And it's all because of the simple quote on the front page of today's Washington Post by House Speaker Paul Ryan, "People are going to do what they want to do with their lives because we believe in individual freedom in this country."
I too believe in freedom, but I don't believe it "trumps" all the other American values that have been meaningful to me for 91 years. In Ryan's statement I hear the crescendo of the selfishness and greed that permeates American leadership today that rejects the true spirit of America that I have seen growing through my lifetime. I experienced it first in the spirit of volunteer sharing that saw us through the Great Depression. It was extended by a "New Deal" that sought to share "privilege" for more citizens. It was that spirit – sometimes "encouraged" through rationing - but it was also manifest by sacrificing not only comfort but ultimately the supreme sacrifice of lives to win a war not just for our country but for a future One World advocated in a book by a Republican. And then our eyes and hearts and minds were challenged by various minorities helping us see how myopic we had been and we envisioned a "Great Society" espousing justice and freedom for all. And now I see that spirit led by women and a youthful generation that has taught us old folks about inclusiveness, respect and SUPPORT for immigrants and civil rights and protection for people of all races, creed and sexual orientation.
Perhaps the most important personal knowledge I have learned in my 91 years is how fortunate I am as a result of my privileged birth status - being born at home with the help of a midwife in a lower middle class family . And yet one of the seven factors I recognize that has made my life so full and rich has been a caring government. When, in an earlier Rant, I listed a few of the many things a caring government provided for me (from my education under the GI Bill to kidney transplants for three of my immediate family - and so much more) I received this reaction from a reader:
"I appreciate your perspective re:a 'caring, supportive government ;...provided at federal government expense'; I ask that you recognize that everything the government gives to you, it takes from someone else. Please reserve some of your gratitude for the taxpayers, particularly future taxpayers. Also, I hope that your children are giving you lots of grand- and great-grandchildren, because someone has to pay for those transplants, and it won't be the 'government."
Eureka! Here's the gist of the problem today. What do we see as the role and function of government in an American society that prides itself in exceptionalism! Is it one that is competitive, taking a nd bestowing? Is life a zero sum game of some sort?
Personally I prefer to see America as a place where we have had a unique opportunity to learn lessons from the past. We are still youthfully learning from some horrible mistakes. We have an opportunity to blend people from the world who bring their unique cultural contribution -including their basic values and beliefs (often known as religions) to benefit one another. How wonderful to live in a country that is concerned with the common good - that is - or at least has been - working toward equalizing opportunity for all and continues to have a prominently displayed landmark stating:
“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these.......................Send these...............
P. S. Once again I've said more than I intended, but the true facts I hear each day almost compel me to have one more say. Next week I hope to share something about the environment that calls for OUR involvement - not something to take to the streets in protest or have the government do for us.