Who is my neighbor?

I can always tell when my next-door neighbors are going somewhere, because my bark alarm goes off. Asta’s high pitched barks start it, followed by Ginger’s lower, but lilting “Wooowoowoo”. If it is just a squirrel or bird, or the wind, Ginger doesn’t go off. But: is the bark alarm the best definition of who is my neighbor? (In which case it also includes everyone who walks their dog in front of our house, our mail carrier, and miscellaneous other delivery folks.)

This question was asked of Jesus when he said to “love your neighbor as yourself”. As usual, he didn’t give a straight answer. He launched into the well known story of the Good Samaritan. It’s in Luke, chapter 10. Since there are so many translations out there the exact words you know may differ a bit.

Seeing this mornings Daily Post Prompt, followed by skimming the morning paper, brought that vignette from the Bible to mind.

Whether you are a Christian or not, whether you think the Bible is literally true or not, there is a power in this story that has shaped much of the Western worldview. This is the gold standard for how we are to treat each other..or is it?

Two articles in the paper show the two sides of this. The front page headline this morning was: “GOP tax plan a boon for business”. I can’t find a link for it, the story originated from the New York Times and the Seattle Times doesn’t seem to have a link for it on their site. However, the real story, the one that should have taken up the entire front page in my opinion, was this: Who wins and who loses in the Republicans’ tax-code rewrite. Every citizen in the US should read that one. There is a stark contrast between the winners and losers and the story of the Good Samaritan. This is the party that supposedly represents conservative Christians? Hmmm…Reminds one a bit of the priest and Levite who crossed the street so they wouldn’t have to go near the injured man, before the hero of the story, the merchant from a different area, came along.

The second article was in the local section, also about taxes, but with a different slant:  “How would candidates spend your money?” In it the lefty loose-y Seattle mayoral candidates are debating how they will try to solve the homeless crisis*. The article was gentle on them, after all at least they are trying to be humane, but the bottom line is that you can’t squeeze blood from a turnip.

We don’t have the resources of the rich merchant who paid for the care of the injured man. There is some talk of trying to get the money out of our local rich merchants (and developers) via taxation. Our local rich merchants are better known for buying football teams then hitting the taxpayers up for the cost of a fancy new stadium, funding U.F.O hunts, and things like that. (The Gates Foundation is a notable exception, and I am not saying that there is no charity from others, just that it isn’t as notable as using huge influence to make regular citizens subsidize their businesses.)

In trying to be both truthful (about my ignorance) and fair, I digressed from my trajectory: The contrast between the behaviors and perceptions related to “Christianity”.

To hear Fox “News”, and even loonier right-wing nuts, you’d think that the lefty loose-y’s are Godless, evil people and the Republicans are the chosen people. And yet, if one uses the Good Samaritan test, we see a very different story. The Republican tax plan and health “care” plan will likely add to the homeless problem over time: more people will be bankrupted and lose their homes as health care becomes increasingly expensive and unavailable, and we are hobbling the future for our youth with the huge increase in national debt meaning more of them will lead lives farther down the economic food chain.

Alms are fine, but that is not a good excuse for creating a system that deliberately, and it is deliberate, drops more people into the steep sided pit of needing them.

Sorry about being both a bit religious and a bit political, which I mostly am not, but I am trying to figure out how to vote.

* My personal opinion about how to approach homelessness:
Since turnips don’t bleed, I feel these mayoral debates are about everything that they can’t do as a mayor (meaning a waste of time). Homelessness is not a local problem. It isn’t even just regional. It is  nation-wide, assuming closed borders, and should be addressed at the national level.

Instead of Seattle’s candidates spouting off solutions that can’t be enacted, and, if successful, will just create a vacuum to suck more people into the area, there should be a nation-wide approach that has some consistency and cohesiveness to it (don’t let the US congress loose on it!). Mayors and governors should get it going instead of trying to go it alone, which is using a band-aid to try and stop a hemorrhage.

Mine’s not a slick easy answer, but homelessness isn’t one problem. It’s one symptom which can result from many underlying causes.

I’ll stop now.

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