The big WHY?

By Ashley Bean Thornton

I think one of the next steps in my walk toward getting more involved in politics is going to be helping with a campaign. I ran a campaign for city council at one point, but I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t really know what I was doing. So, I’ve been reading some books to learn how to hopefully do a better job this time. One of the first pieces of advice I am seeing for candidates is to be very clear about why they are running.  When the going gets tough, and they are tired and discouraged, what is the thing that is going to keep them going?

I’m not planning on being a candidate (at this point), but I thought that might be a good question to ask myself.  What’s the big WHY for me?

Sometimes I wake up in the morning in my warm, comfortable bed with my husband beside me and the dogs all around and I am overwhelmed by how lucky I have been in my life – and I want that for everyone. I deeply believe that when we are all better off, we are all better off.   For me, so far at least, it’s as simple as that.

Of course, when you think about it, it’s not all that simple is it?  What does it take for me to be that “lucky?”

First, I have a certain amount of inner peace.  Which means, at the most profound level, I am free to be who I am.  I am free to explore and develop my own faith, to believe what I believe.  I am able to love who I love.  I am able to be comfortable and respected in my own skin.

Second, I am safe.  When I lie down to sleep, I am not afraid that someone is going to break into my house or that a bomb is going to fall on me, or that a fire is going to engulf me.   That means I benefit from laws and police that I can depend on to protect me and not harm me.  I have benefitted from a government willing to work with other governments around the world to prevent war. And if those efforts fail, I am protected by a strong military.   I am confident that I will have warning and help when natural or man-made disasters strike. I have, for the most part, lived in a hospitable environment with clean air and water, and a livable climate.

Third, I have some degree of economic security – enough to keep a roof over my head, to keep the air conditioning running, to pay for that warm comfortable bed, to have a nice dinner before I go to bed, and for many other niceties and luxuries besides.

This kind of economic security is the tip of a whole iceberg of “luck.”  I was born healthy into a family that had the wherewithal to provide for me in a safe, healthy way.  My grandmother and other relatives were available to keep me when I was little while my parents worked. My parents valued learning and I got a good education – kindergarten through a bachelor’s degree – with no debt.  For the most part I experienced fairness and lack of prejudice from the people who hired and employed me. I have had decent pay and a safe work environment throughout my career.  I have had health insurance, car insurance, home insurance that helped me keep my money when bad things happened. My body was my own when I was the age to decide whether I wanted to bear children or not. I have social security and savings that will (hopefully) allow me to continue to live in economic security after my working-for-pay days are done.

This personal economic security rests on the foundation of the local, state, and national economies. These economies have always provided the opportunities I needed to provide for myself, and the products I needed to maintain my life and comfort.  Those economies have rested on a stable civic infrastructure – roads, bridges, transportation, telephone/internet, water, sewer, legal infrastructure, etc., etc.

Of course, the husband and I have worked for more than 40 years to be able to have the house and the dogs and the air conditioning and the nice dinners.  I certainly don’t want to minimize our efforts.  I love the quote from golfer, Ben Hogan, “Golf is a game of luck and the harder I work the luckier I get” – I think life is a similar game.  But, I also want to acknowledge that the luck I “earned” (if that is not a contradiction in terms) was layered on top of a whole lot of luck I didn’t earn.  Lucky to be born white and heterosexual.  Lucky to be born in the United States.  Lucky to be born at a particular time in history.  Lucky to have good parents and good schools.

So. Very. Lucky.

I am not naive enough to believe that life is fair, but I am idealistic enough to believe that it can be more fair.  I think those of us who have benefited from so much luck have a responsibility to work to make the distribution of luck more fair.  To whom much is given, much is expected.  (Luke 12:48 — Yes, conservative friends, I’m liberal, but I can still find my way around the Bible.)

I certainly don’t think I have all the answers about the best way to spread the luck more widely, but I don’t think anyone else has all the answers either.  I have some ideas I think are pretty good; I bet you have some ideas you think are pretty good. I want to share those ideas in a good public conversation that results in thoughtful, positive action — and then thoughtful re-discussing and fixing or improving if needed.  I don’t think the public conversation is very good right now.

Iron sharpens Iron (Proverbs 27:17 — sheesh, again with the Bible?!?).  I want us to use our “iron” to sharpen each other’s ideas and make them stronger — not to beat each other over the head.    I think we are spending too much time and energy trying to vanquish each other and malign those who disagree with us, and not enough time and energy figuring out how to make the world more fair. I worry that we are actually going backwards as far as spreading the luck.  We can do better.   I want to lean whatever weight I have toward doing better. That’s my big WHY right now.

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