Today You, Tomorrow Me

posted in: Dave | 0

There’s a famous post on Reddit; Today you, tomorrow me.  One of those posts that gets mentioned about every four or five days, when the next person who never reads anything unless it comes straight into his Reddit inbox with an orange icon posts asking some variation of “what’s the history of Reddit.”

The Reddit post tells it beautifully, but here’s the TLDR.

A man breaks down on the side of the road.  Another man, with his family in the car, stops to help him; after many, many, many other people had kept going.  This Good Samaritan, who is very poor, doesn’t just do the easy help; he’s drawn (cheerfully, without a note of complaint) into what turns into an ordeal of helping.  They have to cut and move a tree, go buy a new tire iron, they feed this guy out of what little food they have.  And they refuse to take the money he tries so hard to give them for the help when it’s all said and done, when his car is back together and able to get on the road again, when they’ve fed him, given him water.  When they’ve invested a couple of hours helping him.  Hours they didn’t have, using resources they really couldn’t spare.

The Samaritan says, while flatly refusing to take money for his efforts, “Today you, tomorrow me.”

I try so hard not to do politics.  I really do.  I used to argue politics all the time when I was younger.  And in my 20s I stopped because, frankly, WarGames and its famous lesson finally sunk in.  So I quit.

Strange game.  Only winning move is not to play.

But as I’ve watched all the bullshit erupting in America over the past … well really the past fifteen years, it’s not just the past few months, I have to play at least one round of the ongoing match.

I look at all the bullshit that’s ongoing in the world today, and it’s just like WarGames; such a strange game.  Today you, tomorrow me.  We have so called leaders telling people “if you can’t afford it, die.”  And unlike even a few years ago, they’re not even using euphemisms anymore.

A Republican politician yesterday said “if you can afford an iPhone, you can afford to go to the doctor.”  Reddit already pointed out how a smartphone is, at worst, barely a thousand dollars; and can easily be had for around a hundred as long as one isn’t buying the latest and greatest smartphone.  That a phone, and these days that basically means smartphone, is what employers will use to contact you and call you into a job you applied for.  Meanwhile, a thousand dollars might buy two, maybe three months, of an insurance policy that won’t actually get you treated.  It’ll get you the right to have the doctor tell you to your face you could be treated, if you have more money to pay for the procedures, but that’s it.  A thousand dollars might fix a non-surgical hangnail.

Today you, tomorrow me.

The world that’s being shaped in America is a world of “fuck you, I got mine.”

What kind of world is that?  Honestly?  I don’t care which way you voted.  I don’t care who you support or loathe in any election.  I don’t care where you’re from, where you’re going, how many or few advantages you’ve had in your life … you’re still a fucking person aren’t you?

We all read, watch, listen, to stories.  We all do.  Humans love stories.  In the stories, in the movies, in the books and plays and everything else, the bad guys are the ones who let people die out of greed.  They always fucking are.  Tell me I’m wrong.  Come at me.  Go ahead.  Come at me and tell me I’m wrong.  The villains are those who are so greedy they don’t give a fuck if people suffer or die, as long as the bad guy gets his profit.  His reward.  His advantage.

How have we gotten to such a disconnect where everyone, literally everyone, will see all these tales their whole lives, and then get up from the couch, leave the movie theater, close the book, and tell a poor, starving, disease ridden person who just needs a chance to live “fuck you.”  Because that’s where we are, and that’s what’s being done.  You can hide behind your flimsy rationales and reasons, try so hard to convince yourselves of how right you are to be so exclusionary and greedy, but what you’re telling people is “fuck you.”

The last time I violated my WarGames rule was when a relative of a friend was bemoaning the death of some televangelist.  I’m not going to name him because there’ve been a number of them, and they all fit into the same category.  This relative, a woman who presented as a reasonably nice person most of the time, said “oh that man was such a good man; it’s such a shame he won’t be with us any longer to preach the Gospel.”

I just kind of snapped.  There was no violence, I didn’t yell, but I sat there for a few moments fighting and losing my battle to adhere to my WarGames rule.

What I told her, as calmly as I could (not terribly calmly though, I did lose my saving throw), was I was familiar with this “good man.”  And I was familiar with Jesus too, because this “good man” was a Christian televangelist.  I told her this “good man” preached divisiveness, hatred, and greed.  He denounced people for being different, for not conforming.  He said women who pursued an abortion for any reason would burn in Hell.  He preached that gay people deserved to die horrible deaths for being gay.  He took money from “his faithful” and spent it on a lavish lifestyle, none of that money given “to a man of God” ever finding its way to helping the needy.

He was Satan, either incarnate or a prophet of.  You will know them by their fruits.  Matthew 7, verse 16, NKJV.

I let her have it for about half a minute, and then shifted to the explanation.  Because I’m Christian.  I’ve read, even studied some, the Bible.  And my Bible, in my Bible, in any Bible I’ve ever opened, Jesus was a man of the people.  He was Love, literally.  Jesus walked among the poor, ate among the sinners, and slept alongside the lepers.  He welcomed everyone, regardless of circumstances or condition or ‘status’.  And status starts with worldly status, through to disease or gender, on to race or creed, and especially class.  The Bible I’ve read raises Jesus up as a man better than any of us.  A man who sacrificed everything, including his life, because he loved the world so much.

That is literally the story of Jesus.  That he died for our sins.  Jesus sacrificed everything for everyone else.  Open your damn Bible and read it.  Actually read it.  Follow the pithy phrase; What Would Jesus Do?  If you’re a Christian, you should be living by that phrase.  What Would Jesus Do?

Jesus cared.  Jesus helped people.  Jesus Loved.  Unconditionally.  Without qualification.  At a moment’s notice.  He fed the entire crowd when they turned up to hear him; when there wasn’t enough food.  He lectured the temple priests who suggested Jesus should stay in the temple, away from the “unclean.”  Jesus was better than we deserve, and you know it.  He was the man we needed, not the man we deserved.

How many people who call themselves “religious conservatives” would sacrifice anything for someone else?  And the little they might give up, to the very few they might at least think about doing it for, would be to someone they personally knew.  Someone who meets their personal standards of ‘rightness’ and ‘holiness’ and ‘worth.’

I laid into that woman that day, and I think I at least made her think a little, because she got quiet.  And I went back to following my WarGaming rule; stay out of politics.

When did helping people become political?  When did we become so divided that people who are literally starving and dying, who are wasting away from a lack of medical aid, who are desperate to pull their lives together but cannot find work, or cannot get a break, deserve to be told to fuck off and die?

Today you, tomorrow me.

Where does this doctrine of greed and exclusion take us?  Ignore everything else I’ve written here.  Step back, use your head.  Be logical, be thoughtful.  Play it out.  Follow the steps.  Remove your opinion of my politics, your opinion of anyone’s politics, and just think.  Use the brains God gave you and play it out.  Where does “fuck you” take us?

Millions, tens of millions, dying.  Because they have the misfortune to not have a job that pays a living wage.  Because they got sick and can’t afford to pay for treatment.  Because they were in an accident and needed operations to repair their bodies, and couldn’t work while disabled with broken limbs, shattered bones, or any of hundreds of other common reasons that a life can be destroyed in this culture of fuck you.  Because they weren’t born wealthy, and can’t afford a school.  Because they can’t afford a car to get to a job.  Because their car broke and they don’t have eleven hundred dollars to fix it, and the next day they can’t get twenty-five miles to work on foot and are fired.

Because life dealt them a tough hand.  They deserve to die for that?

Now let’s play it out further.  Because I know, out of those who are reading and have gotten this far without closing the window while denouncing me as a pinko commie liberal asshat, there are some of you who are still saying “so what?”  Alright, here’s so what.  When you’re telling a few scattered handfuls of people “fuck you”, okay, they’re few.  When you’re telling a few thousand people “fuck you”, okay, they’re still not that many.

What happens when the fuck you policy hammers millions and millions of Americans to their knees?  When all those people run out of options.  When they’re all left with starve and die?  When they’re left with steal, or die?  When they’re left with “immoral” choices as their only ones to keep themselves from the end of it all.

I’m a storyteller.  And I know what happens when someone’s got nothing left to lose.  When a wounded desperate man is backed into a corner.  When all that’s left is a suicide charge, you charge.  Most people will charge.  You know they will.  What would you do?  Take away all your advantages, all your privilege, all your head starts and money and options.  What would you do if you’re told “just fuck off and die.”  Not just words; a description of what’s going to happen to you within the next day or two.

What would you do when it’s your wife who’ll die, because you don’t have money to pay for a doctor to heal her easily treatable disease?  When it’s your children who are starving in front of your eyes, because you literally don’t have even two dollars for rice; never mind that you don’t even have the pots, the water, or a fire to boil that rice in?  When it’s your family, your blood, you, who are being told “just fuck off and die.”

You charge.  The horse might talk.  The little guy might win.  If all that’s left is desperate luck, you take that last chance to live; because it’s all you fucking have.

That’s where we are; that’s the world we’re in right now.  We’re right there on the edge of that, as a nation, as a people.  The world is changing.  Drastically.  Not going to; is.  We’re on the leading edge of what twenty or thirty years from now will be a massive historical shift.

Today you, tomorrow me.

Are you so bitter, so evil, that you’ll happily live in a world that’s cast millions and millions of people away as useless, dirty, meaningless?  Because that’s where we are.  This isn’t about politics, it’s about people.  It’s not about who wins and who loses, it’s not about “well that’s their fault.”  It’s about saying fuck you to a lot of people who are running out of options.  Are you prepared for what’s going to happen when those people literally do run out of options, and they chose a chance at life over crawling off into the wilderness to die as you’d like them to?  Sure you might have money, you might know the cops, you might have guns and friends with guns, you might be totally ready for the apocalypse.

But we’re talking about a lot of people being told their options are revolt or die.  Millions.  What do you think your chances are then?

I’m going to close with this.  Amid all the rest of the news in recent weeks, we’ve seen an uptick in violence against people who are non-white, by white people mostly.  A number of these incidents have targeted Sikh practitioners.  Because, to an American who hasn’t learned anything about other faiths or cultures, a Sikh can easily be mistaken for a Muslim.

I”m not going to address Muslims; but I will talk about the Sikh.  This is a religion that preaches equality as a core tenet.  Literally.  I’m a Christian, so I’m going off reading and learning, but the five articles of faith of Sikhism are honesty, equality, fidelity, meditating on God, and never bowing to tyranny.  One of their main religious practices is what’s called the Langar.  What is that?

It’s a meal, served in the gurdwara (the Sikh church), where all are welcome to eat.  And everything, and I mean everything, I’ve found about the langar assures me they fucking mean it.  They’re not just saying “anyone can come eat with us” but there’s a catch they’ll hit you with when you turn up at the door when the food’s ready.  They seriously, truly, honestly, and with all that is holy and good and right in the world mean come eat with us.  No charge, no fee, no catch, we won’t even preach to you.

A Sikh langar welcomes anyone, regardless of faith or religion or background.  They won’t sit down next to you and try to convert you.  They don’t hint that you should leave.  They don’t suggest you should get up and help with some sort of service to them or the gurdwara.  They don’t demand you stop showing up if you arrive every day, day after day, after the Sikh prayers ready to eat the food again.  They don’t suggest you make a donation, or bring food, or pay the gurdwara for the food you’re eating.  They just welcome you, and say “join us and partake.”

Now if you want to help, in some way, they’ll generally work to find a way you can help.  You can help prepare the meal, or clean a little around the gurdwara.  If you want to join prayers, of course they welcome you.  But Sikh consider the langar a holy tenet, a devout matter, and welcome anyone to sit down and partake.  To eat.  To live.

I’ve known a lot of Christians in my life, and most of them would never do that.  Not ever.  Christian churches of every flavor file lawsuits, complaints with cities and counties, get mean and nasty, when homeless people or downtrodden souls disturb the ‘sanctity of the church.’  I’ve literally heard a “good Christian woman” sigh, wrinkle her nose, and mutter “I wish those people would find somewhere else to be on God’s Day.”  I’ve seen Christian churches cast worshipers out because “you haven’t donated to the church in a while, haven’t put money in the collection plate lately, and you really should or you shouldn’t be here.”

I love God, but his fan club leaves a lot to be desired.  Who’s heard that saying before?  How sad is it that it’s true?

We’ve fallen so far in America that a religion that is peaceful and welcoming, that are better Christians than actual Christians, is being targeted for violence by Christians who only Jesus could love.  Because Jesus loves everyone.

The rest of us think you’re assholes though.

Today you, tomorrow me.

The world takes everyone to make it work.  So does tomorrow.  So does life.  We’re in this together.  There’s no need for all this bullshit.  The least you can do if you’re going to hate people is not kill them.  If you want to hate them, okay, that’s your business.  But killing them, standing by and watching smugly as they die, is something else entirely.  It’s evil.  The only word that fits is evil.

In the South, where I’ve lived my whole life, where a lot of the Christian religious conservatives reside, there’s a saying:

“If my brother and I are fighting, that’s our business.  Stay out of it.  Because however mad I am at him, if you touch him the two of us will stop fighting long enough to take care of you.  Then we’ll go back to fighting.  I might want to beat the shit out of him, but he’s still my family and you leave my family alone.”

Humanity is a family.  We’re all one people.  There is no need for fuck you.  There just isn’t.  There will always be extremists, evil people, because without evil, good cannot shine.  But evil has become far too mainstream.  The evil isn’t overseas anymore; it’s Americans doing it to Americans.  Good people are supposed to fight evil, and evil should be defeated.  If you are evil, you deserve to go down.  Don’t want to be a target?  Stop being evil.  No one’s saying you have to be good, just don’t be evil.

Tomorrow is coming.  Pay it forward.  Bend a little.  Read the Bible you claim to love and hold so dear and sacred.  What does Jesus say about how you’re acting?

Today you, tomorrow me.