Hoping for a new ethic in 2010
This special season got me to thinking about America’s spirit of giving, and I don’t mean this overdone business of Christmas gifts. I mean our true spirit of giving — giving of ourselves.
Yes, we are a country of rugged individualists, yet there’s also a deep, community-minded streak in each of us. We’re a people who believe in the notion that we’re all in this together, that we can make our individual lives better by contributing to the common good.
The establishment media pay little attention to grassroots generosity, focusing instead on the occasional showy donation by what it calls “philanthropists” — big tycoons who give a tiny piece of their billions to some university or museum in exchange for getting a building named after them. But in my mind, the real philanthropists are the millions of you ordinary folks who have precious little money to give, but consistently give of yourselves.
My own daddy, rest his soul, was a fine example of this. With half a dozen other guys in Denison, Texas, he started the Little League baseball program, volunteering to build the park, sponsor and coach the teams, run the squawking P.A. system, etc., etc. Even after I moved on from Little League, he stayed working at it, because his involvement was not merely for his kids ... but for all.
He felt the same way about being taxed to build a public library in town. I don’t recall him ever going in that building, much less checking out a book, but he wanted it to be there for the community and he was happy to pay his part. Not that he was a do-good liberal, for God’s sake — indeed, he called himself a conservative.
My daddy didn’t even know he had a political philosophy, but he did, and it’s the best I’ve ever heard. He would often say to me, “Everybody does better when everybody does better.”
If only our leaders in Washington and on Wall Street would begin practicing this true American Philosophy. Maybe we could help get them in the proper frame of mind by urging a bit of introspection on their part. With New Year’s Day right around the corner, I was working on my list of New Year’s resolutions when it occurred to me that some of the people running our country could benefit from my suggestions for their lists. No need for them to thank me —I’m happy to help!
Let’s start, then, with those proud-and-loud members of Congress who’ve adamantly opposed real health insurance reform for workaday Americans. Not only do I include the entire block of Republican lawmakers whose vocabulary is limited to the word “no,” but also those pathetic Democrats who’ve compromised the reform idea into corporate mush. It would be neat (and only fair) for each of these stalwarts of the status quo to make this vow for 2010: “Since I helped kill reform, I will give up the excellent government-paid, socialized health coverage that I get so that I am in the same leaky boat as my constituents.”
And here’s one for the barons of Wall Street, who continue to float on billions of dollars in government bailout money, yet are grabbing bonus payments for themselves, while pouting that the public is not showing them the love they deserve: “I hereby pledge to go through the 12-step detox program of Greedheads Anonymous to cure my narcissism and become a human being again.”
Let’s not forget the Obamacans, either! They came into office on an antiwar, anti-fat cat, pro-middle-class program, yet they’ve expanded their war, catered to fat cats and offered the middle class nothing but “a jobless recovery.” Here’s the resolution we need from Obama: “In year two of my term, I promise to Democrat-up by getting some economic advisors who’ve actually met a real worker and downloading some recordings of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt to my iPod. I’ll also require top officials in my administration to volunteer at least one loved one to go to war in Afghanistan.”
If only we can get those in charge to make these pledges, we’ll all have a happier New Year!
Jim Hightower is a national radio commentator, columnist and author.