Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Christmas in July

Tomorrow I'll share my thoughts one what I think about the two speeches given by Mitt Romney and Vice-President Joseph Biden, but today I'd like to share something with you pretty special.

Our electoral contests are really a conversation about what type of country we want to be. There are those who believe in an almost totally unregulated free market. The belief being that if we allow business to solve our economic woes, we will be a much better, i.e. a more 'prosperous' country. The implication being that money - who makes it, who keeps it, how it is spent - is the primary determiner of our security and well being.

That's not totally untrue. Consumerism drives small business, which determines employment levels, which determines tax revenue, which determines infrastructure and quality of life - education, recreation, health, housing, etc. And that's not a bad thing. In fact its very good.

However, it seems that there was a time when that was held in greater balance. It seems as if there was a time when, although we knew the importance a vital and viable economy, there was something about our national life that cherished values that weren't determined by money. We prized (or at least espoused) community, the idea that all of our systems - economic, political, religious - were meant to serve man, not vice-versa.

We believed in a 'commonwealth' a noble notion that there was a common good which valued, protected and promoted equality of opportunity, with the understanding that if that opportunity was available to all, that all of us would benefit. We valued sacrifice. The concept that there are times when the denial of self and personal ambition to make sure that the community was healthy and had access to 'the American Dream' would in some way, make all of us beneficiaries.

What happened to that?!

Ironically we celebrate those values every year when millions of us stop down to watch the film 'It's a Wonderful Life'! We don't celebrate 'Mr. Potter', the ultimate 'free market capitalist'. We don't celebrate his condemnation of the 'rabble' in his town.

We celebrate George Bailey, who sacrificed his dreams, his ambitions and his hopes for his family, for his father's business and for the struggling in the town of Bedford Falls.

We celebrate his balance between a belief in the nobility of business ownership with his belief that 'profit' was not the sole reason to be in business.

We celebrate his commitment to family. We celebrate George's generosity. We celebrate his discovery of the value of his own life, found in how he values others. And his discovery that no man is truly poor if he has friends.

In celebrating George Bailey, we condemn Mr. Potter, his greed, his profit at all costs, his lack of empathy for the struggling and his mean-spirited cynicism.

In our house, there is a long tradition of watching this movie during the holidays. How about you?

So why do we celebrate this at Christmas, but in our commerce and our politics, we uphold the interests of the Potters of this world?

Before you answer this question, take some time to watch the movie again. Yep, I've embedded the whole thing! And ask yourself, 'If these values are good enough for Christmas, why are we fashioning a world that embraces everything else?

It's almost a cliche, but maybe we ought stop and remind ourselves what we really prize and order our world around that. Maybe we should really strive to keep Christmas all year long...

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