Walking Your Next Mile in the Shoes of Another

Racism, homophobia, “class warfare” etc. ….

These are not so much problems as they are the symptoms of a deeper issue. As a friend in a forum I belong to so succinctly points out: “But wouldn’t it be great if instead of pushing down and trying to take from the others, we could teach ourselves to create and be something bigger?”

Whatever your faith or religion, it cannot be denied that Jesus articulated two basic tenets of harmony: First, that we should love our God; and second, that we should demonstrate our love for our Maker by loving each other as we do ourselves.

Those guilty of ignoring these tenets are members of every race; all ‘genders’; every political party and all religious denominations. Those who strive to enhance their self-perception and regard by noting their own ‘superiority’ via vilification of “the other” are the truly bigoted villains of a healthy society.

It will not be until the ‘second coming’ that these faults can be finally erased from the human condition.

I majored in History. I watched the live coverage of hoses and dogs being used in the South in the ’60’s. “Strange Fruit“, a tale of lynching sung by Billie Holiday, is my favorite song by her. I do not see how anyone can be homophobic about a genre of personalities that include Somerset Maugham and Cole Porter.

Ever seen the films Traffic or Colors?   These powerful depictions of the folly of “otherness” address the basic issue more aptly than any focus group or sensitivity curriculum ever could or will.

Would that everyone could view and comprehend the message of these films. And by “everyone” I mean just that. Yes, caucasian males are the handiest whipping boys on whom to pin the badge of racism and homophobia, but again, the mindset of “otherness” is not confined to just us ‘pinkish prudes’. I note, from personal experience, that:

** My mother still uses the ‘n’-word’. It is reflexive in her and unchecked by the practice of…faith. (The ‘unknown’ as “the other”)

** I’ve worked with middle-aged, well-groomed black female professionals who matter-of-factly related to me their detesting of Condoleeza Rice when she was Secretary of State. They were certain she was the concubine of the elder Bush, and afforded no weight to her obvious intelligence and acumen. (‘Accomplishment and success’ as “the other”)

** I’ve been kicked out of gay bars for having brought a female who danced a bit too flagrantly for the tastes of the attending clientele. (The ‘difficult to pigeon-hole’ as “the other”)

**I’ve been turned down for a position at a former employer who, informed me that my background and qualifications were so good, that it might be “intimidating” to the younger, female prospective co-workers. Since I was securely employed in my current position, it seemed there would be no harm or foul in indulging in excluding ‘the graying male’ (as “the other”).

**At that same large employer, I was reported to security after inserting my hand into the closing doors of an elevator after a break. The refined Jewish female I shared the car with eyed me up and down from my shoes to my straw “Max Cady” fedora. Though I wore the mandated photo ID on my shirt, it was clear she regarded me as an interloper at best, and a public menace at worst.  After disembarking and returning to my desk, I predicted to my team-mates that I would be visited by a security officer soon.  And I was. After satisfying the security officer that I was a bona fide employee, I remarked to them that “I been profiled!” A directory search and a phone call, out of courtesy to my fellow employee in the elevator, did not elicit an apology. (the assertive and ‘severe-looking’ male as “the other”)

** My own former habit of disdaining those who come to church in jeans and sweatshirts has been conquered after working with and talking with these individuals and enjoying their company and contributions. (The ‘less holy than I’ as “the other”)

I could go on for days. My point is that, without the comprehension of, and adherence to,the Golden Rule, all this crap about racism and bigotry and homophobia will continue to be exploited as the favored elements of the arsenal of power politics. ” Divide and Conquer”,…that’s the ticket!!   Always has been, and always will be.

Love yourself!!  Love your neighbor by calling out the charlatans who would divide us by demonizing the other color; the other sexual preference; the other income bracket; the other political party; the other faith.

Resist being counted as ‘sheep”  by brokers of media power and influence.   Only God Almighty can view us as ‘sheep’.  We must all let “the other” shoe drop and finally walk to our own conscience rather than to the cadence of the drums of division.  The’ Golden Rule‘ is not a high-wire.  Its’ path is wide enough for all who shun the politics of division and recognize the Holy Spirit in each  of us as children of God.

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Walking Toward the Crossroads: The Next Presidential Election in America (Amerika?)

In eleven short months, the electorate will cast its collective judgment on the current state of our union.  

Between today and that day in November, 2012, we will be inundated, bombarded and deluged with hyperbole; alarmism; smear campaigns; and outright lies by both sides.  Millions (indeed, on the part of the incumbent, billions) of dollars will be expended in the struggle for the hearts and minds of those of us who will vote.  The media will abound with ‘talking heads’ who, under the guise of  ‘commentary’ will proliferate the bile; volume; and just plain viciousness we have already begun to see.  Apologies will accelerate, barely able to keep pace with the snowballing diatribe foisted on us as ‘journalism’.  (The most recent example….Chris Matthews apologizing for a story the day before on the identification of  a Republican candidate’s mention of  keeping “America American” in his campaign literature as identical with the ideology of the KKK).  Indeed, the volume and pace and pure noise of these rants will be such that those just listening to (enduring) it will be stricken hoarse.

What is unique about the coming election, however, is not the record-setting levels of animosity and recrimination, but the polarization of the electorate itself.  To the extent that the last thirty-seven months have upended people’s lives by sapping their savings; their equity; their confidence; and their trust of government itself; the time in their view, is nigh for a reckoning.  Reckoning?  Of what?

Of whether America can continue to be a viable republic, when:

-There are more bureaucrats and compliance officers at many leading state universities than there are professors.

-In an ‘upside-down’ enforcement of securities and banking regulations, financial service representatives cannot afford to spend time with those nearing retirement unless they have $100,000, because of the costs of  licensing and compliance requirements….(the shrinking workforce in the financial services industry has been disproportionately penalized in this regard while the Madoffs; hedge fund managers and ex-governors and inside- trading legislators continue their practices largely unregulated).  As a result those who need their knowledge and advice the most are increasingly shunned by representatives, who are aimed by their employers at the physician, the attorney, the dentist or other business owner.

-Employers are disqualifying job applicants because they have been …..unemployed!

-The most effective income multiplier is the intentional breeding of out-of-wedlock children.

-Incumbent doctrine asserts as axiomatic the notion that unemployment compensation extension creates jobs.

-Public school hours are being cut ( in this writer’s district, to no later than 1:30 p.m).; teachers are being laid off; with no commensurate reduction in bureaucratic advisers; diversity managers; sensitivity coaches or government-provided breakfasts and lunches.

That the electorate has become polarized more that at any time in history, since maybe Lincoln’s first campaign, is manifest in a recent post in WordPress by a bright college student which candidly remarked on the alarming rate of  welfare and food-stamp fraud any cashier at any grocery witnesses daily.  See her post:   http://thecollegeconservative.com/2011/12/13/my-time-at-walmart-why-we-need-serious-welfare-reform/.

While not going into the textual content of the post itself, and while not even expressing herein an opinion of its validity; what is striking here is not so much the post itself, but the commentary it provoked.  Just going through the first 125 or so of these, which took a few hours, what become abundantly, and shockingly clear, was the level of pent-up frustration with a bureaucratic governmental system which is spending increasingly more to fund questionable lifestyles with the taxes derived from the barely over fifty percent of us who actually earn an income.

The litany of first-hand observation and anecdotal narrative in the commentary is eye-opening to say the least.  Without getting into the vagaries of whether steak or lobster are legitimate purchases with food-stamps; whether the majority of recipients of these funds have legitimate need for them and practice prudence in spending them; or whether they actually comply with the original intent of such programs to provide temporary help for those in need, what is clear is the sheer volume of this rapidly increasing component of current government spending and the blatant absence of  prudence in administering the program.  That is…conceding the point that it may be true that the majority of recipients are not “gaming” the system by fudging data in verbal applications (very much like the “stated income” fiasco in the mortgage crisis, though the ‘statements’ have to do with the presence or absence of a wage earner in the household), the fact remains that a 30% increase in food stamp spending under the incumbent administration necessitates at least a 30% increase in “gaming”, all on the backs of a static labor force contending with higher prices for gasoline; food; health insurance; and medicine.

Increasing polarization is evident in the commentary of some 20 to 30% of those who “chimed in”….calling the author either a racist; an apologist for the “one-percenters”; or a spoiled brat, ignorant of the war-mongering corporations and bailed-out banks whose evil plots are the ‘real’ causes of our suffering.

One cannot help but feel for those who related enduring the stigma of applying, only to be told they earned too much, even though they were behind in their mortgage, to qualify……or those who were told, quite bluntly, that they should ‘rethink’ their marital status if they wanted to qualify.  These same good people could also often relate first-hand accounts of beverages being bought by the case with food-stamps, only to be emptied down a drain in the parking lot so the bottles could be returned/redeemed for cash to use on tobacco and alcohol.  The chasm separating those raised on precepts of responsibility, who state rightly that such misuse robs those who are actually in need, and those who have come to regard this largesse as an entitlement, is wide and deep.

What perfect fodder for the media mills.  How dry a tinder for the strife and animosity the stoking of “class warfare” can incite.

And thus, the crossroads.  It would seem that a prudent observer of history or practical economics could not rationally expect our republic to survive on its present course.  At the crossroads, one of only two things can happen.  To the left, an incumbent victory will be taken as vindicating further government spending, which will foster more dependence; reinforce perceptions of  “entitlement”; and breed more uncertainty among large employers, upon whose backs the spending will be supported, forcing even more employment cuts to satisfy stockholders yearning for dividends.  (After all , at some point the money will have to be assessed rather than printed).  To the right, a Republican victory will be seized as a mandate to take heed of the Euro-Crisis and the riots in London; Athens and Rome, and to reaffirm the importance of faith, family and responsibility (hard work) to the health of the republic.  We cannot have it both ways and still be considered a coherent republic which can maintain its status in the world.

A famous Churchill quote puts it quite succinctly…..”“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings; the inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.”  …Currently, the Democratic support of Occupy Wall Street organizations waxes eloquently about the unequal sharing of blessings by the rhetorical ‘one per-cent’.  They are mute, though, regarding how we can more equally distribute the ‘misery’.

We won’t know what’s in that bill until we read it.