A (Com)Passionate People
Hello and Happy Friday!
I might be going down the rabbit hole with this one, but follow me please, I’m going somewhere, I promise.
Last week as I was riding ’round and gettin’ it, I turned to NPR and came upon an American Life type segment. The host was telling a story about a female pastor in a small town who had moved to the big city and was lonely and looking for love. So somehow she ends up in a bar and meets a guy (she was of a very liberal denomination – lol!), he asks her what she did, and she says she’s a minister and starts talking about her most recent sermon. And how she preached about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and rendering unto God what is God’s. And she continued by saying and what is God’s is:
This made me pause. And I’ve been pondering on it all week. You see I’ve only heard that verse or idea preached or discussed in the context of money or things. In terms of tithing and sacrifices. Never in the context of rendering unto God actual principles that require us to stretch beyond ourselves.
Because what does render mean? According to Merriam Webster, it’s:
You see that’s deep because if you are rendering unto God ideals that go beyond the “talk” and are actually action based, that means that you have to walk in them, live them daily. Be self conscious of how you treat someone else even if they disagree with you. Be willing to extend a hand to a stranger. If you are rendering these things to God, that means you must also be extending them to your fellow man or woman.
Since this was days before the election, I thought about it in the context of this nation we live in, this very divided red and blue nation. And what we owe to one another. Even if you don’t believe in God – the idea of charity, love, kindness, peace and compassion are things that keep a society intact and humming along. These are basic, Philosophy 101, Hobbes and Locke, social contract type things.
So then the election came and Obama did the damned thang and I read all kinds of articles about it, including this one in the Washington Post, titled, Compassion in Chief: Why Obama Won. Susan Brooks Thistlethwaite writes:
President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden’s reelection was a victory for compassion, generosity, and tolerance over calculated divide-and-conquer as the president acknowledged in his acceptance speech…
The Hispanic vote went decisively to Obama, as did the votes of young Americans, and, at times, this was the same voting bloc as younger Hispanics voted for President Obama.
A younger America, more diverse in terms of race, ethnicity, national origin, religion, gender, and sexual orientation than ever before, flexed its electoral muscle. This is the new America, not a fluke of 2008.
But the new America has to work together for this to work into the future.
The best news is that the social contract won. This is the idea that we have not just rights, but responsibilities to one another. As the president said, this is “[T]he belief that our destiny is shared; that this country only works when we accept certain obligations to one another and to future generations.”
A new America can be glimpsed in the complex pattern of those voters who supported not just President Obama, but this vision of shared obligation as well as shared rights.
We are, in fact, our brother’s and our sister’s keeper.
You know I almost got to shouting when I read that social contract part, seeing as how I had just been turning it over in my mind. And it’s not something people are talking about on a daily basis.
What we saw with this election is the role of government in society, but more importantly the role of people. Government is a necessity to keep law, order and peace in society. Capitalism which is the other stone next to the cornerstone of “democracy”, which is served with a healthy side of ‘work hard enough and you will succeed’ means that there will always be haves and have nots. But Tuesday’s election, demonstrated that somewhere between government and capitalism – are the people.
A people who support individual rights, but also support that those rights be expanded and more equal. And they also understand that the Federal Government is a needed part of the machine. We saw it immediately after Hurricane Sandy, with Republican Governors who were on record for less Federal Government, quickly declaring state of emergencies so they could receive Federal funds. It took a disaster for them to understand what the people experience on a daily basis.
That people need people.
Because sometimes you work hard and still need a helping hand from your neighbor. Or your government, who you know what is really your neighbor – since we the people form the society that makes government happen. We the people pay our taxes into one huge pot and it gets doled out to the people. Sometimes it’s the permanent underclass that remains and we sneer at. But sometimes, sometimes, it’s the “hard workers” who have paid into the system and one tragic event takes everything away and they find themselves with their hand out, in need, waiting for their neighbor to extend their hand.
This idea that we owe each other compassion, love, and charity is not new. It sounds good in theory to tell people to love their neighbor. What happens in reality when you must be kind to someone who looks different from you, speaks a different language, prays to a different God or to no God at all, loves someone of a different race or the same sex even, well that is a whole ‘nother beast.
But on Tuesday we witnessed a segment of the population want to give it a try. A population that is younger, more diverse, more willing to work together regardless of the color or one’s skin, or sexuality, or religious beliefs.
So maybe it’s more about rendering unto Caesar what is Caesar’s , and yes sometimes the people who make a little more will have to render a little more. But maybe it’s also about what do we render unto our fellow men and women? The people we work alongside with day in and day out. The people who share our roads and our trains. Who build our bridges and serve our food. The people who send their children to the same school or church or Girl Scout troop meeting. The people who pay mortgages or rent. Car notes and light bills. The people who believe in the Almighty, Allah, Buddha, or nothing at all. The people who are white, or brown, speak Spanish, or Chinese, just trying to make it, who put one foot in front of another as they will themselves to get through another day.
What do we owe one another? What do we render unto another?
Because this idea that we can make it on our own. That we don’t need anyone. Or the government. It is foolish. It is a fallacy. Because we have convinced ourselves that the government is the large, shapeless blob of rules and regulations and policies instead of what it is – people.
People who can choose to lift people up, provide folks with equal rights, see the humanity in one another.
Understand that our contributions, the monetary ones to Caesar are all good and well. But it’s what happens after that. Is there love, compassion, charity among the people that follows the contribution?
Because that’s what matters the most.