Monday, April 2, 2012

The Confessions of an Unregenerate Liberal

I admit to being a political animal. I am the son of political animals. I grew up in a pack of them. I further admit to a bias; my sympathies lie with the poor, the disadvantaged, and the working people. I am not blind to the faults of those whose causes I support. I don’t admire their moral failings or endorse them. I just recognize that their faults are the same as those of the privileged. They are, I’m ashamed to admit, the same as my own; we all want to live well and in seeking to do so we often live very poorly.

Our society is enamored with the rich, the powerful, the successful – so enamored that we cut them “space” denied to their poorer brothers and sisters.

The rich can pour multi-millions of their dollars into a gamble to buy an election and consequently they are elevated to the status of community leaders – opinion shapers. Our courts grant them influence based on their ability to spend money, call their corporate entities “persons”, and grant them an unlimited voice in determining the future of our nation. But the poor are criticized for spending a dollar on a lottery ticket. Their voice is stifled by restrictions on their right to vote; numerous obstacles are placed in their path to the ballot box, not the least the requirement to produce “proof” that they even exist. (Who doubts that Donald Trump exists? Will anyone ask to see his driver’s license? Mitt Romney’s? Scott Walkers? If so, only for show and as a formality. But I must produce “proof” under threat of being escorted from the polling place.)

The wealthy flaunt their adulteries, addictions, and immoralities; turn them into sit-coms, reality TV, and blockbuster movies; parlay them into political careers. And we hail them as artists, athletes, and celebrities. The poor we throw in jail. If you are willing to “grind the face of the poor” in your climb to success you are given a TV show of your own. If your philandering or embezzling gets you thrown out of your job, one of our ubiquitous Cable Channels will take you on as a resident expert, or give you your own reality show. The powerful begrudge – and if they can – deny the poor access to remedies for their addictions, afflictions, and immoralities, calling those remedies “socialist welfare” too expensive for our nation to afford.

A serial adulterer who is wealthy and powerful can win majority support from white Evangelical “Christians” in South Carolina as a candidate for President of the United States. One has to ask what opinion those same South Carolina “Christians” would have of their poor black or hispanic neighbor whose sins were the same.

And that brings me to the saddest aspect of this spectacle; that the poor and oppressed themselves have been duped into “sitting in the stands” cheering for those whose exorbitant salaries are robbing them and their children of the necessities of life. The poor are so enamored of the wealthy that they believe and parrot the “lies” told to maintain the status quo.

But, it has always been so, in all places and all times. And the pressed down are saved from total extinction only because a few among them are enlightened enough to understand what is happening to them, and because others – sometimes from the ranks of the privileged – are willing take up their cause.

The greatest story of human history is the story of one whose privileges exempted him from the need to help the needy but who, none the less, invested himself in their cause, even giving up his life in the process.

I cannot claim to be anything other than one of those in need of help. But I can, in gratitude for the help given me, add my voice to those other voices who long ago lifted a peon of praise to him “who comes in the name of the Lord” – the one who  said, “The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”

You see, God is no respecter of persons. He sees the rich as no more valuable than the poor; only more capable of “taking care of themselves” in material matters. And so, when he sent his Son into this world, it was to those incapable of “taking care of themselves” that he sent him. In the words of the old Woody Guthrie union-organizing song, “Whose Side Are You On?”

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