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Sunday, October 31, 2010

Sowing the Seeds of Misery – A Conversation with Two African American Liberals

Several weeks ago as I was heading into work, I noticed one of my co-workers driving his car with a problematic rear window: it wouldn’t stay up.  I’ve fixed this on some of my vehicles in the past—one of many things I’ve had to learn to do to save money.  And so, knowing that I could save him a ton of money, I asked his permission to lend a hand. Helping my co-worker in this way was very gratifying. Being able to repay him for the countless favors he’s done for me-- not to mention the look of gratitude on his face-- was payment enough.  Helping others and being helped is indeed one the most emotionally gratifying things that we human beings can experience.
Compare that true story with what is going on now on the national stage, where two worldviews are at odds with each other. There is one school of thought that believes in the general benevolence of the United States government; the other believes in the general benevolence of the private sector (you and me). Both views claim to have the greater good of the United States as its main objective. Let me bring this back to my own workplace for a moment: During a conversation with two of my coworkers (one of whom is the owner of the car in my earlier anecdote); I was asked the question, “Why are you a conservative?” It is a rare pleasure to meet Black American Democrats who can endure a lengthy debate with me – so I answered: “My belief in God and view of freedom are at odds with the culture within your party.”  I returned the question (with a twist), “Why aren’t  the two of you conservative?” Their answer: “The Republican Party is a bunch of rich white men who could not care less about me or people in need.” I thought about his reply and wondered how is it that conservatives could be so misunderstood, given the fact that they give 30% more to charity than liberals.[1]  As a matter of fact, most conservatives are very caring people (especially religious ones), we just don’t think that it is within the government’s purview to take from one group to give to another.[2]   Then they asked me another question, “What would you do if someone asked you for food?” My answer:  “Give within my means but not at the expense of my own family.” My colleagues were troubled by my answer and asked if that is all I would do – what about the person’s long term needs? This, they concluded, is why we need a “benevolent” government, looking out for the long term wellbeing of the needy. Because conservatives like me are not concerned with such things.
I thought about this conversation with my two liberal friends and it occurred to me how truly sinister wealth redistribution via the government is. No consideration is given to how we as Americans could improve in our kindness to each other and no consideration was given to self-improvement. President Obama has been pushing hard against the more affluent in our country, telling us that they are not paying their fair share. I submit that when Democrats promote this way of thinking, they are actually promoting selfishness-- which will ultimately lead to misery. I might not have helped my coworker if I thought that it was someone else’s responsibility to fix his window. And instead of reaping the benefits of helping each other, we would both be selfishly wondering who is going to fix this window and when. We would be looking with disdain at those the government tells us is responsible for fixing the window. All I’m saying is this, if someone tells me that it is the responsibility of the wealthy (those making over $250K per year) to help the needy then why would I help the needy? The dirty little secret is this: all of us, without exception, are morally obligated to aid the needy. Whether it is with money, time or good old fashioned hard work, we are all able to help. It is no wonder the country has become so divided lately. Led by our government, too many people are saying “you owe me” and not asking “how can I help you”.
Imagine an America where our first instinct is to help and not to feel entitled; to get involved because it’s our duty and not someone else’s? Imagine how personally fulfilled we would be and how much stronger the bonds that unite us as Americans would become if the man in the mirror became more involved in bettering his surroundings. If you want to continue feeling misery because the other side (politically speaking) gets under your skin, then keep following the President’s lead:  shifting what are your moral responsibilities to others, like the rich. If, on the other hand, you are tired of the resentment and misery you carry with you every day; then try helping someone—anyone-- even yourself, and let the healing begin.

Danian Michael,
Political Agenda
Foot Notes

[1] In their blog, “Talking Points,” takes on the issue of charitable donations by the two main political parties. The article titled, “Conservative vs. Liberal Charity Donations,” noted the fact that conservative Americans donate 30% more to charity than liberal Americans. The Author, who is not named, draws from, “Who Really Cares” a book written by Syracuse University professor Arthur Brooks. Brooks by means of the statistical study of actual data shows that if the conservative is religious, the margin is even greater- insofar as charitable giving is concern.

[2] ibid