In North Carolina right now there is a huge political movement called Moral Monday. Republicans are cutting funding for services for poor people---presumably because they don't want to fund perceived laziness. They think funding too much for the poor has dragged down our economy. At the same time, they are eliminating taxes for the wealthiest folks because they think its bad for the economy for our government to take too much money from rich people---money they won't have to spend. Yes this exactly, taking money from the poor and giving it back to the rich. Democrats are in a panic over these cuts---presumably because cutting funding to the most needy cuts our economy off at the knees and drags us into ever deepening spirals of dysfunction as a society. Increasing poverty is very bad for our economy. The idea is that feeding, educating, and healing the poor at the expense of the rich is a proven way to elevate society as much as possible.
The dichotomy turns on the question of who is broken enough to justify (in a just way) society's help? Who can be the judge? Can you judge? Can a preacher judge? Can a police officer judge? Can a school teacher? How about a mother? I think Republicans believe the line of judgement is way too soft. And Democrats believe it could be a lot softer. Neither would leave an infant, truly and justly helpless, crying alone in a dumpster without stopping to help. But what about a drug addicted teenager? A strong looking 25 year old who was raised in poverty? The line gets very murky. Who is broken and who simply lazy? What is fair?
Think this is simple? The predominating message throughout all time and recorded history, through every culture, is that some kind of manifestation of God through compassion matters. For our culture and history the predominating message is that God gave his only son to die (really, to die, our greatest fear) because we are all pathetic universally busted-ass and broken. Each one of us is flawed, broken, and truly incapable in some way. Thank goodness we are all broken in different ways so at least we can help cover each other.
Think this is political? What do you do at work with that one totally annoying person who sucks? They suck at their job, perhaps in a way that makes everyone's job harder? When I worked for my father, as a teenager, I asked him why he continued to employ the person on his staff who sucked the most. He explained that he had 3 truly great employees. 3 who were good in a steady way. And 1 or 2 that were barely good enough, but consistently so. He explained that it would be impossible to run a crew with 8 truly great employees. So he tolerated the sucky ones as best he could.
Why? Because of the math of the universe. We can't all be truly great. We can't all even manage to be consistently good in a steady way all the time, perfectly. If my father was going to try to run a crew of 8 perfectly, it would not be possible and he would not have time to get his actual work done. Running the perfect crew would be its own full time job, and there would be no other work for them to do. A paradox. Wait, what did God say? We are all broken? All of us?
Think this is emotional? What about the person in your family who sucks, who just can't love you the right way, who did it all wrong, does it all wrong, isn't loving enough? Wait, what did God say? We are all broken? All of us? Each one of us will encounter failure to love. That is universally consistently true because we are all broken.
But be fair. Do we still have to do our (flawed) best to help the poor, to forgive our broken parents, to love our neighbors, to be kind to each other? Society is a fact. We have society because we have more than one person living on the planet. I think that's a realistic working definition of society--more than one living on the planet. Since society is a fact and everyone in society is broken, how can we do our best to help each other in a fair way? Its a difficult situation.
Are we broken because of nature? (Because God made us this way?) Or because of nurture? Because we weren't loved well enough or because we lived in poverty or because someone in the family was a psychopath or an addict, or what?
The expression of our DNA, even if our DNA happens to be perfect, is mitigated by methyl-thingies. In fact, Grandma's Experiences Leave A Marker On Your Genes. To paraphrase, stress in early childhood will fuck you up at the level of your DNA. So even if you happen to get born perfect, by some freak of nature, the moment you encounter stress your perfect DNA will begin to be corroded. If you live in a high stress situation---say, poverty, for instance---your DNA will get seriously corroded. Which will make it nigh-unto-impossible for you to "rise above." Who here thinks they can rise above their DNA? Can we ask that of people? We can ask they try, we can offer to help them to try. But we probably ought to plan for a lot of failure.
And finally, consider this. What is the single most stressful thing children encounter in our society, across the board? Take out the children living in poverty, with addicts, and with psychopaths. What generates the most stress for our smallest children? Being separated from their mothers and being put in school. And its exactly this kind of stress that influences the expression of our collective DNA, in ways that might be incidentally helpful, but that also make us demonstratively more aggressive, more depressed, more "jittery", and less likely to nurture our own babies as measured by maternal willingness to breastfeed. I'm talking about science here. Really. Read the article. Its a sock knocker for sure with ramifications for all of us across every political, social, familial, and educational strata of life in an inner connected way.
Wow, huh? Anyone noticed how many mothers are not even willing to try breastfeeding their own babies these days? We have the number. 86% of new mothers don't breastfeed these days, past the first few weeks.*
We are making more worse people faster than we can fix them. And we were broken to start with. We better get a plan for helping each other out of this mess.
*CDC data on breast feeding. Thankfully, the numbers have improved since I last looked.