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I was thinking about the simmering level of rage we've seen at various townhalls and online over the healthcare debate. It's not simply that many people would rather die untreated or bankrupt (more likely have someone else die untreated or bankrupt) rather than let the government step in to help, because one can have that difference of opinion without it being attached to such violent emotion. It's the astonishing lack of empathy and sense of community that underlies such religious devotion to an economic system that has become overly parasitic.

Walking down the street the other morning, past people exercising their dogs, I thought that people seemed pleasant and much affection was evident between owner and pet. In particular was one elderly lady, who ambled extremely slowly with the aid of a three-prong cane. Her faithful dog matched her halting step and, when he got a bit ahead, stopped and waited with concern until she caught up. So there's love in the world, even though little is evident in current affairs. When did we stop being a community, "united we stand," and loving our neighbor as ourselves?

I live in a big city and still see neighborliness but where did it disappear on the national stage? Sure, everyone today is remembering the victims of 9/11 (let's not forget the Iraqis wrongly invaded or the Afghan villagers we bomb regularly in the name of that tragedy). But what does that mean if we don't behave like we are all in this together? Sentimentality is cheap: it's the living up to it that seems to be a price we'd rather not pay.

Then Joe Conason wrote something about the health care debate that crystallized the more fundamental issue:

"A constricted compassion that arises solely from personal experience has somehow come to seem peculiarly Republican. The most famous examples include former first lady Nancy Reagan's crusade for stem-cell research and former Sen. Pete Domenici's campaign for mental-health insurance parity. While both were admirable and courageous efforts that resulted in important legislation, they were cast as narrow exceptions to conservative ideology -- exceptions grounded strictly in personal misfortune."

While this is certainly not limited to Republicans, the example of charity or concern only being acceptable to others similarly situated is well taken. Charity, as so many like to say, starts at home, but why does it so often seem to end there? "But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." - Matthew 6:3. The point is that it's not charity if you benefit from it (even if it's simply by patting yourself on the back). But that seems to be lost amidst the screaming. It's past time we put people and community ahead of abstractions.

Comments

( 2 comments — Leave a comment )
keshaphim
Sep. 12th, 2009 02:24 am (UTC)
This is a most excellent post. Thank you.
ms_mittens
Sep. 13th, 2009 04:31 pm (UTC)
Awesome post!
( 2 comments — Leave a comment )

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