Grassroots Commentary

If the Government Feeds You

Charles W. Sasser · Feb. 19, 2013

As a reasonably-accomplished freelance writer of more than 50 published books, I was asked during a radio interview how it was possible for someone of my humble background to become successful in the literary world. I grew up the little ragged son of an Ozark Mountain sharecropper who could not even read, living in old barns, shacks, and dirt-floored former chicken houses, so poor poverty was a step up. I dreamed in those cotton fields of becoming a writer like Hemingway or Steinbeck.

I explained to the interviewer that I couldn’t have done it in today’s “compassionate” society, a society in which success is punished as “unfair” and dependency rewarded. Some government social worker would have been at my doorstep commiserating in my poverty and explaining how, since I was “disadvantaged,” I couldn’t possibly realize such a grandiose dream on my own. He would have stolen my dream by making me dependent on government “help” and therefore willing to settle for much less.

Poor that we were, my parents were proud and refused to accept handouts from government or anyone else. It would have been embarrassing, humiliating, conditions unknown to today’s “entitlement” generations. However, one year when we were especially hard up, my dad relented to accepting what he called “gimpy groceries,” government-surplus commodities. He was too proud to go down to the county barn and sign up himself. Instead, he sent me with a gunny sack to pick up cheese, beans, and whatever. I was 12-years-old and about to learn the most important lesson of my entire lifetime, unintentionally though it may have been.

I was a scrapper, a fighter. Most hillbilly kids were. While I was standing in line waiting, I must have committed some minor infraction of the rules. One of the employees rushed over and shoved me. I was ready to fight.

“Boy,” he snapped, “if the government feeds you, it’ll do what it damned well pleases.”

Charles W. Sasser has been a full-time freelance writer/journalist/photographer since 1979. He is a veteran of both the U.S. Navy (journalist) and U.S. Army (Special Forces, the Green Berets), and is retired from the military after 29 years active and reserve service. A former combat correspondent wounded in action, he also served fourteen years as a police officer (in Miami, Florida, and in Tulsa, Oklahoma, where he was a homicide detective).