what they need. And, the du Toits continued, that if some were willing to go fight, we should be willing to back them financially, and not just through our taxes. That we have a duty to go above and beyond what the government does for our troops.

Kim du Toit rephrased this very old and lost-in-cyberspace post when he wrote about renewing the Walter-Adam Fund.

I know, I know: the Army should be getting them this stuff, not private individuals. That’s the ideal. But anyone who’s ever been exposed to the .mil knows that this doesn’t always happen—and in fact it can’t always happen. That’s where we step in. It’s not the government’s Army—it’s our Army. The Army is supposed to feed and support these kids at all times, and they do a pretty good job of it. Yet, if they were fighting on our soil, and during a lull in the fighting a soldier came to your door and asked for some food and drink, would you turn him away with the words: “The Army is supposed to give you food and drink”? Of course you wouldn’t. You’d empty out your pantry, or take food off your own plate if you had to.

In keeping with the NoR’s motto of “One Citizen At A Time”, therefore, these funds are run on pretty much the “One Soldier At A Time” philosophy too. I can’t get a regiment new tanks or Bradleys, but I can help improve the lives of a few soldiers, actual breathing individuals to whom I can write and speak, and then share that with all of you.

And if we can get them gear rather than just care packages, stuff which will help them kill enemy bastards, then so much the better. We are the Nation of Riflemen, after all, not the Red Cross.

This has stuck with me for the years, years, since I donated to the original Walter-Adam Fund. The du Toits believe so much in having the government stay out of our affairs that they're willing to put their money where their mouth is and spend their own money -- after they've already provided for our nation's defense via taxes -- to provide gear for the soldiers at war. I am humbled to write on the same internet as such people.

And it's a swift kick in the rear when I think that I've gotten hung up on vitamins.

The thing is, I don't like the feeling that I am entitled to anything, be it vitamins or a pistol holster. In the end, I am responsible for the baby I may have, and my husband is responsible for his own safety. If we waited for the government to do these things for us, they might not get done, even if it's the government's job to do it. They're supposed to give my husband the gear he needs. Well, what if they can't? Ultimately, we need to step up to the plate and assume the cost.

I'm rambling worse than Sis B thought she was. In the end, what I am trying to say is this: If something needs to get done, I need to do it. If my baby didn't get enough folic acid and then had problems, how could I possibly have the nerve to blame the government for not letting me have free vitamins. If my husband doesn't have enough rounds to be safe because he doesn't have magazine pouches on his body armor, we can't blame the supply sergeant for that. It's our lives and we're in control.

So what happens when we move to a society where everyone is getting more and more things for free? What happens when every woman gets free prenatal vitamins? I am certain that most of them won't have the same moral dilemma I have with receiving them. And what happens when the government says that everyone is entitled to affordable college or health care or social security? And then they run out of social security like they ran out of pistol holsters? Few people are gonna suck it up and go out and buy their own like we did. There's only so much social security money to go around, and what happens when people start screaming to get theirs?

Entitlement isn't just about welfare or government housing. It's about expecting the government to do anything for you, including things they're supposed to do (like pistol holsters). The only person you should count on is yourself. Buy your own vitamins, get your own magazine pouches, and plan for your own college or retirement.

If more people lived as if there were no safety net, we sure wouldn't have this safety hammock.

Posted by Sarah at March 28, 2008 01:08 PM | TrackBack

I just deleted another long disseratation about what happens when you get things for free.

Now I feel like I have to call someone and argue about this. :)

Posted by: airforcewife at March 28, 2008 01:45 PM

Rambling or not, this is a great post. I've never forced myself to put it into words like you (and du Toit) did, but this is exactly why I am so serious about "troop support" non-profits.

If something needs to get done, I need to do it.

Exactly. The military/government isn't taking as good care of our troops as they ideally should (could?). Things are better in many ways than they were back in 2002/2003, but there are still problems--gaps, foul-ups, inefficiencies, delays, etc. So, we step up to fill in. And one of the great things about this kind of "stepping up" is that, for us civilians, the military then becomes more and more ours, reinforcing a bond that is vital for a healthy society.

Posted by: FbL at March 28, 2008 07:32 PM

I know this is completely beside the point, but he will almost certainly be happier with a holster that he buys himself as opposed to the issue item.

And if it's any consolation, I was a machine gunner and had to carry the silly thing around with me on the base because not only could they not provide me with a pistol holster--they couldn't provide me with the pistol (!). Too many FOBbits traded in their M-16s for pistols for convenience, so I had no backup weapon.

On the plus side, people give you more space when you carry a SAW into the PX.


Posted by: Sig at March 29, 2008 01:58 AM

I felt supremely guilty about all of the fertility efforts made on our behalf for free. Beyond the vitamins. Things people without healthcare or with pretty much any other healthcare can't even afford to consider. For free. And further down the line, for small small fractions of the cost to those outside the tricare world. It is a great thing. I preferred buying the prenatal vitamins at the local corner drugstore. Between the lines at the walter reed pharmacy and dc traffic, getting my free vitamins raised my blood pressure too much I would have needed more free medication to regulate it.

But I have to admit the cost of college bothers me greatly. I can't stand that the price of textbooks goes higher and higher every semester. It is absurd to me that we have to limit how many classes we take by how many books we can afford to buy. I don't want things for free. I just wish there was a measure of sensibility and fairness in some things.

Posted by: wifeunit at March 31, 2008 02:56 AM