This video hit Drudge Report this morning, showing a young rapper named Mr. EBT talking about "swipin' his EBT," (welfare card) and what he can and can't buy with it. Drudge linked the video as "Song Celbrates Welfare Card!"
The onslaught of conservative commenters from Drudge's link generally relayed criticism of the welfare state and for the video itself, which they certainly found to be celebrating welfare culture. Leftist commenters on the video, however, find it to be critical of welfare culture rather than a celebration of it. And like clockwork, they elicit the progressive's modus operandi by suggesting that anyone who criticizes the video is obviously an ignorant, right-wing racist. It's a simple matter of one thing invariably meaning another in the thought process of those with a leftist tilt. These progressives assume that conservatives are uneducated and uncultured, so they can't critically process the tongue-in-cheekery of the song and video. They assume that because conservatives don't like an expansive welfare state, they must be racists. And they assume that since these conservatives are readers of Drudge, they must therefore all be hatemongers like those nuts in the Tea Party.
But since some among the left have decided they know everything about me because I read the Drudge Report and I am against a welfare state, I feel the need for a disclaimer- I like rap music. I grew up with it. I listened to it avidly in high school in the mid-late 1990's when rap hit its stride. When the lines were drawn between East and West with Death Row and Bad Boy records, Too Short had set the rules for pimpin' with "Born to Mack," and Dre and Snoop had laid down the legendary "Chronic" album.
But something happened since then. What exactly that "something" was is a matter of perspective. I like to think it was the music that changed. That Jay-Z and Nelly ripping off beats from an '80s song and making up ridiculous lyrics to accompany the unoriginal score just didn't have the unique flavor of the gangsta rap of yesteryear. Or, maybe I just got older. Maybe a little of both.
So I guess that's why I think Drudgers could be forgiven for being unsure whether or not this video is satire lampooning welfare culture or it is a video celebrating it. Ever since Nelly hit it big singing about needing "two purr" of "Air Force Ones," it's a little hard to draw the distinction between what hip hop culture finds to be nonsense and what it accepts into its artistic canon. That song, about sneakers, could have just as easily been a joke, but it turns out it was not. Mr. EBT's song could just as easily be celebrating his lifestyle on welfare or making a joke about those who live that lifestyle on welfare. Without knowing Mr. EBT, his intention is obscure, despite those among the elitist left claiming that their preferred interpretation is undoubtedly the right one.
But that is not why conservatives get riled in seeing this video. What makes conservatives riled is that the video is a reminder, parody or not, that this problem with entitlement could not be more real.
I've seen it firsthand. For a couple of years, I lived in the Third Ward in downtown Houston, directly adjacent to Clayton Homes, which is a public housing community. Of course, it wasn't the squalor that some might envision of public housing. Every window had a satellite dish, the apartments were relatively new, and the grounds were fairly well-kept on a daily basis. But once while living there, I witnessed something that will be etched in my mind forever when addressing entitlement. And interestingly enough, the very first thing I thought about when I saw this video.
I had come to be on friendly terms with the Korean-American who owned a convenience store in the area. When I walked in one evening, I stood in line with six other people who were in front of me. These six people were apparently doing some grocery shopping, as I saw in their hands many food items, such as Cheetos, donuts, Dr. Pepper, etc. There were two clerks working the one register, hurriedly scanning and sacking the various items, one of which was the owner. He saw me, and knew that I always paid in cash, and saw that I only had one item. After helping the immediate customer, he slid to the right and opened another register and asked me to come ahead and quickly pay so I could be on my way. A woman that remained in line became furious, so she said, "Why he get to go on up there?" He looked at her familiarly, and said "Because he's paying in cash and he's only got one item."
To this, she flipped and waved her Lonestar (welfare) card in the air, and said, "His money ain't no better than my money. I'm paying wit' my Visa." She smiled at me satisfactorily.
I looked at her, and all I could do was smile. I could do no more than stand there dumbly and wonder if she truly believed that she was spending her own money, and if she did, how far we had fallen as a society. Mr. EBT did much more than that- he wrote a song about her. Whether or not his song about her was a joke or a celebration that she gets to live this way doesn't matter. The fact is that she exists, with millions like her, offering nothing to society- only taking what she is given and feeling that she deserves that and so much more for having done nothing but simply exist.
So maybe Mr. EBT is suggesting that this society of dependency is a problem. If so, it's an interesting way to convey that truth. If not, he is simply part of that very serious problem.