Eyes Without Compassion
I didn’t bother to watch the Republican presidential debate hosted by CNN and the tea party. After their debate last week, I didn’t think it was necessary to catch all the rhetoric live and instead opted to see the highlights on the MSNBC television show Morning Joe the next morning. And in true “look what happened last night” fashion I saw all I needed to see to confirm my suspicions that picking one of these conservative front runners would be a huge step backwards for the country.
By now you’ve seen the video clip taken from this debate when Wolf Blitzer asked candidate Ron Paul what would be appropriate if a young man, age thirty and without health insurance, suffered an accident and wound up in a coma in a hospital. Essentially, Mr. Paul responded that we as a society would have no obligation to come to his aid. His answer was colored in patriotic language with key phrases like the beautiful thing about our society is that we give people freedom to take risk, both good and bad. But the message was clear. Mr. Paul would let the man die.
In Mr. Paul’s opinion, the unfortunate man in Mr. Blitzer’s hypothetical question should have been more responsible instead of taking risk with his health and prepared himself better. Despite what may have been Mr. Hypothetical’s misfortune, no one should feel obligated to help him in his time of need. If a person wanted to donate resources and volunteer to help him then that is their right to do so and god bless them if they do. But the man should not look to his government for help.
As Mr. Paul gave his answer there were people in the crowd applauding with hoots and haws, giving their approval. Let the man die. And this is where we are supposed to be headed as the Untied States of America, supposedly the most generous and prosperous nation of people this planet has ever witnessed.
Many of the same people in the crowd who applaud letting the fictitious man die will be the same people begging for help if the role was reversed. How many times have we seen people steep in the belief that people should pull themselves up by their own bootstraps come begging for somebody, anybody to help then when their own bootstraps fail? People once secure in their finances with good jobs and a promising pension and a small fortune of savings and all the health insurance the family needs sing a totally different tune when they lose their job with the insurance benefits and their investments dry up and they wind up looking down the barrel of an uncertain future. Walking a mile is different in another person’s shoes, especially when those shoes come with broken legs and a bootstrap that gave up the ghost a long time ago.
If Ron Paul was the fictitious man lying in the hospital bed, or better yet was a family member of the man in the bed and didn’t have any way to help, I’m sure he would want the assurance of living in an environment with a safety net that does its best to make sure nobody falls through our social cracks. As a collective people who work towards a common goal, we shouldn’t be so callous to believe that we shouldn’t do for anybody who can’t help his or her self.
America is supposed to be a nation with the cherished privilege of social freedom. But with the privilege of social freedom comes social responsibility. The fact that somebody is down on their luck doesn’t mean that we should wash our hands of them and leave them to their fate. We are supposed to be a country that’s better than that. Yes everyone should be willing to do what they can for his or her self, family, and their community. But in a civilized society, that goes for everyone. We should balance those who can’t do for themselves against the ones who can do way more for themselves and then some because you never know when the situation might get flipped.
Despite everything that is going well for you now, you’ll never know when you might need help in the future. I remember a story about Howard Hughes. Mr. Hughes was the richest man in the world and could buy just about anything. I don’t remember how it happened, but at some point he found himself stranded in the desert and in need of a ride. A man came along and game Mr. Hughes a ride without knowing who he. When Mr. Hughes died, he remembered the man who gave him a ride in his will. The man became a millionaire overnight.
Now the man could have looked at Mr. Hughes walking through the desert and tip his hat and applaud as he drove by saying what a beautiful country we live in where a man has the freedom to wind up in the desert without the means to save himself. But instead, the man saw somebody who needed help and rose to the occasion.
Throughout history we admire people who go above and beyond to help those who cannot help themselves. Jesus the Christ, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and many others fall into this line of behavior and we admire them all. These are the ones who could. The ones who can do become the leaders of the others who are less capable. But when we have the opportunity to do the same thing as a people, to make a national collective that would essentially do the same thing in the vein of the ones we have been taught to admire, too many of us can’t see the forest because we are so caught up in a single tree. And if that’s how we truly want to operate, why even bother with a government? Because if this is the leadership we want from our government, only prayer will help us in our hour of need.