I gathered my order from the counter at Hardee’s and took a table where I began to read The Man Who Was Thursday. When I sat down, I noticed a pale woman sitting with an unopened bag of food. She looked sallow and unhealthy.
As I read, she began to cough. Each cough was deep and seemed to rattle in her chest. This was no simple cold. I thought about picking up my food and moving, but I felt it would be insulting to her to do so. I continued to read and listened to that attention-getting cough of hers.
Finally, I discovered I could not give the book the attention I wanted to because I had become focused on the woman behind me. For the moment, at least, she had become more present to me than G.K. Chesterton. I got up and walked my tray over to the trash receptacle. Looking her way, I saw that she was hunched over and working her way through a substantial stack of lottery cards. With great concentration and methodical effort, she scratched away the silver coating on the numbers. Occasionally, she punctuated her practice with long, ragged ugly coughing noises.
Those lottery tickets she must have spent at least $20 dollars on (more than for the flip flops on her feet) came from the state of Tennessee. I thought about how she is addicted to gambling thanks to the active assistance of her government. I also thought about how addicted the rest of us have become to the revenue.
If you want to understand social conservatives, thinking about the woman in Hardee’s scratching away at lottery tickets is a good way to start. We want to encourage the things in life that help a person grow strong: faith, work, education, character, duty, and family. We want to work against the things that seem to shrivel up a soul such as perpetual dependence, reliance on games of chance rather than personal industry, an inability to connect consequences to choices, and the loss of the kind of strong family ties that prepare a person for life in a hard world.
At a minimum, we don’t want to support a government which invites the poor to sacrifice what little they have for a mirage. We have lost that argument everywhere. And more’s the pity.