As I was getting in bed the other night I got one of those warm, funny feelings where I thought, “Damn, I’m lucky. I have a house, a car, a job, a great relationship….”. I had heard on the radio about a doctor that was building hospitals for poor people. He had some amazing insights about compassion. In this wealth-frenzied world it seems like the norm that people are concerned only for their own self-interest at the expense of all else. Here was a guy that was working his ass off every day to help people who desparately needed help. It made me feel sad for all the rich people in the world who still, with all their blessings, are trying to accumulate more wealth. I’ve written about that elsewhere. But as I was getting into bed that night I thought, damn, I’m lucky. I’m not rich by any American usage of the word, but compared to so many in the world, I am wealthy beyond all dreaming. It makes me feel bad that so many suffer so much when I have so much.
But here’s the thing: I want my government to help solve this. I think our government has a mandate to educate people, help them when they are sick and provide to them the opportunity to work towards better lives. Note that I am not saying that government has to wipe people’s butts. People still have to work for it. It’s the opportunity that government has to provide, not the outcome. I really, truly think that a capitalist society with a compassionate government can provide this. I think this nightmare of poverty and healthcare crisis is a direct result of our government not doing its job well. We are far too focused on the military. We are far too supportive of big business and the rich. Paul Wellstone said it best — the rich are surely capable of taking care of their interests. They don’t need the federal government looking after their interests. (That’s not how Paul said it.) The doctor I heard on the radio said: it’s simple: public dollars — public good. That’s what our government is for. We can hope that charities do it or hope that those with plenty do it. Or we can demand that our government does it. Believe me, we all benefit as human beings and as citizens when everyone has the chance to get in a clean, warm bed in their own house and feel lucky to be alive. Let’s do this.