Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Seeking Justice or Relearning How to Share

One of the very first lessons earned as a child is that it is important to share even if we didn’t like the other child very much. It was our very first lesson in seeking justice. A squabble over a child’s toy doesn’t seem like it would be such a lesson. Think about it. To me, this lesson seems to teach many things other than giving over a toy for a short time.

In thinking about the many squabbles with my brothers and sisters and other kids over toys, I think sharing toys taught me that not everyone has what I have. Compared to other families, mine was just above the poverty line and so we didn’t have what some others had. We were fortunate to have food, water, shelter, medical care, and transportation. Some kids weren’t as lucky and I used to wonder what I could do to help.

When I was a child, I was glad we had programs in place to help those in need. As an adult, I’m glad my taxes help out programs such as WIC, Medicaid, Pell Grants, etc.

Sometimes I think the United States is becoming a country in which being poor is a crime.

The Torah’s depiction of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is a cautionary tale of how not to treat the poor and needy. The prophet Ezekiel proclaims: “Behold the sin of Sodom….She and her daughters had pride, excess bread, and peaceful serenity, but she did not strengthen the hand of the poor and the needy.” Avot 5:10 in the Mishna describes as someone who has the attitude of “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is yours” as a Sodomite.

Right now in Congress, Republicans are trying to pass legislation that strips many of the safety programs in place. These same Republicans want to do away with Social Security, the Department of Education, and the EPA. They want to do this on the backs of the poor and the middle class while increasing the wealth of the richest people in the country.

I believe in the essential decency of Americans. I know that most would willingly help their neighbors, friends and family in hard times. There are so many who fall through the cracks. My question is our we going to be a nation that “strengthen the hand of the poor and needy” or will be one that declares “What’s mine is mine and what’s yours is your”?

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