I Grew Up on Food Stamps. Oliver Anthony Is Punching Down | Opinion

When I hit play on Oliver Anthony's "Rich Men North of Richmond" music video, I heard Anthony's conviction, the sorrow and rage. His transparency and clarity initially rang true to this grown man's poor boy's ears, and I could see why many are praising him for his "working-man's anthem." But my eyes went from wide to narrow when this line dropped:

"And the obese milkin' welfare."

It was followed by this adolescent cherry bomb:

"Well, God, if you're 5-foot-3 and you're 300 pounds / Taxes ought not to pay for your bags of fudge rounds."

By the time he got done, I was grinding my teeth.

Sexism and classism is a two course meal served only to working poor women, the lowest rung on our societal ladder. Everybody, and I mean everybody, loves stepping on them on their way up. Nowhere in my hand-to-mouth existence have I benefited from the cruel stereotypes my mama endured. Apparently, Anthony's mama never taught him you gotta eat what you serve.

Who is this working class hero's audience, when being "5-foot-3 and 300 pounds" while on welfare applies to millions of poor women across America? They're obese because the federally dictated "bulls**t pay" so bemoaned by Anthony forces them onto a pissant monthly allotment of food stamps. That in turn leaves women like my mama no choice but to put price-point-low, calorically-loaded, nutritionally-absent meals onto cramped kitchen tables and into the mouths of their babies and themselves.

I was a food stamp kid back in the day when food stamps came in a booklet. Nobody would hire my mama with her high school diploma, coming out of 24 years in a violent marriage to a PTSD-riddled Vietnam Vet. Taxpayers fed me and my family during hard times. I then grew up to put back into the system that fed me, the same system that feeds millions of our sisters and brothers right now.

Food stamps are nothing more than Americans investing in Americans. It's called taking care of your own. I don't care if you're thick or thin—I just want you fed.

Oliver Anthony
Singer and songwriter Oliver Anthony performs "Rich Men North of Richmond" on his Youtube channel. The singer has topped the charts and garnered high-profile fans for the song. Courtesy of Oliver Anthony Music

I've seen the women around me battle obesity all my life. It's not because they're lazy or nihilistically self-indulgent, as Anthony implies in his song. It's because they're poor. Thanks to taxpayer-subsidized Big Agriculture and Big Food—the true welfare queens in this equation—everything we can afford to consume in this country is diabetes-inducing and deadly.

What we eat determines whether we thrive. Four out of five adults and almost half of our kids are overweight or obese. One in two of us either has diabetes or is pre-diabetic. Big Pharma, the ultimate benefactor from all that ills us, then piles pills and needles into this human tragedy that is the American body. Poverty is a killer.

This is not about bickering over a mean girl line or two, it's about winning or losing. It's about accurately defining who our villains are and who they aren't.

Americans legislated into poverty and obesity are the result—not the cause—of Anthony's woes. Blame the arsonist, not the ashes.

Those rich boys north of Richmond—the entire boss class for that matter—want us to be mean and uncivil toward one another. That's what they expect: Overweight vs. obese. Man vs. woman. Straight vs. queer. Black vs. white. Left vs. Right. Neighbor vs. neighbor. And Anthony gave it to them.

His muddied anthem is not a threat to the cartels that control us; it plays cover for sexist exploitation as an openly permitted, half-cocked viral diversion.

David slayed Goliath, not his own mama or the poor lady next door.

Cyrus Coron was a hazmat trucker for 18 years.

The views expressed in this article are the writer's own.

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