Thursday, September 1, 2011

Jesus and Politics; Or, I Don't Have Time to Volunteer and Therefore I Am Not a Libertarian

I am not a Christian but I really dig Jesus. What a kind soul. I pretty much follow his advice like I follow my PCOS low glycemic index diet, in other words, about 80% of the time. But I don't think a person has to join a church or subscribe to any certain religious dogma in order to be a kind soul.

One of my favorite quotes is from Jesus in Matthew 25:40 - "Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me." That is empathy. That is kindness. That is what I'm aiming for. I miss the mark, just as every human does, but I doubt if God, or Universe, or Nothingness, or Everything, or An Energy Field that Connects All Life is keeping score.

Plus, I'm not in it to win it. I love paying taxes to help impoverished children go to all day kindergarten, not because I think Jesus is up in Heaven making a check mark on my soul's score card, but because I love helping my fellow humans, especially the least of these. It makes me feel good. It's an altruism high. I like knowing that people need me, that I have something to give, to contribute, to make this world a better place. Just as I also like knowing I have a safety net to catch me when I fall.

Some of my Libertarian friends say, "We don't need the government deciding how my money is spent to help people. We can volunteer to help people ourselves."

But who has time for that, seriously? Plus, how can I help people who need it if I don't know them or if they live far from me? Or if I'm just caretakered out and want someone else to worry about it - here, have my damn money and you figure it out - I'm too exhausted taking care of my senior parents and young children to go read to illiterate children.

I've often said I would be a Libertarian if human beings would just take care of each other. But in reality, people don't. All kinds of people have babies that they can't take care of - sometimes because of their own mistakes, for example, in the heat of the moment not bothering to put on a condom. But I don't want their child to be uncared for because the parents were driven by their hormones to copulate and made a stupid mistake. We all make stupid mistakes. We're human.

But often it's much more complex than just "Oops, we forgot to wear a condom, great, now how are we going to support this kid on our minimum wage jobs?" Sometimes there are larger sociological and psychological reasons why people get pregnant and can't care for their kids well enough. Some sexual abuse survivors, some mentally ill people, and other people who have had traumatic experiences often put themselves into positions where they "give" their body to someone else and end up getting pregnant not because they want to but because they don't know how to take care of themselves, or they don't care enough about themselves to even care to.

Sometimes it's just bad luck. The parents make a decent wage, but their baby is born with a congenital heart disease which demands many costly operations that are unaffordable for one family to manage. It's not those parent's fault their kid has a bum heart. So we should help them pay for their baby's medical needs.

If we lived in a more tribal or communal society, we wouldn't have to give the government our money to pay to help these kids. We would just help them personally, in the way we see fit. And that's awesome. I wish that was reality. But it's not.

I've lived in my house for nearly six years and I just found out the name of the boy across the street from us yesterday when I was walking my kid to school. I have never spoken to my next door neighbor. I have no idea what his name is, what he does for a living, whatever. And this isn't because I'm a hermit or unfriendly. I've tried to make eye contact and wave at my neighbor, but he's always in a rush to get out of the isolation of his house and into his car, I assume to go to work. The kid whose name I just found out has apparently been taught about stranger danger because whenever I'd say hi to him he'd frown at me and ride his bike in the other direction. I guess yesterday when I saw him and said, "Hey neighbor, what's your name?" he figured after six years I'm probably not going to kidnap him. :)

My point, sorry, I'm a rambler, is that we don't know each other well enough to take care of each other. We shut ourselves inside our homes, no longer sit on the front porch and chat with our neighbors, and ignore everyone but our friends and family.

And trust me, sometimes family even ignores each other. I got kicked out of the house when I was eighteen. I struggled, but I survived. I'm at an advantage though. I'm smart and kind and have many kind friends, so I got by ok. And I was dating a woman at the time, so I didn't have to worry about birth control. Just drama.

But let's say I was dating a man. I somehow still managed to get myself to Planned Parenthood (which is government funded) and get birth control even though I only made $4.25 (in the early 90s) an hour, but then I got an infection and the public health department doctor gave me some antibiotics to take and she's so rushed with other patients she forgot to tell me that antibiotics make birth control pills ineffective. So when I get knocked up, the guy who knocks me up takes off. I only make minimum wage, so it's difficult for me to find an apartment, feed my child and myself, pay for daycare, etc. And I can't rely on my family because I was kicked out of the house. And I don't know our neighbors.

You know what I think Jesus would have done? Not Fred Phelps' Jesus, but my Jesus? I think Jesus would pass a basket around town, asking everyone to pitch in and help someone in need. What a socialist. Jesus would treat me like he treated the prostitute he saved from being stoned to death. Not by wearing a superhero's cape, although I love the mental image of that, but by challenging the would-be stone-throwers to "cast the first stone" if they were "without sin."

I'm not into sin. As a concept. I think people are basically apes with vocal chords and that humans don't have the copyright on God or morality. I think it's wrong to murder someone. Not because Moses told someone who told someone who told someone who told me that murder is a sin. I think it's wrong to murder someone because, I don't know, uh, I guess because I would never want to be murdered.

I don't cheat on Will, not because another human who has been ordained by the Church tells me I will burn in Hell if I do, but because I don't want to hurt my husband's feelings, and I don't want him to cheat on me.

So when people f*ck up, I don't label it a sin. I know some people do, and that's cool as long as you don't call me a sinner. I just think everyone makes mistakes sometimes, sometimes minor, sometimes major, and it's our responsibility as kind humans to try to find a way to stop making these mistakes, to make amends with whomever we've hurt, including ourselves, and to learn from the experience.

I don't think frightening people into believing they're going to burn for eternity in Hell encourages people to live morally. It might scare them away. Or it might narrow their mind so they think everyone should live according to their personal beliefs. But I don't see how it can help someone learn why it's important not to make the mistake they made so they learn not to do it again.

But since Jesus is not physically around to help me, although one could argue that Jesus resides inside anyone who digs kindness, if I were that knocked up young woman, you know what I would have done? I would have walked my ass to SRS and applied for food stamps and section 8 housing and free lunches for my kid at school and medicaid so my kid can stay healthy. Not because I'm a lazy slob living off of other's hard work. Because I'm a caring mother who wants a good life for my child. Because, damn, what else can I do in this imperfect society run by imperfect humans living in an imperfect world?

So we have this imperfect system of pooling our money together for social services simply to make sure it gets done. It's both practical and humane.

Trust me. I wish I could be a Libertarian. I'd love it if we all lived in closely-knit communities where we could help each other in the ways we see fit instead of being dictated to by people who don't know us. But we don't. That's why I'm a socialist democrat. In our country, it's the least objectionable way to make sure "the least of these brothers and sisters of mine" are getting the same blessings of a good life as I am.