Saturday, November 5, 2022

Empathy in the Dark Ages


Who do you think of when you vote?

You are not only voting for your own future. Your vote determines the future of others. It will decide if your neighbors get healthcare. It will decide if all citizens have voting rights. It will determine how the US responds to climate change. Think of others when you vote. - - Sarah Kendzior, 11-5-18

This showed up in my Facebook memories from this morning. It’s every bit as relevant today. Just add in marriage equality, reproductive freedom, trans rights, intellectual freedom in schools…

It’s a long list.

When you step into that voting booth (yeah, I know) whose concerns matter to you?  Is it - - first and foremost- - about what benefits you and your family? People like you? Or does your concept of government and democracy prompt you to think bigger than your own needs and wants?  Voting is an individual act which has much larger consequences to the entire community/state/country, but many people take that opportunity to think small, small, small.

This year’s election season in Howard County feels very strongly to me like a battle between the philosophy of Sally Brown (well-represented in Howard County, I might add) and one that centers inclusion, lifting up and empowering others, and looking at a big picture where one’s own personal success is simply a piece of a much larger whole. 

That’s what was on my mind when I came across this old post from November of 2013. It’s mind boggling to me to be alive in 2022 and still see so many whose concept of the Good Life is living in the Dark Ages.

Dark Ages (Village Green/Town², November 13, 2013)

There was a time when wealth, and health, and all manner of good things were considered to be signs of God's favor. By the same token, poverty, ill-health, mental illness, disability and the like were signs of God's disfavor and punishment. Unable to conceive? Crops fail? Family starving? Parent of a disabled child? A veritable sign of your sin, for all the world to see.

But, that was a long time ago, right? We know better than that now. Don't we?

I wonder.

It has become all the rage these days to say that those who are doing well financially are doing so by the sheer dint of effort. They worked hard, did the right things. And those who are poor are slackers. Clearly they didn't work hard, didn't do the right thing. It's as simple as that.

This is nothing but a gussied up version of what was said in the Dark Ages. Except that, in this case, our subjects have put themselves at the center instead of God. I did it, I worked, I studied, I saved, so it is my success, my business, my reward, my hard earned money. And with this comes its darker, shadowy companion--if others are poor, they must have done something wrong.

Years ago I saw a television promo for the Simpsons where someone, possibly Bart or Homer, was saying the Grace before Thanksgiving dinner.

"Dear God, everything that's on this table I put here myself, so thanks for nothing."

The tone and the content of the statement took my breath away. Yes, I'm sure it was meant to be humorous, but to me it was chillingly narrow and mean-spirited. I use it now to ask: when we sit at the table with our families and there is enough to go around, is that a time to be self-righteous?

Does our plenty give us a right to mock and denigrate the want of others? Or should it open a door in our hearts and minds to the awareness of the many blessings which have allowed us to thrive, the absence of which we may never have even considered?

Having had the opportunity for a decent education, the chance to have a job that can make a significant contribution to the family upkeep, having experienced family stability, regular health care, these and many other things have enabled us to "work hard and do the right thing."

Those opportunities should lead to enlightenment -- and a realization that we are called to be a light to others. If we look at our blessings and can only say "I did it all myself, so thanks for nothing" then we have truly remained in the dark.


Early voting is finished, so return your mail-in ballot or make sure you have a plan to vote on Tuesday. 

Every time you choose to become informed about the issues and make the commitment to vote you are keeping your part of the bargain in sustaining democracy. Reminder: Not voting is an individual act that has much larger consequences as well. Even if you think you’ll be fine if you don’t vote, you’re still letting down all those other people who make up the bigger picture of your community and nation. 


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.