Who’ll fill the void?

Published 11:08 am Saturday, November 19, 2011

The selfish human nature makes a certain amount of class warfare inevitable, I suppose, but the conflict seems to be intensifying in this country.

Fault rests on both ends of the economic spectrum.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has made demonization of the rich man fashionable, painting the upper class with a broad brush that ignores the great American tradition of upward mobility through hard work and ingenuity.

Resentment of the poor is an equally disturbing trend.

Almost every time our newspaper publishes a story about an effort to help people who are less fortunate, website posters ridicule the recipients as welfare queens who mooch off the system instead of working to make an honest living.

When S.P. Morton Elementary School announced recently that it would use federal funds for after-school tutoring of students from low-income families, some readers, incredibly, wanted to know why the program wasn’t available to richer families too.

To be clear, there are con artists at both the top and bottom of the economic totem pole, but we err as a society by allowing that minority to shape the way we view people of classes different from our own.

Rising above the fray and bridging the class gaps in this community is a terrific organization, the Franklin-Southampton Area United Way, which has begun its annual fundraising campaign.

The symbolic thermometer above to this column shows how far the United Way has to go to reach its campaign goal of $175,000 by Dec. 31.

The loss of a longstanding annual corporate contribution from International Paper Co. and a generous annual workplace campaign by mill employees has left a big void in the United Way’s capacity to fund area non-profit organizations.

With proceeds from last year’s campaign, the United Way gave $186,500 to 27 community organizations that help people from all walks of life. At the current pace of this year’s campaign, the United Way will have about $50,000 less to distribute at a time when the community’s needs are greater than ever.

The gap will be filled not by large corporate contributions (though those certainly are welcome) but by generous individuals giving as they can, ignoring the din of the class conflict around them and enriching our collective quality of life as citizens of Franklin and Southampton County.