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This I Believe

Advocate for Social Justice

Maybe it was spending time growing up overseas.  Maybe it was hanging around theatre people during my formative young adulthood.  Maybe it’s a result of being a newspaper reporter; a job where you can see injustice and write it, and maybe move in the direction of righting it.

Wherever it comes from, I do have strong convictions about all forms of social justice. I’m not naïve about it, either.  I understand that there are times when people’s rights collide; when earnest efforts to good go bad; when we must accept compromised solutions to advance a cause.

Here are two touchstones for my philosophy.

The beginning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence speaks to me of where I believe the citizens of the United States should stand. If Mr. Jefferson was drafting this copy today, he would have made it gender inclusive – saying “all people” (or some more resonant phrase) and that is how I read it:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed . . .  

That sums up my ideal vision of the great American adventure; a home for justice and fairness in a nation governed by the people – us ordinary folks – the 99 percent.  

An even simpler statement of principles that I believe in and a summary of my religious beliefs comes from the ancient Hebrew rabbi Hillel.  From Wikipedia, the description of Hillel’s response to the challenge of a Gentile who asked that the Torah be explained to him while he stood on one foot. Hillel accepted the question but gently chastised the man with his response:

"What is hateful to you, do not do to your fellow: this is the whole Torah; the rest is the explanation; go and learn"

I’m still trying to grasp the difference between the “do unto others” phrasing of the Christian Golden Rule, but something in the Hebraic iteration resonates with me, along with the glib rejoinder that “the rest is commentary.”

But maybe I should put “do unto others” first because that suggests active social responsibility.  When we see injustice, do we have a responsibility step forward and do what we can. 

Am I my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper?

Well, yeah.  Duh.

For me, anyway, that’s a “no-brainer.”  If we have the means to share, to help others, to lend a hand, to make the world a better place – why wouldn’t we? 

And reality says there are close to an infinite number of reasons why people do not help people as best they can.  Fear, uncertainty and doubt work against the do-gooder.  And greed.  

Above all, greed is the underlying force that propels the social dynamics of the United States and breeds economic injustice. 

I believe the wealth of this great nation should be shared.  I believe that if we wanted to, as a nation, we would find that there is enough of everything to go around.  And specifically, I believe that we should support the efforts of the people working in the trenches; the social workers and teachers, drug counselors and home health workers; everyone who is engaged in the low or no-paid effort to support their brothers and sisters and make the world a better place for all of us.

Amen.

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