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Thursday, August 2, 2012

"Where are the Others?"

I just finished reading Along the Way, an excellent father/son memoir by Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez. Toward the end, Sheen writes:
"There's an old saying: If you arrive at the Kingdom alone you must answer just one question: 'Where are the others?' We are made so that we must travel alone, yet we cannot do so without community. No one can live our lives for us or carry our inner burdens, yet we can come to know ourselves only through our compassion for others." 
This, it seems to me, is what is missing from the public debate over health care, gun control, and some other issues today.   Our nation has polarized over political ideology.  And, for the most part, that ideology itself is not well-articulated or well-communicated.  Instead, people latch on to pieces of it:  freedom of markets, corporations as independent operators in society,  the right to keep and bear arms, etc.  Missing is a discussion of fundamental moral issues: 
What defines the U.S. as a "community?" 
As citizens, what are our responsibilities to others who share our community?
The big public policy issues are, in the final analysis, not questions of cost or freedom of markets, but of responsibility.  What is our responsibility to others?   Government--and the taxes that support it--are the vehicle by which we help each other in order to sustain our community.   If we believe the Christian adage, "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you," how should we use our government?  And, as a community, what should we expect of corporations that thrive on the work of individuals in our community?