Not Waving but Drowning

I received this email:

Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read “Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.

Once in the restaurant my server had on a “Obama 08″ tie, again I laughed as he had given away his political preference–just imagine the coincidence.

When the bill came I decided not to tip the server and explained to him that I was exploring the Obama redistribution of wealth concept. He stood there in disbelief while I told him that I was going to redistribute his tip to someone who I deemed more in need–the homeless guy outside. The server angrily stormed from my sight.

I went outside, gave the homeless guy $10 and told him to thank the server inside as I ‘ve decided he could use the money more. The homeless guy was grateful.

At the end of my rather unscientific redistribution experiment I realized the homeless guy was grateful for the money he did not earn, but the waiter was pretty angry that I gave away the money he did earn even though the actual recipient needed money more. I guess redistribution of wealth is an easier thing to swallow in concept than in practical application.

At first I assumed it was written by the person who sent it to me, and I was disheartened to think so. Then I wondered whether the “I” in the story was someone else and it had been forwarded.

Finally I suspected that this story was completely constructed and intended to go viral so this morning I did a Google search on the first line of the story, and found 445 matches.

Gotcha! Even though I am trained as a a poet, a writer, a teacher and a critic not to assume that the “I” is the writer, I got caught assuming that the writer of the story was the person who sent it to me.

Yes,  445 matches for the exact wording, most of the postings from the past few days. It can be found on a variety of sites and message boards, some listed below, generating both laudatory comments like  “you’re awesome” and many people who have found this an excuse to just not tip their servers at all to people who are questioning this action and line of reasoning.

Here are some example links:

  1. MSNBC – Politics – Vote Obama, I need the money

    Oct 22, 2008 10/22/08 02:39 AM. Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read. ” Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. boards.msn.com/MSNBCboards/thread.aspx?threadid=822013 – 22 hours ago – Similar pages
  2. OPEN THREAD — BLOG! « GretaWire

    Oct 22, 2008 Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that readVote Obama, I need the money.’ I laughed. gretawire.foxnews.com/2008/10/22/open-thread-blog-112/comment-page-11/ – 11 hours ago – Similar pages
  3. Redistributing The Wealth – Catholic Answers Forums

    Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that readVote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. Once in the restaurant my server had on a forums.catholic.com/showthread.php?p=4322834 – 68k – CachedSimilar pages

  4. JBlog Central – The Jewish Blog Network | Sharing The Wealth….

    Oct 21, 2008 Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign the readVote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed. Once in the restaurant my http://www.israelforum.com/blog_article.php?aid=1757260 – 21 hours ago – Similar pages
  5. Not a Joke. Not Funny. Not Waving but Drowning. « art predator

    Oct 22, 2008 … 10/22/08 02:39 AM. Today on my way to lunch I passed a homeless guy with a sign that read. ” Vote Obama, I need the money.” I laughed.
    artpredator.wordpress.com/2008/10/23/not-funny-not-waving-but-drowning/ – 1 hour ago – Similar pages

During the time it took me to create this post, more turned up, and this one will add to the cacophony in the echo chamber of modern politics. This story has gone viral in more ways than one.  Is this the world we want to live in?

I am reminded of Stevie Smith’s poem, “Not waving but Drowning”

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

For a  picture of the poet Stevie Smith and to hear her read the poem, go here.

And please vote for candidates who recognize that many of us aren’t waving, but drowning.

(Note: A similar post can be found on the art predator google link above or here

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