Saturday, September 8, 2012

The Politics of Intolerance

A perfect rose on a September morning -- how lovely.  As I water and tend my plants and flowers, I am in a peaceful world of my own; how I wish life were as simple as moments like this in the garden.  Unfortunately, life is far from simple.

As we navigate through this election year I am reminded again and again of the complications we face in choosing the best candidates -- we are bombarded with a constant deluge of words, many of which are harsh and often untrue.  It is imperative that we listen and read carefully these words, so we can make the most educated decisions on those whom we choose to lead our communities and our nation.

In the past few elections, though, I have become alarmed at the vitriolic tenor of the public, the media, and the candidates themselves.  There is no spirit of compromise.  There seems to be no willingness to listen or consider the beliefs or the ideals of  the "other side."  Even though I feel very strongly about certain issues, I force myself to read and understand opposing views. 

I find it increasingly upsetting, though, as I read many Facebook comments and numerous blogs.  I notice a growing intolerance in this country -- and maybe it has always been there, but has been better hidden when people did not have access to social media to espouse their inner hatred and racism.  Huge segments of our society are filled with anger that their tax dollars go to support "worthless" folks on welfare.  While many of them do not support raising the minimum wage, they still do not want their tax dollars paying for health care for these same "worthless" working poor who cannot afford large health insurance premiums.  They look askance at Disability because too many people who could be working collect disability instead.  And who are they to judge who is physically able to be working?  They worry about all the people who are collecting unemployment, but working on the side as well.  They worry on one hand that all the illegal immigrants are taking good jobs from real Americans, or, conversely, that these "worthless" immigrants are not working and are receiving free medical care and food stamps.  And what is the alternative for these "worthless" people -- what happens to them if they are unable to work, or unable to  find jobs in this difficult economy?
And yet, these same Americans (mainly Republicans) do not worry about their tax dollars supporting banks and corporations that make billions of dollars, outsource jobs and take advantage of huge tax loopholes and deductions, or wealthy people and corporations who rely on offshore addresses to avoid the taxes they legitimately owe to the United States.

I read a comment yesterday from one man who said almost 50% of Americans are on some sort of government welfare.  As I fact-checked his statement, I noticed one Christian news article that made this same statement -- but the 50% figure also included people currently collecting Social Security, Medicare, and Unemployment, all programs that are funded through worker and employer contributions.  

I hear extremely nasty comments about African-Americans and Arab-American, Mexican-American and Indian/Pakistani-American immigrants etc., etc.  I cannot understand -- unless we are Native Americans, we are all descendants of immigrants to this nation.  What if our ancestors had been denied equal opportunity to build a life in this country.  I have English, Dutch, German, French, and possibly Irish blood in my veins -- how am I "better than" these newer immigrants???  And, how many wonderful contributions have been made to our society by all of these people!?

I am frustrated and disillusioned -- and, even more difficult to understand, is the fact that many of these angry, bigoted people call themselves Christians.  As a life-long Christian, verses from Matthew 25:35-40 have been the strongest influence on my adult life:

"Come, blessed of my Father, into the Kingdom prepared for you from the founding of the world.  For I was hungry and you fed me; I was thirsty and you gave me water; I was a stranger and you invited me into your homes, naked and you clothed me; sick and in prison and you visited me."  Then these righteous ones will reply, "Sir, when did we ever see you hungry and feed you?  Or thirsty and give you anything to drink?  Or a stranger, and help you?  Or naked, and clothe you?  When did we ever see you sick or in prison, and visit you?  And I, the King, will tell them, "When you did it to these my brothers you were doing it for me."

Amen --


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