Thursday, January 10, 2008

In the Goodness Department, I Have a Long Way to Go

I picked up some pills that are supposed to prevent my contracting malaria when I am in Peru in a couple of weeks. I signed on to go to Alta Chincha to help rebuild after the devastating earthquakes that hit the area last fall. Our church has a number of opportunities for such mission trips, but I have never before had the leisure to take one. When I got laid off, I figured that I had no excuse.

Moreover, I felt a strong conviction that I ought to go on this trip, so I ponied up for airfare and expenses and committed to going. I don't know what to expect except that I will be performing hard labor for a week. Given my lack of skills, I will likely do more demolition than construction. I don't speak Spanish except for what I picked up watching Speedy Gonzalez cartoons. "Buenas dias, Senor Pussy Cat" should come in real handy. I'm trying to leave myself open to any possibilities.

When I look at my life, I see that I do so little for my fellow human beings. I try to be considerate and courteous, patient and kind, and what have you, but I rarely go above and beyond to lend a helping hand to anyone. I have never visited anyone in prison who was not my client or a witness I had to interview. I don't do anything much to feed the hungry or clothe the naked or shelter the homeless. I hope I get some points for not doing much in the way of harm, because I am way behind in the good deed department. I used to volunteer lots of time to children as an advocate in court and to men afflicted with AIDS. For many years, though, I have not been master of my own time and have had little chance to volunteer for anything.

I hope I can count some of my taxes toward my good deed quota. I pay them involuntarily under threat of violence, that's true, but I resent the expenditures on welfare so much less than I resent some other spending. In fact, there are lots of programs for the poor and downtrodden that I would support voluntarily if the government hadn't robbed me of the chance to do so. I'm against public education, and it chaps my arse that I have to pay for the schooling of children from families who can easily afford to educate their own kids. I don't begrudge the money spent to school poor kids, although I wish it weren't organized coercively. I don't begrudge anyone his food stamps, but those no bid contracts in Iraq make my blood boil.

If I were going to cut government programs and expenditures gradually or on any kind of schedule, social welfare programs would be the last to go. If I cut taxes on a schedule, the rich would get their cuts last. Don't get me wrong. I'm against all government programs on principle. I'm just against some of them less vehemently than others. If I don't count this as an element of my goodness, I'm not going to have much to go on, so work with me here.

If I had to choose between a new weapons system and prenatal care for everyone, I would choose the latter. If I'm going to be robbed, at least let the robbers give to the poor and not to themselves and their rich constituents.

Mrs Vache Folle would doubtless tell me to compare myself to Charles Manson rather than to Mother Teresa in evaluating my goodness. I am probably better than most. Yeah, that's the ticket. I'm "relatively" good.

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