February 2006


I found this out in the blogosphere and just had to respond. Check out the actual post and then my response at the end.

Reaching out in our time of need…

Help Now – http://www.redcross.org

After reading several articles concerning the relief efforts in the Gulf Coast region, I felt the need to contact my several federal representatives concerning our nation’s response. I urge everyone reading this message to reach out and support those in need and to contact your representatives and let them know how you feel about our nation’s response and the needs of the Gulf Coast region. The following is a letter I have submitted to Rep. William Jenkins, Congressman for the 1st District of the State of Tennessee, Sen. Bill Frist, Majority Leader and Senoir Senator for the State of Tennessee, and Sen. Lamar Alexander, Senator for the State of Tennessee:

September 4, 2005

Dear Sir:

My name is M. Ben Lawson and I am a resident of Sullivan County and the great state of Tennessee. I am writing you today, as one of my several representatives to our federal government, to urge all the officials in power in the Untied States, especially the Secretary of Homeland Security, the Director of FEMA, the Secretary of State, and the President of the United States to move with much more diligence and haste to aid those suffering after the tragedy in our nation’s Gulf Coast areas. I, like many other Americans and others from around the world, have been brought to tears watching and reading the reports as they have filtered in slowly from Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. And I, like many other Americans, do not feel that our nation’s leadership has moved quickly enough to stem the suffering of our citizens. Unlike the President, I do not believe our nation is responding in a timely manner.

I fully realize that the task at hand is extremely daunting and that the response infrastructure is greatly hampered by the shear devastation caused by the storm and the resulting tidal surge, but as the most powerful and resourceful nation in the world, the United States can and should stand to meet this challenge with all its many resources, and those of its neighbors around the world. In the aftermath of the tsunami in December, the United States was the leader of the world’s response to that tragedy, rallying governments around the world to that cause and leading in contributions to the affected areas. U.S. Forces were on the ground within one or two days and two former Presidents were tapped to lead the efforts in raising money and awareness of needs around the world. Yet, I read today in several media reports that nations from around the world have responded to our needs and our current tragedy with offers of man power, equipment, medical aid, search and rescue support, support vessels, money, and even oil reserves to help speed our recovery, but the United States to date has accepted no offers and Secretary of State Rice has publicly stated that the government has yet to determine our needs in relation to our current level of supplies through the Department of Homeland Security. Even our closest neighbors, Canada and Mexico, are left standing by as we proudly attempt to handle our problems from within our borders.

Sir, I am a proud man who does not like to admit when I need the help of those around me. I also consider myself giving to those in need and I am willing to help anyone who can benefit from my assistance. I believe in flying to the relief of a brother or sister in need, be it a neighbor, a Tennessean, an American, or a citizen of the world. I fear the United States is suffering from the same pride I have exhibited in my own life from time to time. The nations of the world are standing by to help us, yet we are proudly responding “No, Thank you” to each request. We as Americans are accustomed to hearing our nation and its President referred to as “the Leader of the Free World”. We often hear speeches about bringing countries together, about building coalitions, and about the peaceful unity of the world’s people. Yet, in this desperate time of need in the United States, we are refusing the aid of the very countries we have repeatedly supported and aided in the past. Many of the nations offering their assistance are the very same world states that the U.S. aided and supported during the tsunami of December 2004. It is time we swallow our pride and allow our allies to come together and help us as we have helped them in the past. What better example can we set for the world than our willingness to welcome them in our time of suffering and loss.

I ask you as an official and representative of the government of the United States to employee all of your powers and influence to speed the relief efforts in the Gulf Coast. Rally all of the resources of our great nation to bring aid to those in need. Reach out to our country’s allies to speed this cause. The security and stability of the Unites States and its people is in the best interest of all the nations in the world. Please allow them to help us. May God bless the United States and bring peace to its people.

Sincerely,

M. Ben Lawson

Please help those in need in any way that you can.
Help Now – http://www.redcross.org

AND MY RESPONSE…
At February 18, 2006 8:20 AM, Jama Oliver said…
Uh oh. Here’s where our political beliefs may diverge. While I certailny feel, absolutely without doubt, that the people of the gulf coast region (or any other devastated group) needs and deserves all the help they can get, I do not feel that it is the government’s job to provide it. I have yet to determine through my readings of your site whether or not you are a Christian, but I shall use this as a reference nevertheless. When Christ told us to assist each other, to “do unto others”, etc. He was referring to us personally, not us as in the government. While I do feel that it is necessary for a group of people to love and care for each other, that responsibility should fall on the people themselves, not their ruling body. I find it to be a serious problem within our nation that we rely on the government to do the helping rather than doing it ourselves. While many people travelled to the Gulf Coast region to help, and even more donated money and resources, how many left it up to the government rather than giving of themselves? We give the impression of being helpful without actually having to lift a finger (which is why Christ instructed us to help, rather than delegating it to our leaders.)

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This is what I love about being a Philosophy major: despite being outnumbered 10 (or maybe closer to 20) to 1 by liberals, for the most part, they are able to debate with fairness and help me to think about things in a new light. That’s not to say that they cause me to change my position – they merely remind me to find answers for different objections to my position. For example:

Tonight we talked about why democracy is a poor political system because it is irrational and, despite the fact that its supporters claim that it maximizes freedom, it actually forces the minority into a state of lesser freedom than the majority. This sparked a discussion on the role of government, which led to a comment from one of the participants that “the government’s job is to take care of everyone” (YIKES! Remember the nine scariest words in the English language – “I’m from the government and I’m here to help”). I wonder, what (and this is from a purely philosophical standpoint, not a Christian one, mind you), what moral grounds does one have to claim that I should have to take care of another person? If you are not claiming some sort of God-based morality, then what basis do you have for making a claim such that anyone is “required” to take care of another person? To maximize the good of the society? Pish tosh. I could argue that we would be better of without those drains on society who aren’t able to take care of themselves. So, how is it that one can claim that the government (or anyone within society) should take care of another? (without, of course, some claim to some higher moral standard, such as, for example, Christianity. Whose adherents, by the way, would claim that it is their personal responsibility, not the government’s).

This led to a conversation on Libertarianism and the fact that the government should just let the people rule themselves without the “Robinhood” interference our government currently employs. There were some who argued that someone who is born into the ghetto isn’t as “free” as someone who is born to a rich family in Beverly Hills. I disagree. Freedom (or liberty) is not defined as “the ability to make any decision that I want.” Liberty is my ability to make a decision without someone else interfering with it (which we don’t have under our current political system – more on that later). I argue that the Beverly Hills rich girl is free in a different way than the child in the ghetto. Sure, Paris Hilton may have a lot of money, but anyone who happened to catch an episode or two of “The Simple Life” saw that Paris has very little in the brain department. The poor girl couldn’t even pull off a job at the Sonic. So while Paris may have more money, the kid in the ghetto may have more brains, in which case the kid in the ghetto actually has a better opportunity than Paris (but I don’t think that anyone would suggest that the kid in the ghetto should give Paris a piece of his brain because he’s smarter than she is…)

Now back to our current political system’s limitations on liberty. Because the government takes my money, there are certain things that I cannot do – there is someone (namely, the IRS agent) standing in my way of doing X. If, however, we have a taxless system (or, at least, a minimalist tax system) and I happen to be poor, I’m just poor. The only thing standing in my way is my lack of funds that are a result of my situation – not a result from someone actually taking money out of my paycheck and infringing on my liberty. This is a key distinction. There is a major difference between the have-nots and the have-nots-because-someone-is-taking-it-away. While the first situation is a result of someone taking away liberty, the second is a mere situational difficulty. So while our government claims to be promoting freedom, it is really restricting the freedom of the vast majority of citizens in favor of increasing the wealth of a few.

So, Paris Hilton happened to be born rich and stupid and the kid in the ghetto happened to be born poor and smart…should the government really be in the business of making them “equal”?

I just came across an old article detailing the expansion of the Federal Hate Crimes Bill. The Constitution guarantees all Americans EQUAL protection under the law, not special protection depending on who/what you are. It seems rather obvious to me that this bill is a blatant violation of the Constitution, yet lobbyists have not only successfully “urged” the passing of this Bill, but also it’s expansion. It’s time for a change in Congress!