Communitarian Soul: Shooting Hoops on a Saturday AfternoonWritten by Eric McGlade | | firstname.lastname@example.org
There are two brothers in my neighborhood that are great kids. They will speak to grown ups, play with my dog, try to be helpful if you are working in the yard — great kids! The older one is tall, lanky and is probably in the sixth grade, the younger is considerably shorter because he is much younger, about first grade. They love to shoot hoops in their drive way.
The other day I was charmed by these two as they set out to play a little one on one. The older boy went to his garage to get a mental rod to lower the basket so that his younger and shorter brother would have a better change in the game. The younger and shorter brother protested. Like most kids, eager to grow up, he insisted that the net remain at its present height. I watch as the taller, older, and stronger boy made his argument for fairness while the younger, smaller, and weaker boy insisted he could meet the competition at the higher setting for the basket.
You have to love the spirit in that younger spunky kid, wanting to stretch beyond himself. You have to love the spirit of the older kid with an eye toward fairness. The brotherly conflict between the two seemed so familiar.
The unfairness of life is evident in so many things. Some just accept this as the reality and press on. Some fight this and work to make the playing field a little more level. As I watch what is happening in Madison and Columbus and other state capitals in what was once, over a hundred years ago, the birthplace of the progressive movement, I can not help but to feel a sadness.
Teachers, police officers, fire fighters as well as other public servants being told they get paid too much. How much is a trained and disciplined person who runs into a burning building to rescue a person worth? How much should we pay the soul whose job it is to walk into a domestic disturbance not knowing whose packing what? How much are our children worth and who do we want to teach them? To suggest these people are over paid is laughable. To add insult to injury, people like our governor do not believe these people are capable of reasonable or rational negotiation, otherwise, why is he, and his republican colleagues so eager to end collective bargaining rights?
There will always be a tension between the need to push the boundaries of what we can produce and the need to be fair and just. Sometimes the human spirit needs a little more room for innovation and creativity. So we cut our taxes and reduce our regulations and tell the masters of the universe on Wall Street and Madison Avenue and Silicon valley to go out and make wealth. The problem is, not all of us are in the position to be a “master of the universe.” Some of us have more pedestrian desires, like teaching a fourth grader how to do a math problem, or helping a neighborhood find its way to stability and safety, or responding to a frantic call to get a person to the ER. This this why there are times when the human spirit needs to be reminded what the ancients said was required of us … “to do justice, love kindness, and to walk humbly …” To do this we sometimes need to raise taxes. Sometimes we need to place some boundaries and disciplines around our productivity so as to minimize the possibility that someone gets hurt. At all times we need to respect the dignity of all.
Some believe we are on the threshold of becoming a plutocracy. Some think we are already there. After thirty years of tipping the balance of power in favor of the wealthy and powerful, the time has past for us to re-strike a healthier balance between our desire to create wealth and the need to be fair and just. By the way, after the game of “one on one” was finished, I learned the score was 128 to 32. Even though the younger spunky one had a great three point shot — the older and taller one was just too much for him.
Eric McGlade is a United Methodist Minister in Bowling Green, Ohio.