Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

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Friday, October 12, 2012

Beware of the Leopard

One of my favorite exchanges in "Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy" by Douglas Adams has to do with the planned destruction of the house Arthur Dent, the main character. He hadn't heard of the demolition details for the new highway bypass, and bulldozers were poised at his door, ready to plow his home down. The foreman claimed that everyone knew the plans, well, except Arthur, who was lying in the mud to block the destruction. 

" ...You hadn't exactly gone out of your way to call attention to them had you? I mean like actually telling anyone or anything." 
"But the plans were on display..." 
"On display?! I eventually had to go down to the cellar to find them." 
"That's the display department." 
"With a torch." 
"Ah, well the lights had probably gone." 
"So had the stairs." 
"But look you found the notice didn't you?" 
"Yes," said Arthur, "yes I did. It was on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying 'Beware of The Leopard'."
In many ways, that's how I'm feeling about the current discussion of social justice in the Vice Presidential debate. (Yes, I'm a geek). We're hearing lots of talk about how the Paul Ryan budget is aimed to improve the efficiency of the economy, improve our finances, and ensure that the business will thrive. But like planners who thought a highway bypass would be a great way to move forward, it completely ignores those whose lives are destroyed, whose homes will be lost, who will be cast under the tractor in the name of progress.

Both candidates are Roman Catholic. I was raised Roman Catholic, though now I'm a practicing Episcopalian. In either denomination, the concept of social justice is fairly deep. It's part of our religious culture, our DNA. We take care of those who need assistance. Look around the country, and a vast number of larger hospitals, hospices, shelters, and food banks are run or were started by churches with a social justice tradition. 

Social justice is not a political position. It's a moral obligation. It's part of our covenant with God: love each other as God loves us. It has nothing to do with communism, socialism, or other such "Beware of the Leopard" demagoguery.

Without the details of what an economic plan involves, I have to agree with Sister Simone and the Nuns on the Bus. The social safety net is most assuredly going to be hacksawed in order to accomplish all the things that have been promised. If there were other reasonable offsets and plans (reduction of military budgets, elimination of capital gains tax preferences, etc) that addressed the revenue-expenditure imbalance directly, I would believe that the budget could do this without sacrificing the needy on the cross of economic realities. But I don't see it. The Romney-Ryan budget plans don't add up. 

I don't understand why it's too difficult to share the details, explaining how the numbers will actually work. To insist on hiding details is to demonstrate arrogance, paternalism, and elitism. We can handle the truth, as it shall set us free.

So, like Arthur Dent, I feel like I need to lie in the mud in front of my house, hoping I can thwart the implementation of a plan I feel I know nothing about, a plan that cares not a whit about those who lie in its path. And as Arthur eventually puts a towel over his eyes so that he cannot see things that might cause panic, so too are we being asked to ignore the bulldozer at our door.

Our Vice Presidential candidates may talk about their Roman Catholic faith, but I can certainly sense when one hasn't really been listening in his pew. I pray that we hear the details soon so that we can in fact make progress, without sacrificing the needy.