Thursday, June 28, 2012

And he spoke to them in parables, saying...

I have a new hero: John Roberts. That's right; our chief justice has shown that, despite some shaky performances elsewhere (see Citizens United), he actually understands what is meant by judicial restraint. I never, ever expected him to stand up for the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act while Kennedy voted against it. Nevertheless, this is a great day for America. A truly great day. I know how to be grateful. Thank you, Mr. Chief Justice.

I feel too good about what happened today to be really bothered by minor distractions, but I still wonder why so many of my fellow citizens seem to be living in an alternate moral universe. It's the universe of "I got mine, so you get yours." I think I can illustrate it with a story. Call it a parable. It goes something like this:

"A man was born under a lucky star. He was poor, but he worked hard. His family supported him, and he found a job working for a sympathetic boss who rewarded his efforts. He prospered. Soon he was wealthy, and bought himself a large house. He married a beautiful and healthy woman who gave him lots of bright, talented children. Every one of them excelled in school, and none of them ever got sick.

"In this man's old age, he was able to retire and live off of the money he had made during his long and successful life. Whenever he needed anything, his children showered him with gifts, and his wife loved him dearly. His life was truly blessed.

"One day, a poor beggar came to this man's door. 'I am poor,' he said. 'Get a job,' said the rich man. 'I am crippled,' the man said, 'and I cannot do manual labor.' 'Get a desk job,' said the rich man. 'I am dyslexic and cannot do paperwork,' the man said. 'Tell your boss, and he will find work for you,' the rich man said. 'I did tell my boss, and he fired me and gave my job to somebody else,' the man said. 'Now I am dying of an incurable disease, and I cannot afford treatment.' 'You have made poor decisions,' the rich man said. 'You deserve nothing from me.' So the beggar went forth, with only the rags on his back, and soon he died.

"Later that year, the rich man also died, old and full of years. God, who is loving and compassionate, asked him why he had turned the poor beggar away from his door. 'He was a freeloader,' the rich man said. 'He wanted handouts, and expected to get everything for free. He wouldn't work.'

"'Actually,' God said, 'that man worked 14-hour days for 20 years without complaining, until he finally crushed his legs doing a job nobody else would do. That's why he was crippled.'

"'But he could have gotten a desk job,' said the rich man.

"'Actually,' God said, 'he did work a desk job for the next 20 years, and because he was dyslexic he worked twice as hard as all his co-workers. But it wasn't good enough, so he was fired and a young man with no experience was put in his place.'

"'But his boss could have found other work for him,' said the rich man.

"'Actually,' God said, 'his boss then assigned him to be his personal driver. He had a special car that he could operate with his arms alone, and he worked harder than anybody had ever worked before to make his boss happy. But one day another driver ran a red light and crashed into the car, destroying it. His boss had fallen on bad times as well and wasn't able to replace the car, so he had to let him go.'

"'But he could have gotten another job as a driver,' said the rich man.

"'Actually,' said God, 'he did get another job, but he was soon stricken by a progressive disease that destroyed his muscle coordination and made him nearly blind. He was so sick that he could no longer work. The treatment for his disease would have cost far more money than he had ever had in his lifetime. That was why he came to you for help.'

"'Then he obviously made poor choices,' said the rich man.

"'Actually,' said God, 'you are the one who made poor choices. I gave you parents who loved you, and you took them for granted, and never gave them anything in return. I gave you a sympathetic boss, and you took his money and never appreciated his generosity. I gave you a wonderful family, and you assumed it was your due. I gave you children who were willing to take care of you in your old age, and a wife who did the housework for you every day without complaining. You only worked about a third as hard as the old beggar you turned away from your door, nor do you have any idea what it is like to live with chronic illness and disability. If you had lived this man's life, you would have died in the gutter 30 years ago.'

"'But that's impossible,' said the rich man. 'I worked hard for everything I have, and never asked for handouts.'

"'You never had to,' said God, 'because you were given everything you needed.'

"'I bore illness without complaining,' said the rich man.

"'That's because you never had anything worse then a common cold,' said God.

"'I never asked anybody else for help,' said the rich man.

"'That's because your parents, your wife and your children made sure you never had to,' said God.

"'So what are you saying?,' said the rich man. 'That I should support some kind of European socialist health-care and welfare system so beggars don't have to work and a bunch of whiners who can't take life's hard knocks can come to my door and take the clothes off my back?'

"'No,' said God, 'but when you're ready to join me in heaven, let's talk.'"

There seem to be a lot of angry people out there today who are convinced that everything they have is the result of hard work and stubborn resolve, and that "Obamacare" is just opening the door to a bunch of pathetic freeloaders who want to milk the system. They don't seem to realize that success in life is about more than making the right choices and pulling their own weight. They seem to believe, in all good faith, that what they have is theirs by right, and that anybody who has not done as well as they have has simply made bad choices. Bad luck and poor health don't exist in their world.

Fortunately, I believe God is patient, and will wait a very long time until those people are willing to enter the kingdom of heaven. In the meantime, at least we now have a decent health care law. Deo Gratias!

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