These past few years have been putting this country to a test of sorts. On the one hand, the Democratic Party has been all about delivering benefits to the Common Good. On the other hand, the Republican Party has been fighting a rear guard Culture War. Two enormous swathes of the country fighting two completely different battles. And in the most recent clash at ballot boxes across the nation, the country seems to have opted for the Common Good. I was disheartened somewhat by the narrow margins, but not surprised by the results. The Culture Warriors have nothing to offer.
What I believe in my heart of hearts is not so much that people will always support the Common Good as a charity for others, as that they will tend to choose it for themselves.
Because by and large people opt to live comfortably. And living comfortably means that the Common Good wins out. It means that we all agree to live comfortably together, that no one is above the law and that no one is below our consideration. The Common Good insists that we share in its blessings. We share its streets and sidewalks, we share its parks and libraries, we share its utilities, we share its laws and we share in its governance. And where there are glitches in that process, we work to amend. So that we may all live more comfortably.
Living comfortably means that the color of one’s skin is a trifling consideration. That what people do in their bedrooms and who they do it with is of no particular interest to anyone. It means that you don’t have to feel guilty that you cannot afford the time or money to care for the old woman who lives down the street because the Common Good has provided for those contingencies. It will provide for you as well.
Living comfortably means that you realize that all religions have similar premises: that there is a god, that the god means for you to live in peace and amity with your neighbors, and that the god does not require all to use the same, if any, rituals in your acknowledgement or not of him/her. The god that others believe in does not require anyone's belief.
Living comfortably does not mean that everyone has to have equal luxuries. It does mean that everyone must have equal rights to adequate housing, nutrition, health care, education, and other amenities such as power, water, and sewer. These latter three are often the first to go when disruption to the Common Good occurs through disasters, natural and otherwise. The others are necessary for everyone to live well together and to achieve a dream or two. Maybe even a luxury, however the future may define them.
Most of all, living comfortably means Freedom. If you are adequately housed and fed, assured of health care, and given access to the education that you want, you are free. You can make decisions about your life, knowing that the ground beneath you is stable enough to support them. More than that, knowing that others around you have that same freedom, assures you that you will be comfortable making the decisions you wish for your own life. The Common Good, when it is allowed to function, means Freedom for all who live within it.
I haven’t chosen to concentrate on the life lived by those involved in the Culture Wars. I can’t believe that those are comfortable lives. I can’t believe that denying other people’s choices of body or soul is in any way freeing. An attack on anyone is not an act of freedom. It is an act of discomfort. An act of distress. An act of a troubled soul. It is a hard act to maintain and, dare I say it, a hard act to follow. It is exhausting and fruitless, and it brings one no comfort. No ease. It does not lead to the good life. There is no Common Good.
And so I believe that what some have labeled Liberal Values and what I am calling the Common Good will win. Oh, not at first. And not for all time. We are, it cannot be denied, a community of humans, and that means eons of discontent. But after each clash between the Common Good and the Culture Warriors, we will, I think, settle down for a while into the Common Good in whatever way it is defined at the time. And the party that now defines itself by the Culture War will, inevitably, begin to adopt a few measures that add value to the Common Good. I think that we will, for a time, begin to grow closer to each other. Life is more comfortable that way.
And because we wish to live comfortably with each other, to live our own dreams, knowing that others can also live theirs, freedom for one has to mean freedom for all. For then, freedom for all means freedom for each one of us, as well.