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October 24, 2014

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OTHER VOICES:

Christian compassion?

Years ago, I wrote a column that asked whether the term “Christian conservative” was an oxymoron. At that time, I’d seen little evidence of the compassionate conservatism that George W. Bush had called for, and it seems we’ve gone downhill since.

How can we call ourselves — and practically insist that we are — a Christian nation when we seemingly ignore so many of the teachings of Christ?

Isn’t compassion part of it? Or was that just my imagination as a little girl attending Sunday school at the family Presbyterian church?

Didn’t the Golden Rule mention something about treating others as you would wish to be treated?

If Hallmark replaces “gay” with “fun” on a Christmas ornament featuring the words from “Deck the Halls,” why aren’t we bothered by the insult to a subset of the U.S. population?

If we see someone down on his luck standing at the entrance to the highway, holding a sign saying “Please help,” we don’t just look away — some of us actively despise that person. If he’s poor, or mentally ill, or out of a job, or a substance abuser, well, it’s his fault (I’m not my brother’s keeper).

If Virginia ranks 46th in its commitment to Medicaid, while being one of the country’s wealthier states, we don’t address how the poor or uninsured are less worthy of health care. Instead, we say derisively that they’re just looking for “free stuff.”

If a government shutdown results in furloughed workers not receiving a paycheck, we say: fire them — we don’t need their services, and we don’t care what happens to them or their families.

If a young person can’t find a job because business — not government — won’t hire here at home but instead prefers to make big profits for itself and its shareholders while hiring someone in India to do the work, we call that person “feral” if he urinates in the park or has no place to live.

If the federal deficit reaches such levels that we all admit government programs must be pared down, we say, begin with Social Security, or food stamps, or formula for babies — babies who are living and breathing right now. It wouldn’t occur to us to look at the military-industrial complex. Billions spent on “security” by NSA? Also not mentioned.

If Congress enacts legislation that offers assistance to the less fortunate — something somehow provided by every other developed nation — we say, don’t turn us into a socialist state. We don’t need your stinkin’ help, thank you very much, and no one else should be a beneficiary, either.

Bus service, so that the less fortunate can get to a job should they be lucky enough to find one? Why should my tax dollars pay for their transportation?

When President Barack Obama makes a mistake or misleads, we use words such as “liar,” “Manchurian,” “Muslim,” “traitor” and “despot,” and ask why, oh why, hasn’t he yet been impeached? We could use less incendiary words to make our point but choose not to.

I’d like to think that this is not representative of most Americans, but I’m not so sure. The same people calling the kettle black complain bitterly about insults to the Tea Party. But it’s OK to call names if Obama is the target. Remember a time when it was considered unpatriotic to bad-mouth the president, even when we disagreed with him? I do.

And speaking of patriotism, what I love most — coming almost exclusively from the right — is the reference to themselves as “patriots” or “real Americans.” Supposedly, they’re the only ones who really have respect for — or understanding of — the Constitution. Only they know what our Founding Fathers had in mind, and they’re happy to interpret it for us.

Ah, yes, they’re patriots. Much the same as the Dallas Cowboys calling themselves “America’s team.” The implication is clear: The rest of us don’t care about America. We want the U.S. to fail.

In my book, these not-so-polite people who seethe or call for rebellion are anything but patriotic. Anyone — Dems, too! — who forgets that government requires compromise needs a serious lesson in civics. The process requires a willingness to at least listen to the other side. It requires an ability to realize that the sun doesn’t shine on the same lazy dog’s tail all the time. Sometimes, one’s candidate doesn’t win the election.

When that happens, party leaders must lick their wounds, roll up their sleeves, do some soul-searching and continue on with the work of government.

Now, I’ll admit that it was bad that Obamacare was pushed through without the vote of one Republican. But elections have consequences. It was also bad that Nancy Pelosi said we had to read the bill to discover what was in it. Today, its rollout has been the very definition of dysfunction.

But it is equally bad that we have no problem with poor people or the uninsured dying rather than receiving quality medical care.

It’s bad when we allow one school system to be woefully inferior to another, and do nothing about it. It’s bad that the mentally ill have little recourse but to sleep in homeless shelters or under a bridge. It’s bad when our veterans have trouble receiving what few benefits or treatment they deserve after service to our country. It’s bad that we don’t care.

And if we do care, and raising taxes is what it would take to fix what ails us, we are opposed. On General Principle. We don’t want Big Government. We want better highways, safe food, new school buildings and relief if a hurricane hits, but we’re opposed to paying for it or for helping anyone, no matter how deserving.

I’m ready to hear real ideas from the right as to how it proposes to deal with social issues. Not anger at Obama and the Dems. Not name-calling or finger-pointing, but thoughtful proposals. I have yet to hear what they are. The Party of No wasn’t always so mean-spirited. Neither was our “Christian nation.”

I’m waiting. I don’t expect a response other than an attack on our president, or on me for having the temerity to ask for workable solutions. But I wait nonetheless.

Karen Owen is Viewpoints editor of The Free Lance-Star in Fredericksburg, Va.

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