There has been a lot of talk this past week about the effect of Hurricane Sandy on the upcoming elections. As I watch news footage of this devastating storm I too am thinking about the effect that this storm will have on the elections, but my concerns have nothing to do with voter turnout or interrupted campaigns. Instead, I am thinking about the millions of Americans who are watching the same news footage that I am watching and seeing the heroic efforts of other Americans in trying to help those who have been stranded, injured and suffered terrible loss of property due to this storm.
Much has been made during the current political campaigns about the cost of social programs and aid provided by government to those of us who “should be more self-sufficient and stop thinking of ourselves as victims.” Who can forget Mitt Romney’s comments about the 47% of Americans who “don’t pay taxes” won’t vote for him, as they “are dependent upon the government, who believe they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it.”
I am not a Liberal or a Conservative. I am, however, an American citizen and a human being. I prefer to not label myself and to keep a real open mind when it comes to anything. I don’t believe you can ever learn anything or get anywhere in discussions with other Americans or other human beings if you are enslaved to “ologies” of any sort which cause you to be unable to really hear and perhaps give credence to another’s viewpoint when they may actually have a point worth considering. This is why I will admit right off the bat here that, in part, I agree with the idea that people should become more self-sufficient, confident and willing & able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, as the saying goes.
What I disagree with, however, is the purpose for doing so. A person should become as strong and able as they possibly can NOT just so they can survive when others do not. A person should become as strong and able as they possibly can in order to be able to help others in times of need who cannot help themselves. As this terrible “Frankenstorm” has shown us, “shit happens”. It happens to all of us at times. There is not a person among us who has not or who will not need the help of another at some point in our lives. To watch those who CAN help those who CAN’T during this devastating storm fills my heart with joy and love and renews my sense of pride in being an American and a human being. The issue shouldn’t just be about those who need help in this country, it should also be about the fact that we, as Americans, need to give help to others. It is not just a simple matter of economics it is also a spiritual matter. It is a question about our purpose and the meaning of our lives.
American politics get into a lot of moral areas where many of us think it should not: debates about abortion, euthanasia, and gay marriage. The reason these issues do come up, whether we like it or not, is because we want our government to reflect our moral values. We don’t just want a cold and efficient bureaucracy running things. We want our “leaders” to care about the things that we care about and to mirror our values. In this time of great economic crisis, our morality has been muddied and clouded with fear. The issues as they are presented to us are not moral issues but are instead based on cold, practical policy-making. Sure, the issue of “gay marriage” is once more in the forefront. But does “gay marriage” really count as an issue that defines us as a people and as a nation? I would say that it does not, no matter what side of the debate you’re on. What really defines us as a people and as Americans are the very acts that I’m watching on my television today: our willingness and our ability to be there for each other and even for those in other countries around the world when we are needed.
The issue over government provided social services and aid programs isn’t just about those who NEED services. It is also about those who need to PROVIDE services. We are a nation of givers. It is a large part of what defines us as a people. It is often said that the United States of America was founded on Christian principles. This idea impels many of our political choices. What Christian principles could be more important than those of Faith, Hope, Charity & Love? It seems that we have forgotten these while focusing instead on finger-pointing and judging others. Let’s not allow fear (which is the absence of Faith & Hope) to defeat that which is the best in us. If we work together and listen to each other and care about each other, we can overcome any crisis while maintaining our integrity and our principles. Let’s not sell these so cheaply.
So, please watch footage of the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy with me and allow your heart to be moved by the courage and spirit of our Fellow Americans reaching out and helping other Fellow Americans in need. Let your heart decide the future of our country and not your fear or your political affiliations. Let’s remember together what really makes America great. This would be the greatest and most important impact that Hurricane Sandy could possibly have on our upcoming elections.