We live in this big, intricate, messed up, imperfect world filled with imperfect humans. And it seems like most of us know that and take that for granted. Most American Evangelical Christians sure do. What many of them don’t seem to notice, or at least acknowledge, is that we also live in this interdependent, intricately connected, living, breathing society.
Society is not just a concept. It’s not an out-there thing disassociated from our everyday reality. It is very present and it is very real. We may not be able to touch it like the hard oak of this heavy but falling-apart table I like to rest my feet on occasionally, but it is every bit as real as the sweat gleaming off my forehead.
So it bothers me to no little effect when people complain about having to participate in society and act as if they owe it nothing – as were the basic arguments raised this last week over the healthcare ruling from the Supreme Court. It’s an argument that the poor are using the government to steal from the rich (rather than the truth that the rich are stealing from the poor), or that we’re being forced to buy something we don’t need. And for all the problems of the Affordable Care Act – and there are many, many – these reasons don’t come into play, but expose a deeper problem in contemporary American society and politics: we believe we do not benefit from the very systems that benefit us and we believe that our benefit is not the result of exploiting the very poor of our country and the world.
But first the good stuff. We benefit largely as a result of shared work. That’s how a society functions. Everybody puts in; everybody gets results.
The dreams we have, the work we do, the benefits we enjoy, the language we possess, the identities we carry, the food we eat (less that you hunt and grow), the health care we enjoy, the cars we drive, the streets we roll down, these are all effects of the shared work of society. One cannot decide to not participate. One cannot decide that they owe nothing to society nor that society has not given them and continues to give them what they need and often what they desire. If these people want to live like a hermit, fine. Let them fix their own water, electricity, food. Keep them off our roads. Allow them the privilege of developing their own language for their imaginary conversations with imaginary friends. They need to stop using ours for their fantasies.
|Look, a socialist road!|
Now, if you drive, you have to have insurance, right? Because you’re socially responsible for the economic burden that could happen due to any accident that may occur to or as a result of your car. It’s part of the price of participating in sharing the roads. Sometimes the cost is nearly unbearable, but when we run into a problem, we’re better off for it. That day may not happen for some of us – but it could happen to any of us no matter how safe and responsible we are (or believe we are) as drivers – and that is the point.
Everybody needs healthcare insurance. There is no getting around that. If you don’t have it, but something, anything, unexpected pops up (an unidentified lump, an accident, a heart murmur) everybody else pays for it. Everybody needs it. If you don’t want it, it doesn’t matter. You need it. That’s why it’s called “insurance.”
Everybody shares the load. That’s what makes a society. If you can’t handle that, never ask for a job, fix your own water, become a hermit. Because we don’t deserve to have to share the cost of society with selfish people who take without considering to help and then want to cut off food and survival functions for workers and mothers and children who do or will or want to give back through their sweat, who create wealth for the privileged classes.
Which brings us back to our second point.
American patriots constantly point out how generous the United States is, both in terms of government and private charity. But we don’t acknowledge the strings that come attached. We talk about how much we help Haiti and African people but ignore the fact that they are in such dire straights because of oppressive economic lending practices, because we deplete their resources, because we have installed leaders that were horrible for their countries but were good for us.
That’s how it’s always turned out, in Southeast Asia, in Latin America, in the Pacific… With our influence and money, we get to curry favors and effectually rob what we now deem “developing” countries so that they need to ask for more favors – wherein we or our surrogates come in to effectively own the country and its resources (be it water, energy, diamonds, gold). To add demonic joy, we love playing these countries against each other to distract other countries in the region while we keep them in check (cf, the Middle East).
These are the costs of society that we need to gather and figure how we can do without and how we can run off. We live in Orwellian times. “Freedom” means the freedom of rich white people to steal from most of the rest of the world and not give a sh*t about the rest of us.
We may be free to dream of a better world for us all, but we’re not allowed to speak it outloud, for fears that somehow a better world for all is somehow fascist. I believe conservatives should focus more on reducing the costs of healthcare rather than putting all their efforts in oppressing the poor and keeping them from receiving it.
So some things you don’t have a choice on. So what? A lot of people don’t get to decide whether or not they’ll sleep with one eye open or whether or not their home will be collateral damage for our War on Drugs or our War on Terror or our War on War or whatever other euphemism we can figure for Blowing People Up for Political Expediency and to Extend Our Imperialism and Corporate Interests.
Get over it. Get involved in society and help us find better ways to live and act as a civil social humane society.
Until we get to the point where all are protected and truly represented in an equitable system, though, I believe that the government’s obligation is to protect the most vulnerable.
I’m a socialist. But I’m one because Jesus and the prophets taught me to be one. If the Christian Right (and most every interaction with people who complain about having to help other people I have had in the last few years has been with a conservative Christian) does not believe in sharing and helping (and it’s pretty obvious they don’t), and they can’t see where the Bible tells us to bear one another’s burdens both as neighbors and as citizens through government, I’m not sure what Bible they’re reading. Tt’s not the Hebrew and Christian one. It’s not the one written by Commie Pinkos. Perhaps the Satanic Bible…