My computer didn't burst into flames recently when I ran across a post on one of my Republican friends' Facebook page. It was a quote from the late Adrian Rogers, past president of the Southern Baptist Convention. In part it read: "You cannot legislate the poor into prosperity by legislating the wealthy out of prosperity. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving...You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it."
Rogers was an unapologetic right-wing conservative. He was also a righteous man. One does not preclude the other.
After reading the post, I scrolled down all 28 comments. As expected, 95 percent were in rabid agreement, although, as the hour rolled on, a few negative replies, equally as passionate, began to dribble in.
And it struck me, as it has hundreds of times, that the vitriol on both sides of the opinion had diluted any hope of dealing with it. Nobody was listening. I could almost hear the arms breaking while everyone patted themselves on the back, and torches and pitchforks quickly appeared on the streets of Facebook. Rage overshadowed reason.
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Although I'm a liberal Democrat who believes in some form of government subsidy, as long as it is unavoidable and not abused, I can see the logic in Rogers' statement — as far as it went.
But to me it stops several miles short, oversimplifying to the point where it describes something that doesn't exist and nobody wants. Even wealthy Democrats don't want their own personal wealth legislated away.
But earning and having immense wealth doesn't automatically mean we shouldn't find some way to help those who will never see that level of achievement, regardless of their desire or effort. There but for the grace of God, go I?
It would be pompous to say that, simply because I'm a Democrat, I have all the answers. If I did, I'd run for sainthood (although fund-raising might be an issue).
Just because others' beliefs are different from mine, it doesn't make them wrong, just different. I imagine somewhere in the middle ground of any rational analysis lies the truth, ordained by a higher power, lurking, hiding from us all, challenging us to seek her out. And be better than we were before we started.
Sadly, most of us give up without even bothering to look. It's easier to shout down the opposing viewpoint than to thoughtfully listen to it. Mouth open, ears shut. It doesn't take long before the passionate defense of our own position overrules our desire to enhance it. And the words begin to turn sour. A bitter threat is usually the last resort of a person with a limited vocabulary.
Sometimes, in our zeal to make a point we fall back into self-serving oversimplification, and our words distort reality. The aggregate of life's complex struggles can't be captured in a clever phrase. Life in the trenches involves emotions, hopes and dreams, failures, disappointments, insecurities, and more often than not, random opportunity.
One argument against drawing down from the 1 percent and giving to the 99 percent is obvious and indisputable. The well-documented abuse of a well-intentioned system by those that aren't willing to help themselves only poisons the well for all of us.
Those self-serving scavengers are on my crap list too. But geeze-o-pete, if the car is broken, maybe instead of setting it on fire, we should just repair it.
I'll bet if any of the one-percenters, including and especially our almost uniformly wealthy Congress, were suddenly seized by supernatural forces of The Twilight Zone and thrust into the unfamiliar role of not knowing where their next meal or house payment was coming from, their votes would be considerably different.
The late writer Flannery O'Connor said, "The truth does not change according to our ability to handle it."
If we boil away all the rhetoric and verbal cover, I'd wager there is more substance left unstated than any one paragraph can explain.
I'll continue to welcome spirited debate with any of our legislators. I could use a good education. But if we jettison the earplugs and pass out chill pills at the beginning, it's just possible all of us might get a fresh take on something we thought was a done deal.