Thursday, December 3, 2009

Politicizing the Public Square

I watched a program the others day about child prostitution and today I received an e-mail from a friend about a program to meet the needs of orphan children, who live in the garbage dumps. On the sidebar there was a quote from a public person affirming this program's value. I started to question my response/reaction...The wealthy can "throw money" at these issues without even a blink about the money they give, as they have so much. But, those of us who are average Americans attempt to live responsibly and take care of our own and give here and there, and yet, the public square is making many demands on private citizens these days. This is the "moral climate".

Why did I not respond as I usually have in the past with tears, or thinking that this was a valuable "mission"? As I went through and tried to discern what was "in my heart", I realized that the truth of belonging and significance was of great value in motivation. Sometimes the issues we are most emphathetic toward are those we ourselves have experienced.

The other day, I had an occasion to share about research findings that support a person's activity to their identity. This seems even more pertinent in today's culture wars. The conservative continue to battle their "prime" concern of "pro life", while the liberal has underwritten their agenda with political power. It seems "the poor" are the pawns in the liberalized agenda.

No one likes to think that they do not belong, so humans seek a place and a space where they identify. Names are of importance in one's familial identity, and society approves or disapproves of the "name" because of "the standing in the community" or the larger public square. So, parents compete for prominience through their child's accomplishments or their family's status.

Accomplishments are certainly of value and any parent, teacher or mentor wants to see their
young person develop to their fullest potential, but there is something sinister about competing when the child doesn't have the interest or there is a mode of competition that devalues others because of the "game". This type of politicizing the family is tragic for the child. It teaches the child to value winning at all costs, without considering the other. Or it teaches that using any means is fine, if one can have an advantage over another. Caring about another is much more than their material accomplishments, but it is also about caring about the"person", as an individual.

The public and private segments of our lives were meant to stay separate for a reason. Publicizing private pain or failings, is not humane, but cruel. Only those that are relationally involved with a person can understand all the reasons a person chooses to do what they do, or value what they value. America is a nation that values the right of individuality in choice and conviction, when it comes to private matters of worship, conscience and value.

That is not to say that others should not play an important part in their relationship toward parents, children, and or families, as friends do what they can to support, help and underwrite the parent's desires, as long as it benefits the child. Friends help, support and hold each other accountable. That's what friends are for.

Humans tend to love voyerism, especially if it concerns society's "elite". Somehow, making another look bad, makes one "feel good", but, what really needs to happen is for our lives to be full enough to not look at another's life, but our own and live for today, as fully as possible. Objectifying another's situation whether moral, material or otherwise, does not lead to a "healthy assessment".

We, Americans are free to choose our values, and our commitments. Let us allow each American the right of choice in the public square and not politicize the private. Do we allow another the freedom we want for ourselves?

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