Saturday, November 03, 2012

L'état est nous: What’s at stake on Tuesday

            I remember, whenever someone would say something bad about the Government my mom would get a little flustered and respond, “We are the government.” This from a life long civil servant. She worked from the Department of Defense as the only civilian pharmacist at the NATO Health Clinic in Brussels during the twilight of the Cold War and still keeps our promise to America’s veterans at the VA to this day.
            And I believe that statement by my mom is on trial this election. Do we as a country believe that we are the government or is the government a nefarious entity that we should be afraid of?
            I vote for the first one—that government is of the people, by the people, and for the people.
            We, as the government, do together what we can’t do alone. We, as the government, protect citizens who can’t protect themselves. We, as the government, govern as we wish to live.
            We do together what we can’t do alone. For example, the government acted to keep us out of a second Great Depression. One of the ways we did that is being argued about today, whether the Federal Government should have bailed out American car companies. We did, it saved millions of jobs in the American Auto-industry. Governor Romney says we should have let private firms bail out the American car companies, yet there was neither private capital nor private will to do such a thing. Yet, for the sake of millions of Americans, there was a need to save those jobs and keep the recession from becoming a depression. So we, the government, bailed out the car companies.
            Likewise, at this very moment we in New Jersey are pretty glad America is working collectively through agencies such as FEMA to assist us in our hour of need. Governor Romney has said he would break up FEMA and either pass it’s responsibilities on to state government or privatize it. I’ll be frank, I’m glad all of America is flexing our muscle to get things done here. I’d rather have all of us working together to fix the many bruised lives instead of 1/50th of America’s power working to bring power back and get life back to normal.
            We protect those who can’t protect themselves. There are forces, like Super Storm Sandy, that are too big for any one of us to handle on our own. In my own life, the force that is bigger than I am is being one of the 57.2 million Americans who have a pre-existing medical condition. The Affordable Care Act (aka “Obama-care”) moved we the people into collective action against the bad practice of discrimination against people with pre-existing conditions.
            Now, during the debate Governor Romney said, while he would repeal “Obama-care” on his first day in office he would make sure people like me won’t be discriminated against. Then, after the debates, he explained what he meant. He won’t allow me to be discriminated against, as long as I’m already covered, but if I go without insurance for even a month, for whatever reason, we the people will no longer protect me from discrimination. As long as I’m not applying for insurance I’m protected from discrimination.
            I prefer the other path, the one where we protect our people on good days and on bad ones too.
            Finally, we govern as we wish to live. Now, I grew up in Wyoming so, Ayn Rand (the writer/philosopher who Representative Paul Ryan claims got him interested in public service) and extreme libertarianism—do it on your own or die rhetoric—gives me a certain reflexive cuddly warm fuzzy feeling. But then I realize a dog eat dog society isn’t the kind of society I want to live in.
            After Sandy my next door neighbor could have let my cell-phone go dead, but instead when she went to her sister’s house to charge her phone she offered to charged mine there too. I braved post-storm South Plainfield on foot to check on my parishioners, not because it was my job and I’d get paid for it, but because it was the right thing to do.
            And I think we should govern based on the type of neighborhood and society we believe we should live in. For example, every four months, I send a check for $2,500 to the IRS payable to the Treasury Department. I’ve heard libertarians (sometimes even libertarians citing St. Augustine’s discussion of Piracy and Government) call that theft. I call it an investment in the society I want to live in. That $2,500 goes to our collective defense, to fulfilling our promise to our soldiers when they come home, to my aunt’s 3 adopted kids, to my older friends who have been able to retire with dignity and in good health, to ensuring healthcare for people with pre-existing conditions, and to rebuilding New Jersey and the tri-state region.
(This post does not reflect the views held by the ELCA, the New Jersey Synod, or St. Stephen Lutheran and should not be seen as a political endorsement by any church body)

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