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Blessing the poor

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At this time of year, when the Christmas Spirit is emerging (as opposed to the Shop-Shop season, which I try to ignore), it would be useful to meditate on something that C. S. Lewis brought out in his seminal book Mere Christianity. Many, many people are advised to read it when they express an interest in the faith, either as adults or older children. My feeling about conversion is that it needs an "age of consent," which many parents do not pay attention to. This results in the abandonment of religion by quite a few young adults.

Another reality television show has also come to the cable networks, dealing with members of the Fundamentalist Mormon compound in Arizona/Utah. Their young people are abandoning life there (speaking of children abandoning the religion of their parents). Both young men and young women are featured on the show, "Breaking the Faith," but it should be said that the FLDS elders usually kick their adolescent sons out of the compound early on, so that they can keep the young girls for their "plural marriages," or harems.

Another reality show, "Sister Wives," has chronicled to a nauseating degree just how much unhappiness and dissent actually prevail in such arrangements, but as long as government authorities cower before their pretense of religious freedom (the freedom of men to have as many women as possible, and not the other way around), it doesn't look like the states are going to stop harassing gay couples and start harassing polygamous communities in which the rape and abuse of children is a daily occurrence. The FLDS children on the television show are trying to break brainwashing as well as captivity, first trying to avoid the "God Squad" of violent, homicidal vigilantes and then trying to accept life in what almost amounts to a new world.

Just as a side note, I'd like to see what happens when an African American Mormon (there are some) decides to go fundamentalist and attempts to move himself and some white and African American wives into the compound. Have you thought that all those guys in the FLDS Church are white? Wouldn't it be fun to add some pepper to all that salt and observe the reaction?

Anyway, in the way that Lewis meant in his famous book, these runaways are some of "the poor" whom Jesus blessed. They are poor in self-esteem, poor in love given and received, and poor in the literal sense when they strike out for their freedom with no more than a knapsack of belongings at best. I admire their courage but they get so little support that it is remarkable when they succeed in establishing normal lives at all. I can't say how much I admire Carolyn Jessop, an escapee, for her untiring efforts to help these young people realize their freedom.

At Christmas time, as we are screamed at to buy more and more, it is an interesting speculation that the society we have had heretofore was very focused on material possessions. My morning meditation from the Forward Movement today dwelt on the way our American life appears to those in Africa who live in high-risk poverty. We certainly look rich to them, with our houses and cars, our refrigerators full of food and our summer and winter wardrobes. And as Lewis wrote, it is perfectly right and proper that there ought to be as many people as possible who are "rich" in this way. To be warm in the winter (and cool in the summer if you live in Tucson) and to have enough to eat is an admirable goal for everyone except Republicans today, who have convinced themselves that poverty is a sign of defective character, even as regards helpless children. If their daddies can't get a job they deserve to go to bed hungry at night, that's their mantra. If you are poor, what's wrong with you?

This political party has produced an all-time low in Congressional productivity, characterized by their important failure to enact legislation to help create jobs. Now they are stigmatizing the poor and unemployed, trying to take away any benefits they now receive. It is earmarked for tax rebates and refunds to their owners, the corporate rich who seem to be the happiest people on the planet, raking in the money that was formerly used to feed starving Americans. One side effect of this situation has been the revelation of the heartless cruelty that animates the Teabaggers, and has animated them from their beginning in hysterical racism towards our President. As Bill Maher said before Thanksgiving, they sat around their dinner tables and one by one, they mentioned what they were hateful for.

So the proper goal for a society is to provide basic human comforts for as many people as possible. Compared to, say, Somalia, we are a society that is quite successful in those terms. But to be poor is more than to be hungry; we all know that poor people, or people who do not have many material possessions, can be very happy. That is emphatically not to say that America will always have a middle class that has been well provided for, both by social institutions like Social Security and Medicare and by an abundance of work and living wages. The explicit goal of the Republican Party, all of whom are drinking the Teabaggers' Kool Aid, which Ayn Rand mixed up for them in her fictional books, is to impoverish the middle class and hand their money over to corporate executives. This is roughly the equivalent of killing the goose that laid the golden eggs.

It is also to pretty much a recipe for revolution. The French and the Russian people took the excesses of their monarchies for a long time before they put them to death, and there is no guarantee that stupid Americans who think that government is the problem will not catch on to realize that it is corporate fascism that is the problem. Can money buy anything and everything? Well, it can buy congressmen, that's for sure, but for how long? If and when America abandons its commitment to "liberty and justice for all" and just becomes a fascist nation run by industry on the backs of poor working people, what is to prevent those poor people from rethinking it? We can still read books...for the time being.

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