Remember HHH? I saw a quote of this this morning that so perfectly reflected my view of a good government.
The moral test of government is how it treats those who are in the dawn of life . . . the children; those who are in the twilight of life . . . the elderly; and those who are in the shadow of life . . . the sick . . . the needy . . . and the disabled.
~ Hubert H. Humphrey
Kindness is underrated in our society, especially kindness to those on the margins of life. It’s one of the chief separations –polarizations–in our political philosophies.
Helping those in the dawn or twilight of life is something many European countries get right. Before you get on your America: love-it-or-leave-it-high horse and say “well, go live there, this is the best country in the world and if you don’t like it leave” (and don’t get me started on how stupid that kind of response is), let me say this:
1. There isn’t only one “best country”. That fiction is a hallmark of our American competitive spirit, where we have to be first, best and loved by everyone, or we’ll beat them over the head.
2. There are other things European countries don’t get right. I’m talking about one thing: how we treat those among us who need help. We tend to want to punish them. Or ignore them. They tend to lend a helping hand.
3. You can argue that those economic system are a mess because of their funding social programs, but whose economic system has melted down? Ours? or theirs? That’s a rhetorical question.
4. You can point out that our quality of life has always been far better, and if you measure that by great big SUVs, mini-mansions, 5-acre ranchettes and a culture of consumerism, well, you’re right. Could that culture be how we went wrong?
Now, don’t get me wrong. I do my share of consumerism. And I am always glad to get back home after a trip abroad. (After all, it IS home. Just like Europeans are glad to get back to THEIR home. In Europe.) But I learned a long time ago, when I had nothing, and I do mean nothing, except my parents as a backstop if I became destitute, and the love of friends, that I don’t really need “stuff”.
There’s no question in my mind that the kindness you give out to people is reflected back in how they treat you. It’s good karma. And one hopeful thing about Obama is that he didn’t come from uber-privilege. He seems to actually be a politican capable of accessing his heart. And that’s a good thing.
In our American society, children still go hungry. The aged are living on tiny stipends, are often discounted and sometimes abandoned. The disabled are shunted aside. I’m worried, because our Ugly-American-consumerism has destroyed our economic system and social programs are being cut. More kids will go to sleep hungry. More old people will live at the poverty level.
I don’t pretend to know all the answers, but I do know this.
HHH had it right. We’d be a lot better off if we seasoned our policies and politics with a little human kindness.