There are days when I find myself thinking, “Stop the world, I want to get off!” The title of the 1960s Broadway musical keeps running through my head as I listen to the noise and chaos of the current election theatrics.
Those who analyze political campaigns, study polls from all sides, and share their conclusions with the news media, talk shows and Facebook friends only add to the cacophony. Most of the candidates for the job of President seem to be trying to outdo each other in being outrageous. While playing on our fears and prejudices have always been part of swaying our vote, such antics seem to have been taken to a new level.
We are told to be afraid of everyone who is not us. Conservatives should fear liberals. Liberals should be afraid of conservatives. We are told to fear the rich who have taken over our government. We are told to disdain the poor because they are being given what we have worked for and they have done nothing to deserve it. The poor are depicted as drug users and cheats who live simply to scam the welfare system.
We should fear immigrants because they will take our jobs. They might be terrorists or drug dealers or criminals.
Government is said to be the problem or the solution, depending on the argument. Governments solutions to end poverty are not good. Government solutions to end abortions are. Government funded road systems are good. Government run healthcare is good if you’re on Medicare, but not good if you can’t afford to buy your own insurance. Ironically, those who don’t believe in government’s ability to function in our best interests still seek election to governmental positions.
There are “them” and there are “us.” Of course the “us” has the truth and our way is right. “They” are either liars, stupid, misinformed or duped into believing falsehoods.
So much of our fear comes from our feeling that there simply is not enough for us all. We need to compete for everything and there is a scarcity of all that is good in the world. We need to save up for rainy days and take care of our own. Compromise is weakness and winning is everything.
There are things for which we do need to compete. Only one candidate can win an election. Businesses need to compete for market share, but probably not to the monopoly positions many corporations seem bent on achieving. Students compete for grades. Musicians compete for awards. Athletes strive to be winners.
To the contrary, there are so many things in this world in abundance. We should not have to compete for learning. One person’s knowledge does not diminish the wisdom available to everyone else. Shouldn’t it be the goal of education that all students learn what is necessary for them regardless of their abilities? There should be no winners and losers in learning. Education should not be scarce but available abundantly and to everyone. Our democracy depends on it.
We have enough food. We throw away more food in this country than is needed to feed everyone more than enough. Food should not be used to punish those who don’t work hard enough or were born in the wrong place to the wrong parents. Malnutrition is not discipline.
We have enough resources in this country not only to feed everyone, but to house everyone, to care for the sick and to welcome the stranger in our midst. We have abundance. We don’t have to decide if we take care of veterans instead of welcoming refugees. We can and should do both.
Jesus fed the multitudes abundantly. He did not tell his disciples to check the lunch bags, wallets, green cards or tax forms of those who were hungry. He didn’t ask if those being fed really deserved his generosity. He didn’t eat first and share what was left over. He didn’t hold back a couple of loaves and a fish for himself and his friends just in case there wasn’t enough to go around. He did not have an auction selling the loaves and the fishes to the highest bidder to finance his ministry. There was no contest to see who was the fastest, smartest, or who could remember the most Bible trivia. He simply fed everyone. He didn’t say, “Love only those who look like you.” He said to love God first and our neighbors as much as we love ourselves.
That means we have to listen to each other, compromise when we can’t agree, admit we can be wrong, and not to be afraid. There is enough. We don’t need to make decisions based on fear or hate. Rather we should support leaders who seek the common good, who act out of love of neighbor and lead with a sense of abundance and grace.
Copyright © 2016 Janet Jacobson and Sustaining the Northern Plains