I’m neither a Democrat nor a Republican, although I have liberal tendencies born of a childhood bordering on poverty. I know what it’s like to wear Salvation Army hand-me-downs, and share meals with orphans at a home run by Maryknoll nuns. I’ve been fortunate, however, to have “pulled myself up by the bootstraps” and married a man who has done the same. For us the stars were all aligned, shining good fortune down upon us. Not so with millions of others in America…and around the world. As one of my brothers liked to say of me, and perhaps it’s true…I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. And he didn’t mean it kindly. He’s hard-core conservative.
While I have voted for Republican presidents, like George W. Bush, I’ve never felt in sync with the party. I get that its members are about preserving the status quo and each and everyone earning his own keep. What I don’t get is how dogmatic Republicans are about their principles. It’s as though all poor people are guilty of abusing the system and must therefore prove themselves innocent. Why they can’t do just that seems beyond comprehension to dyed-in-the-wool conservatives. If folks find themselves in unfortunate circumstances, then they should get themselves out however they can and not look to society to do it for them.
Democrats aren’t without their own prejudices and faults. However what I can align with is their concern for the welfare of all people, including the less fortunate. There isn’t an automatic assumption that they are slovenly people living off the fat of the land, without first paying their dues. Yes, there are those who take advantage of welfare, but those who don’t shouldn’t be condemned alongside those who do.
My mom, a widow with 9 children, was never on welfare. She worked hard and took help whenever it was offered. If she was ashamed, she never showed it. What I did witness, however, was her compassion for others who shared her plight. She shared what little she had. A lesson that has remained with me to this day. Whether or not it comes more easily for folks who are themselves outcasts from society, I don’t know. I only know that having been there, I could never turn my back on those still stuck in the muck of poverty.
Life is complicated. There are no easy solutions to its complexities. All we can do is the best we can do, given our individual circumstances. And the only compass we have to guide us through life is a moral one. And at the risk of sounding like a “bleeding heart liberal,”…whether we like it or not, we’re all in this together. There’s no escaping to another planet, anytime soon that is. So rather than run from one another, we’ve got to figure out how to make this place where we all live…work for the good of all. Sooner or later the have-nots are going to overtake the haves, and help themselves to what they’ve long been denied.
…we are our brothers’…and sisters’…keepers.
…whether we like it…or not.