Friday, January 30, 2009

It's Time to Celebrate

I wept the night Obama was elected, and I wept on the day of his inauguration - I felt a great weight lift from my shoulders and that of my nation.

It's time to celebrate.

His executive orders and his first piece of signed legislation (Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act) signal a new direction for the Republic, though I might add: not so much a new way, as the restoration of a purpose so eloquently outlined for us by our Founding Mothers and Fathers.

And now the central piece of Obama's Presidency, the Stimulus Plan - will it work?

Hard to say - once the wheels of Recession/Depression begin to roll, like a snowball heading down hill, it's tough to put the breaks on.

If John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) is right, and there are many who believe that it's time for Kenyesian steps to be taken - that is, if spending is the key to a vital economy, and banks aren't lending and folks aren't spending, then it's up to Uncle Sam to spend.

My greatest concern is that this spending be directed to job-creation and health care. The American people are shackled by rising health care costs, and too many are without insurance, contributing to a decline in our overall health and huge stress on our emergency rooms, just when so many hospitals are closing their ER doors and increasingly unable to absorb losses.

What limited travel I've had, it seems to me that our European and Canadian friends are doing a whole lot better on this one then we are. Both friends and family have experienced the European health care system, and the grades are consistently high, but the point worth noting: everyone is cared for, and I believe that when Uncle Sam begins to pay our medical bills, Uncle Sam will suddenly take a new interest in the food and water supply, clean air, product and workplace safety and the lifestyle of the American people.

For much of our history, there's been a marvelous oscillation between rugged individualism (everyone for themselves) and a social mandate to care for one another. It strikes me that in our youth (both personally and as a nation), we're likely to favor the "rugged" model, appealing, as it does, to our personal strengths and uniqueness. But as we grow older, we are likely to pay more attention to our neighbors, and if religion has any value whatsoever, faith opens our eyes to see "the least of these" and opens our hands to help.

Individual charity is a must, but only a concerted partnership between Uncle Sam and the engines of business can correct the social structures creating poverty. Charity alone may temporarily alleviate some suffering and will make the giver feel good, but we need social restructuring so that folks will have access to good jobs, job safety, education, health care and housing.

We can do it!

Yes, it's time to celebrate.

There are no miracles on the horizon. It took a considerable time for us to get to this point, and it will take time to make the needed corrections, not only in the material elements of taxation and government spending, but in our heart - as we move toward a greater social maturity - moving away from the "rugged" model to understanding and affirming that the greatest test of a society is the care we give to one another.

I write as Christian, and I write as one who heeds (or tries to) the prophetic message of Isaiah and Jeremiah (and the others) and how that message takes shape in the words and work of Jesus my Lord.

Yes, it's time to celebrate!

By God's grace, we can!

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