Thursday, September 1, 2011

Thoughts 3

There are many different thoughts running through my mind at any given time. Sometimes I think I really ought to write this down; not sure whether I will share it or should share it.

Lord knows we don't have control over every aspect of our lives. Sometimes bad things do happen to good people. However, I see a trend that I wish we could conquer. There is a trend among some folks to always blame on bad luck what could be better attributed to bad choices. I'm not casting stones here. Lord knows, throughout my life, I have made some bad choices. And, I didn't always see the connection between the choices and the results. So, I'm trying to think about why?

Well, here is my reason, I was bitter. Yes, I was sweet and nice on the outside, but one bitter, sad, scared, resentful, hopeless and lonely kid on the inside. I was tired of seeing so many around me with so much, while I had so little. Tired of growing-up seeing those who were offering “help” arrive in their fancy cars, wearing their designer clothes, using me as an example to their own children to show how lucky they have it. I was tired of such people offering what I viewed as their “table scraps” (items I should supposedly feel grateful for, but that wouldn’t be good enough for them or their kids). It fueled a level of bitterness and resentment in me that was hard to overcome. My thinking, like my parents before me, was that I "deserved" to have as much, as nice, and as expensive things as the next person and it wasn't fair that I didn't. So, whether or not I could afford such things, any money I received should go toward righting this wrong.

Finally, thank G-d, I realized that I didn't have to continue my parents' pattern of bad choices; of basing my desires and needs on comparisons to others with more. I had thoughts of this before, as a mouthy teenager (and boy was I mouthy), I was ready and willing to point out my parents bad choices and the alternatives that I saw as available. Pointing out they could probably pay our rent if they'd didn't spend so much on smoking five packs/day. Or, that if Dad got a real job we could go to the doctor for check-ups. Or, if Mom stopped taking all of her painkillers, she could actually have the energy to make us dinner. As you might imagine, those comments didn't always go over so well.

For awhile, during college, I did let myself fall prey to their dogma of "I deserve."  Soon after, however, I came to confirm to myself what I think I always knew inside. That is that we do have some choices. And, I started to realize it is not a matter of what you deserve. Don’t get me wrong, there are some basics we all deserve (i.e., healthy food, safe shelter, education, love of a family, opportunity to support ourselves and our families, compassion).  Deserve is about those things that are core to human rights, not things simply to build our ego or status in life.

For many years after my realization, I was still bitter; however, in a different way. I was bitter against the Democratic Party because it was the party that my parents believed in. And, in my young mind, I started blaming the entire Democratic Party for always giving my folks an out, a way to not take responsibility for their lives or for their choices. As much as my parents simplistically believed the Democrats were for the poor and the Republicans were for the rich, I came to believe the Democrats wanted to hold me down, keep me poor by throwing just enough money my parents way to keep us off the street, but never actually giving them the help they needed to learn how to make better choices so that I might actually compete with these pious Democrats in their own world. You can imagine how my discovery of Ayn Rand helped to cement these ideas even further. But, this too, was a simplistic view.

Over the years, I have come to realize there are people on both sides of the aisle who want to really help those around them and make great effort to do it in a way that really helps for the long term. And there are folks, on both sides of the aisle, who care more about saying they are doing something by throwing money, rhetoric and/or religious doctrine at the problem, without ever actually doing anything that could really help. It is not isolated to one party or the other.

Living overseas in some very poor countries educated me more than I ever knew possible. Many folks in other countries actually don’t have choices. They do not have the basics to survive. The basics we all deserve. They are born into poverty, and as such, will never have the opportunity to change their lot in life. Caste systems are very much alive (unspoken, but alive) in much of the world.

And, I know the bitterness I felt as young poor kid, pales in comparison to the bitterness felt by many around the world who have nothing and look at our country and other countries like ours and cannot understand how it is things can be so different for them. How any American with a TV, some kind of mattress to sleep on, and any type of car could possibly consider themselves "poor." Why they have nothing and we have so much? And, I also believe that many leaders of these countries use these feelings to further embitter their people against the US and others, to hide the fact it is largely the leaders of these countries who are profiting off of the misery and lack of education and opportunities for their own people. It is largely the leaders of these countries who have a vested interest in keeping their people powerless, uneducated, and with little choice to change their lives.

We must address the bitterness and the helplessness. What got me over the bitterness, the helplessness, was the realization that I really did have some choices for my own life. This is the key. We need to help those with nothing to have choices, real choices to make a better life for themselves, their families and their countries. This is what all people deserve!