Just when you think there's some faint hope for sanity in the country, here comes this story ...
An editorial in the New York Times today ("Penn State: Lessons Not Learned") attacks Pennsylvania Governor Tom Corbett for his recent suit to force the NCAA to lift its sanctions against the school, sanctions imposed as a result of the egregious child-abuse scandal/cover-up. The piece notes, too, that there are PSU football fans who are outraged about the suffering (?) the football program (and fans) must endure for the nonce.
Really? (To quote Seth & Amy from SNL.)
What I see in this lawsuit--and what I see in so many other corners of our public debates these days--is a spectacular lack of imagination--a grievous inability of people to imagine any life or experience other than their own.
Try just a few questions, for example ...
- How would you feel about the "unfair" sanctions at PSU if your son had been raped in the shower--and the head coach had turned his back?
- How would you feel about public health care if you had to go to the ER for all your primary health needs?
- How would you feel about Social Security and Medicare cuts if you relied entirely on those two programs?
- How would you feel about sending your child to a school where adults carried sidearms?
- How would you feel about gay marriage if you were gay and in love?
- How would you feel about public religious celebrations (manger scenes on the village green? Christmas programs at the public school?) if you were not Christian?
- How would you feel about care for the aged if you were old and dependent?
- How would you feel about the virtues of competition if you had no chance to win? (Or if you started a 100-yard race some 70 or 80 or 99 yards behind others, who by virtue of race or wealth or gender or religion or ethnicity or whatever have "earned" their different starting positions?)
- How would you feel about balancing the budget right now if it meant severe cuts in programs/services/facilities from which you benefit (roads? VA health care? bridges? crop subsidies? utilities? disability? unemployment? etc.?). Don't you like flipping a light switch and having something enlightening occur? Turning on the hot water--and feeling warmth arrive? Invariably?
I'm getting ready to review a new book that involves the rise of the Bolsheviks in Russia--and, of course, it got me thinking about this, a fundamental lesson from history that many seem to forget: When income inequality becomes too severe, bad stuff happens. The poor and the disenfranchised will endure only so much, and then ... It's happened over and over and over again--revolutions, major and minor. Here. Everywhere. And it can happen again.
It happens when people feel there is no hope--that they have no chance to improve their lives and the lives of their children--that the game is rigged in favor of the rich and powerful, that no one in a position of authority cares about them and their needs and hopes and dreams.
And so we have to imagine ... imagine the lives of others, especially those in poverty, those near poverty, those in dire stress, those who must send their children to horribly under-financed schools, those who must choose between medicine and food, those who rely on the kindness of strangers. Which many, many of of us already do--and most certainly will one day do.
Before we pass judgment, we need to picture ourselves in others' situations. And thereby learn some humility, a most rare quality in these fierce days of social Darwinism.