So, I was talking to a friend yesterday regarding the new administration; Obama’s plans and goals. Now, in the past, this friend of mine has been consistently further left than me, but only barely. However, in several cases, namely that of the ability of the government to take money from us, he was slightly to the right. Yesterday he shared with me that, yes, in fact, it is the “right thing to do” when we were discussing the transfer of money from those that have to those that simply have less. When I prodded him further, he claimed “It’s the right thing to do.”
I couldn’t talk.
I shook my head, looked down for a second and then lifted my eyes back up to meet his, hoping, really really hoping that I would see the beginnings of a smile. See the familiar wrinkle in the eyes that would signal the beginning of the joke.
Nothing. He looked at me dead in the eye. And just blinked.
As a friend, of course, I couldn’t lambaste him, but I did gently bring up old discussions, debates that we shared over coffee, bourbon and beer. He admitted that, in fact, he does remember saying and feeling those things and yes, doesn’t deny, that he has now changed his mind.
I got the feeling as a walked away, that he may be on the fence. That somehow,even he himself knew that he wasn’t sure if he was saying these things because they were the result of bedrock principles well thought out or, if, perhaps, it’s because he somehow wanted to feel that way. That somehow, society has lost it’s way and we have forgotten those less fortunate. And in so doing, we have perhaps ceded our rights, certain rights, to the government in regard to the tending of the poor.
Of course, before I left I recounted how this country’s poor are not really so poor, as a whole. That in fact, not only are the bottom 25% much much better off than even 30 years ago, they are living in conditions that would be considered very well off with respect to the rest of the world. I insisted that I find it hard to classify someone as poor when they had a satellite TV and PlayStation, but couldn’t afford health care for their kids.
I almost saw a tear as he nodded in agreement, but then shrugged it off, as if to say “I can’t explain it, but I am at peace with my newfound place.”
At least for now.
So the question is this. How did the paradigm get changed? How did we lose what was once a rock solid foundation of right and wrong [or at least right and not right]? And then, how do we communicate that in such a way so as to win the hearts and minds of those lost converts, and, perhaps, even win back some from the other side to boot?