Hillary’s right; we ARE all in this together…

Hillary’s right; we ARE all in this together… May 30, 2007

Hillary Clinton says she doesn’t like all of this individualism stuff – the rugged individuality which is the very definition of America does not appeal to her very much. She prefers the socialist collective. Resistance is futile.

“I prefer a ‘we’re all in it together’ society,” she said. “I believe our government can once again work for all Americans. It can promote the great American tradition of opportunity for all and special privileges for none.”
That means pairing growth with fairness, she said, to ensure that the middle-class succeeds in the global economy, not just corporate CEOs.

“There is no greater force for economic growth than free markets. But markets work best with rules that promote our values, protect our workers and give all people a chance to succeed,” she said. “Fairness doesn’t just happen. It requires the right government policies.”

We’ll skip over the fact that the middle class is (currently) doing well in America and acknowledge that St. Benedict – whose Monastic Rule has stood for 1400 years as a perfect guideline for communal living, family building and even corporate management – would agree with Hillary that fairness requires some guidelines and policies.

I (and perhaps Benedict) would part ways from Hillary at the suggestion that “government policies” are the road to parity. The thing is, communism works in very small enclaves, in monasteries, for example, where everyone involved is entering willingly, is voluntarily looking to be denuded, is eager to “give stuff up” in an effort to attain something quite different from worldy “stuff.” Communism does not work, though, in a large-scale national situation whereby people are expected to sublimate themselves, their instincts and their ambitions for the good of the party. Socialism does not work.

There is an enormous difference between a few dozen people voluntarily giving up their worldly goods for communal living, and forcing people to participate in such a society against their will. The first brings freedom for those who choose it. The second, historically, has brought tyranny, poverty, slaughter and the gulag. When Hillary said, a few years ago,

“Many of you are well enough off that [President Bush’s] tax cuts may have helped you. We’re saying that for America to get back on track, we’re probably going to cut that short and not give it to you. We’re going to take things away from you on behalf of the common good.”

I and many others (and I am not a particularly materialistic person, mind you) felt that old chill wind Tim Robbins keeps warning us about blow and blow.

That quote, by the way, comes from one of the rapidly-disappearing-from-search-engines articles one can no longer find except on a few blogs who noted it, and not all of those blogs come up, either. I remember scores of blogs commenting on that remark, but in a search, today, only a few come up – mostly because of bloggers listing quotes in a book. Apparently that remark of Hillary’s is going to be taken away from us for our common good. We’re in for an interesting election year. But I digress…

Special privileges for none: A humorous note, when it peels forth from the lips of a woman who has had nothing but special privileges thrust her way for all of her life, and who is unlikely to stop living with them anytime soon…but we’ll simply smile and put that aside for a moment.

Even St. Benedict – who knew a little more about communal living than does Hillary Clinton – understood that “special privileges for none” did not work in a real world. He understood that a community, no matter how dedicated to anonymity and commonality, was still made up of individuals, that a successful monastery was built by taking into account and using each monk or nun’s individual gifts.

Rumer Godden explains it well in In This House of Brede:

“Dame Agnes, a scholar and writer, might need twenty books, while dear Dame Perpetua might need only one or, as she might say herself, none at all.”

As Benedict writes it:

Let him who hath need of less thank God and not give way to sadness, but let him who hath need of more, humble himself for his infirmity, and not be elated for the indulgence shown him; and thus all the members will be at peace.

Perhaps instead of simply lecturing
the rest of us, Hillary might do well to read this commencement address from the Valedictorian of Notre Dame’s class of 2007:

The life of someone like Fr. Tom Streit, a biologist and Holy Cross priest who works in Haiti to eliminate the spread of elephantiasis, illustrates the continued need for direct service to the world’s poor…there are Notre Dame alumni in the business world who use their skills and passion to mentor nonprofit organizations. The University also sponsors the GLOBES program, which brings together a wide array of leaders to tackle environmental problems and has expanded my idea of how one can serve the world. Such diverse possibilities represent but a few among many ways to continue what has already been started in us. Just as this University’s mission doesn’t stop with who we are at this point, we have been formed – our lives have been complicated – to embark upon a lifetime of action.

Fellow graduates, as we leave this university, many of us have the enormous privilege of being able to live relatively comfortable lives when compared to the majority of the world’s population. At the same time, whether or not we live materially comfortable lives, we are ultimately called to live complicated lives. Respecting the principles of Catholic social teaching means that the lives of millions killed around the world by treatable diseases matter, just as the economic, social, and spiritual poverty that exists in our own neighborhoods deserves our attention. Such realities necessitate concern, sympathy, and action. Though the answers to these problems are not always obvious, turning the page of the newspaper and failing to ask “why” would betray what this place, with its Catholic foundation, stands for.

Imagine that! Individual people – not “the goverment” – making a difference!

Noble behavior ennobles everyone as a rising tide lifts all boats. Restrictive behavior…simply restricts.

We are in this together, that’s true. But we are each created as individuals, each endowed with gifts meant to serve and enhance the One Body. Sublimation of the self to a secular government entity does not sound like the gig to me. As I wrote here, we are in this together, outside of time. Meaning…in God.

People often ask me why Catholics find it necessary to keep the Crucifix before them. “The victory was in the resurrection, not the death…Catholics focus on the wrong thing – the cross should be empty…”

Well, yes. The victory is the resurrection, but its gotten to through the rest of it.

While the empty cross brings us hope and promise, we are still humans living human lives with all of the pain and frailty and questions and hurt that implies…and when one looks at the Crucifix, one finds not a morbid and bloody corpse, but The God Who Knows, not because he is conveniently all-knowing, but because He actually submitted to life, lived it, endured it, went through it all, just as we do.

Jesus lost his own beloved step-father, Joseph, he knows what we know. When we look at the Crucifix we see that there is no human situation that Jesus did not come to know. Feel betrayed? Feel humiliated? Feel abandoned? Feel unjustly hurt? Feel loss? There, on that crucifix is the God who has known every one of those feelings, and has submitted to them – in order to save us, but also in order to draw us near, to gather us into a consolation, a consoling embrace that says…“I know what you’re feeling…I know what you’re thinking…we are actually all in this together, and quite outside of time.”

It’s hard to remember all that. The Crucifix is the reminder.

Meanwhile, a helpful reader finds the tough-to-find piece.

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