Letter 31: Will You Be My Neighbor?

Good Samaritan

We are knee-deep in another Presidential election cycle. What has been interesting to me is the symbiotic division within the country. The one common denominator has been a sense of fear and anger. We are apparently looking for bogeymen on whom to blame our troubles, and to whom to send our bills. Candidates right and left are more than willing to offer such solutions, and they have the fore.

The Right makes all sorts of angry statements looking to shut our borders, restrict trade, and roll back some social developments of the past twenty years. The Left pooh-poohs this, and derides the Right as ignorant and bigoted and a menace to society, unlike their virtuous selves. This fuels the fear and anger on the right, and the cycle goes on, and on, and on, and on, ad nausam.

What disturbs me most about this rhetoric is the demonization of the “other.” They are stupid, and unworthy of attention or regard. We need not give them any attention or consideration, as their opinions and beliefs are unreasonable, and in fact, pose a threat to our well-being. So we demonize.

Such dismissal of anything contrary to our views promotes stridency, and it also relieves us of the obligation to ask questions. Why does someone believe what they do? Can we even attempt to understand them? Do we realize that these men and women are our neighbors?

That is one of the challenges of following Christ, coming to see others as our neighbors, even if we can agree on nothing.

Kantian ethics, of all things, offers some useful questions to ask ourselves. First, are the rights we are requesting ones we would afford our enemies? Conversely, are the rights of others we wish to restrict ones we would be willing to give up, too? These aren’t perfect questions, but they make a good start.

Will you be my neighbor?

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Filed under Christianity, elections, ethics, politics, virtue

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