As Christmas approaches, I tend to think about world affairs in terms of the Christian values I grew up believing. I look back over the year, and forward to the next year. I even make some predictions, not of the wheeooooeee type, but based on my analysis of events and conditions in society and in the world.
I read this morning that Ireland has mailed letters to about 6000 unemployed Irish, asking them to move to other EU nations. This strikes me as wrong on at least two fronts. The first is that as a Catholic nation, which prohibits birth control, the nation helped create the long term unemployed and owes them better than asking them to leave their home. The second is that the other EU nations have their own unemployment problems and might not welcome 6000 unemployed immigrants.
The day before I had read that Google (or amazon) was looking to replace clerks with robots. Prior to this, I have read pieces saying that we will now permanently have a higher rate of unemployment. I have also read that those who have been unemployed longer than six months are now considered unemployable. My Christian values tell me that if society cannot offer people jobs, it should, at a minimum, leave them their dignity, and provide them with life's necessities. This has made the Christian right's position of blaming the unemployed for their condition, and blaming it on laziness and unwillingness to work, simply unfathomable and immoral.
Love, and charity, Jesus himself, require us to treat the unemployables with respect, and dignity, not scorn and the cloak of invisibility that descends when we assume people "don't want to work." Honestly, how many of us can say that we would keep looking for a job after we are told by agencies and employers that we have been unemployed too long to be considered? With dwindling financial reserves, how much would any of us continue to expend on transportation, clothing expenses (even if just cleaning and pressing), printing up and sending out resumes? Who do you think an employer would hire -- a 32 year old with children, or someone in their late forties or early fifties with health issues?
Do we just toss people away, like disposable coffee cups and razors? Do we just say "I'll pray for you?' When we say it, how often do we actually pray for a solution to the suffering and the stress? Once? Daily until we hear the person's situation has improved?
Into this walks Pope Francis, who is the first Pope since I became conscious of the existence of a Pope, which was the installation of Pope John XXII, who walks and talks as I imagine Jesus did, or close to it. What does the Christian Right do? Attack him as "communist" like "Obama." I heard someone mention that Pope Francis was not even born in the United States! Hmm, I'm not Catholic, and I know that NONE of them throughout history were born in the United States. So how is that a relevant comment? Is it just a stupid one?
When I was younger, what used to break my heart and make me cry was not being loved. Then I realized that when people don't or can't love me, it's not my flaw, it's theirs. What makes me cry now is mostly people who don't recognize love when it's offered to them and people who think those loving them do not deserve decency, civility, and respect in return. Notice I didn't say "love in return," but "decency and respect in return." You can't expect love from everyone you love, but you can, and should expect decency and respect. .
Most of those who don't recognize love don't because they have never learned what it IS. Decency, civility, and respect are certainly part of love, but they aren't all of it. That "chemistry" is certainly part of romantic love. It too, is not all of what love is.
Sometimes people don't know what love is because one or both of their parents had not learned it and couldn't teach it. Some of them have not learned what love is because there is something wrong in their brains, some faulty flow of biochemicals across the synapses that makes them incapable of recognizing reality or prevents those synapses from connecting correctly and producing the emotion the rest of us would have in response to the event. Whatever the cause, it makes me cry to love someone who cannot recognize when they are being loved. I don't mean love just in the romantic sense, but in the relative, friend, fellow human being sense.
It also makes me cry when someone thinks they don't deserve love. People who think they should not expect loving behavior from others because they're too old, too fat, too ugly, too messed up, too SOMETHING. I cry when I see people staying in abusive relationships. Let me define to you what I consider an abusive relationship: any relationship in which an individual is rejected for who they are and experiences verbal, physical or sexual pressures to be someone they do not wish to be..
Everyone wants love and acceptance, everyone. To me, the "right to life" includes the right to QUALITY of life, not just a right to be born and breathe. To me, when we are doing such a terrible job loving each other, what kind of life can we pass on to the next generation?
I cry when someone thinks it's ok not to love someone else because they are black, or don't speak English (although it makes me laugh when the person saying this speaks or writes English badly themselves!), or isn't rich, or beautiful, or "normal" in some other way. Yes, some people ARE hard to love actively -- the mentally ill, the mentally challenged, the disabled, the substance addicted, the old, the poor, the psychologically mixed up (not actually mentally ill, just "troubled" like ,many teens and young people), and those with whom we disagree on just about everything. How much more blessed I feel when I can reach inside and show love to even these.
I have been crying a lot the last few years. Some days it seems to me that most of engage in abusive relationships. I find it increasingly difficult to listen to people put me and my beliefs down without wanting to lash out. Some days I do lash out. I hate that. On the other hand, the constant stream of judgments made about me on the basis of my beliefs and voting choices makes me want to be out of the relationship with the people slinging the abuse. Unfortunately, it is impossible to withdraw completely from the world, although I have done so as much as possible.
I went shopping yesterday with a friend. Normally, I ride the electric carts or someone pushes me in my wheelchair. However, my friend and I figured we could get my wheelchair out of my car, but probably not back in. So I decided to rely on the kindness of the stores. At Bed, Bath and Beyond, there is no cart to ride on, not even a manually operated wheelchair. So I toughed it out and trekked through the store leaning on a regular shopping cart. At the end of a circuit of the store, my knees were killing me. The next stop was Randall's, who, God bless them, have several electric carts available for shoppers. Here, the only problem I encountered was other customers. You see, like many stores now, Randall's had some moveable stands in the aisles. The problem was that one of them was placed right by the product I was shopping for.. You may also not realize that a pair of bifocal wearing eyes has to be positioned just so to be able to read the labels on the shelves. Unfortunately, that position is more or less right in the middle of the aisle. Between my cart and the freestanding displays, I was blocking traffic..For the first minute or so, I was alone on the aisle, so there was no real problem. Then along comes a woman with her cart, in a hurry. She walks up right in front of my cart, purses her lips and stands there, waiting for me to get the hell out of her way. Now, for my shopping purposes, it would have been better if I could have pulled forward. No, I had to put down my shopping list and coupons and back the cart up since she was firmly planted in front of me and clearly not in the mood to back up herself. Once I moved, she sort of flung her hair, huffed and pushed past me, making her displeasure at having to wait on me abundantly clear. I wanted to wheel around and run my cart up her ass! OK so she's gone.
I moved back into position and resumed my interrupted shopping task. The next person comes up along the aisle behind me. Oddly enough, I didn't see her as soon as she pulled up behind me. Instead of saying "excuse me" she must have stood there a bit waiting for me to move out of her way. Since I was consulting my coupons and the labels on the shelves, I was unaware of her presence until she coughed. Sort of the disabled shoppers version of having the person in the car behind you honk if you don't jackrabbit forward as soon as s light turns green.. Again, I put down my list and coupons, interrupting my task again and move out of her way. For the next fifteen minutes, I experience this sort of thing at least a dozen times, including a time that someone had gone around me and was now purusing the shelf in front of me as someone again comes up behind me and eventually loudly clears her throat. The woman in front of me seems completely oblivious to what is going on, so I turn around in my seat, and smile sweetly and say "I'll be happy to back up and get out of your way, but you will need to back up and give me some room so that I can." She looked at me like I had just pointed a gun at her and demanded all her money and the groceries in her cart. I won't even attempt to describe the incident with the woman on her cell phone. The point of this is that what would have taken me a maximum of two minutes to do ended up taking over 15, because every woman who came down that aisle clearly expected the disabled person to get out of their way. Only one woman who came down the aisle was at all polite to me, saying "no no, I was looking at something, you're fine." when I said "Oh, sorry, let me get out of your way." Strangely enough, the few men who came down the aisle were exceedingly polite. One of them, as I stretched to reach a product, took it down from the shelf and said "Is this what you were trying to get.?" On almost every aisle, this scene was repeated. On the frozen foods aisle, a woman barged up and opened a door that was clearly blocked by my cart, slamming it into my cart while she reaches in through a 2" crack and tries to extricate an item that's wider than 2"! At least she didn't glare at me. She didn't even meet my eyes, just stood there, holding on to the selected item, until I moved out of her way.
One of the advantages of a liberal arts education, is that one learns about the behavior of rats left to breed uncontrollably in a closed cage, and how they react to each other when resources such as food and water become artificially scarce. My friends, we have become a society of such rats. I am convinced. What was scarce during my shopping trip was not food or water, but time. Everyone is in a hurry, and the weak are just climbed over by the strong.
Of course, it goes beyond my shopping trip last night. It is in our social policies and practices, where the poor, the poorly educated, the traumatized young, the disabled, the homeless, the mentally ill are seen as inconveniences and blamed for their situation. While nobody is yet crass enough to say it, the body language and the attitude is clearly that we should just die and get the hell out of the way of the strong. How dare we hope for financial help. We should just get jobs and quit feeling sorry for ourselves. You know what? I don't feel sorry for myself. I feel frustrated by people who don't acknowledge reality. There aren't enough employers willing to make enough concessions, and many of the ones who do make concessions offer inadequate pay as the price for making those concessions. Why? Well, there are plenty of healthy rats they can hire! Healthy rats who will do the jobs of 2-3 rats and take their stress out on....the unhealthy rats like me. The employers are also in a hurry to get their work done, get their product out on the shelves and sold, under pressure to maximize the benefit for the cost.
When I look out at the wider world, I see the same thing happening in other nations. I can't help but think it has something to do with the population growth. If you look at it, Earth is a "closed cage." Now while I grant that God has the power to suddenly make its surface double in size, He has yet to take any steps in that direction. I am the kind that asks "What does He want of us? We were commanded to love Him, to love our neighbors as ourselves, and to be stewards of earth." I don't think He wants us to be a society, or a world, of rats, scrambling over each other to make sure each of gets "MY ___" (money, food, water, dream estate, etc). To me, the real signs of Christian commitment are how one treats the less fortunate, the sick, the elderly, the disabled,, the damaged -- regardless of whether they have served in the military or not., whether they are "just like me," belong to the same political party, race, age group, economic class, etc. Perhaps it is also time to ask ourselves if God really wants us to breed without limit and overwhelm this earth to the point that we live in a constant state of war over water and food. Forget oil. You can live without oil. Humans did so for thousands of years. You cannot however,live without clean water to drink, food to eat and air to breathe. Think about it, and get back to me. And be warned, the next time I go shopping and am treated the way I was yesterday? I won't get out of your way. I'll make you wait, because my time is just as valuable to me as yours is to you, and I am worth every bit as much as you are -- mobility impairment and little electric cart and all. I am God's child just as much as you are, and while you may not love me (and I