Me Is Part Of We

The grammar of this article’s title is terrible but that was the way I envision and wanted to communicate the underlying message which I feel expresses the core value of being an American. The individual is just part of the collection and we have a moral obligation to think of the group above what benefits or impacts us personally. With that in mind, let’s explore.

The Constitution has been our foundational law since 1787. The first three words of its preamble are, “We the people”. The basic premise of America is that we are a collection of individuals with the superordinate goal of benefiting the largest portion thereof possible. This is why I deeply care about a lot of causes that do not directly impact me.

My age alone is a factor. I am 66 and probably have a life expectancy of about 15 years. I could selfishly not care about anything that happens much after that. My gender and sexual orientation are also factors. I was born male and am cisgender. Protecting the rights of the LGBTQ community does not directly impact me. I graduated from college decades ago and have no inkling of going back to school. Yet when I talk to candidates (particularly for state office) the first thing I ascertain is their position on public education. (Hint: if they are not for protecting public education I will not in any way support them.) I am Caucasian and as such am the beneficiary of white privilege. Statistically I am much less likely to be arrested or incarcerated. Yet I care deeply about my fellow citizens of color being treated with the same dignity and respect that I am. I am talking about much more than police interaction. If I walk into a store sipping from a Starbucks’ cup chances are the shopkeeper will ignore it. If a younger person, particularly if they are non-white does the same thing they will be asked to dispose of the beverage or leave the store. (I guess that is actually a combination of white and senior citizen privilege.) I could expend several hundred more words on examples but if you haven’t gotten the idea by now you never will.

That brings us to the question of: Why? A conversation I had with a conservative neighbor the other day both brought that question and its answer to me. He is a much younger man with a wife and three wonderful little children. He is a good man and a great neighbor we just have a different political outlook. My reply to that is: That’s one of the great things about America! At any rate our conversation got around to the topic of Climate Change. My neighbor doesn’t believe in the human impact on it and is pretty much skeptical of it in the first place. He basically feels that any changes are part of the natural ebb and flow that takes place over thousands of years and that worrying about the impact of climate change is folly.

I cited that 97% of scientists think it is real and that man’s actions are impacting it. He countered that the only reason they do is because their grant money dictates that they come up with that conclusion. I suggested that it might be a lot easier to “buy” 3% than 97% (in both cases allowing for possible erroneous science). He countered that all the billionaires are liberals and they finance the research. I cited the Koch brothers, who derive most of their money from the fossil fuel industry and prudently shut up. You can’t change the opinion of someone who refuses to accept facts. (Now you see Pelosi’s dilemma in trying to negotiate with Trump. Interestingly, my neighbor is a Trump supporter.)

All research is somewhat fuzzy and it’s not like we are just going to see an overnight change, but it appears 2050 is about the time things will really be different (and in almost all cases bad). We are already seeing the negative impact of climate change (i.e. daily flooding in Miami) and it is getting progressively worse. When exactly we hit the point of no return is something science can’t answer (to my satisfaction anyway) but it is approaching and doing nothing is a fool’s errand. In any event I’d be celebrating my 98th birthday in the summer of 2050 and that is unlikely. In other words I should be dead before the worst occurs.

I care about these issues and many others that do not impact me directly because I realize that “me” is part of a much larger and more important “we”. That’s an American value and I wish all our elected officials had it.

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