By Tom Altepeter
Originally posted 8/4/11 at Tom's Posterous
I’ve reached my tipping point with the anti-government crusaders. The lack of understanding, the pervasive inconsistency, the blatant hypocrisy, and the never-ending excuses have pushed me to the brink. Those two sentences alone will have likely turned away any readers who may have actually been challenged by this blog post, but onward I will march, preaching to the choir or not.
There’s a general feeling among those who rail against government that it is actually that – an “it.” All cynicism aside, government is no different than any institution in that “it” is comprised of people. And, like it or not, all people are broken. Because of that, nothing (and I do mean nothing) will run smoothly all the time. I urge us to at least take the step of halting the fantasy that government is somehow this thing that runs absent of people – this “it” that does stuff to us. The government, folks, is us.
Citizens of The United States, in relation to many people throughout the world, are privileged beyond comprehension. Even with that truth is another layer of reality that exists in which the disparity of the privilege among people within our country is beyond comprehension. I won’t even embark here on a conversation about the up sides and down sides of capitalism, or the harsh realities of our lack of intercultural responsiveness; rather, I will keep it focused on this: If we think our government has too much of a hand in our lives, and if we think we are somehow oppressed by our government, and if we think we are on some kind of path where we will lose our freedoms in sweeping waves, then we have no idea whatsoever what it means (let alone feels like) to live in that type of situation. Get out of your bubble, wake up and smell the coffee, and look just a few inches beyond yourself. We’ve got it good, and when I say, “good,” I mean really, really, really good.
The railings against government and how “it” intrudes in our lives is seemingly endless, but some key areas seem to consistently include money (no taxes) and guns (no restrictions). Interestingly, however, many of those same individuals actually yearn for governmental intrusion in our lives when it comes to our bodies (abortion and euthanasia issues come to mind) and our relationships (marriages and unions come to mind). We want the government to stay away from our belief systems, but we want to bring our belief systems into government. We promote the idea that life should be valued by the government, but then dismantle lives advancing the death penalty, promoting war, denying healthcare, and avoiding the shared sacrifice that would allow others to survive. Arguments abound that healthcare and education are not “rights” that people should expect, and yet those same arguments tend to include statements related to the belief that our “rights” to our own healthcare and educational options are being eroded with government involvement.
We have created a system of “haves” and “have-nots.” Because we have created this system (again, I won’t even embark here on a conversation about the up sides and down sides of capitalism, or the harsh realities of our lack of intercultural responsiveness), we also have a responsibility to give at least one hoot (if not two or more) for the “have-nots.” Now, I recognize people actually exist who believe we have no responsibility at all for the “have-nots.” I also recognize those people have not just a wildly distorted perception of what Jesus Christ teaches us (my Lord and Savior, as well as yours if you choose to accept His free gift of grace – yes, I’m an evangelical Christian and unashamed to share that), but they also have a wildly distorted perception of some basic human principles related to love. What I’d rather focus on is the much larger percentage of the population who truly do believe we have at least some responsibility for the “have-nots,” but simply disagree on how we support one another.
What I often hear is that it’s people who should be helping others, not the government. I’ll state again here, with all cynicism aside, the government, folks, is us. Furthermore, if you truly believe it should be an individual’s choice to help, then I beg you to continue to do just that. As you do it, though, I also beg you to not continuously interfere with what people are collectively attempting to do in order to help others. You know, collectively, like the government. Oh, and by the way, collectively, like philanthropic or service organizations. Oh, and that’s right, collectively, like churches. Oh, and I almost forgot, collectively, like families.
Finally, allow me to simply scratch the surface of the immigration issue. There’s a somewhat common feeling among people that we want the government to intervene. The difference is typically focused on how we want the government to intervene. Some would like to believe all immigrants who aren’t here “legally” should be thrown out, that “our” taxes shouldn’t go to help “illegal” immigrants, and that “those people” don’t pay any taxes, take “our” jobs, and are a drain on “our” system. Buckle down for a moment and face this reality: If anyone is here “illegally,” then we all are (absent, of course, Native Americans), the complexity of the immigration system isn’t even remotely the same from when many of our ancestors invaded this land to when our family and friends tried to make a new life for themselves in a new country to when our brothers and sisters of the world join us presently, all people pay taxes in one form or another, our workforce is extremely diverse and all people contribute in various ways, and nothing – absolutely, positively, nothing – is “ours.”
I’m not seeking anything beyond our capabilities here. I’m just looking for some simple things, and even in a broken world with broken people, I truly believe it’s possible. Let’s be willing to reach out in love to, and sacrifice some for, others. I mean, after all, He loved us so much that He sacrificed His life for us. A little perspective goes a long way.
Jesus junkie, husband, and father, Tom Altepeter is a former elementary school principal and present middle school assistant principal in Loveland, Colorado. He is passionate about God, family, intercultural responsiveness, and social justice. He blogs at Intercultural Responsiveness, Maranatha, and Tom's Posterous. You can follow him on Twitter @tomaltepeter (http://twitter.com/tomaltepeter).