Common ground: Help a stranger

By Paul Moomjean 12/19/2013

As the Christmas season marches on, mixing the beauty of gift-giving capitalism, the spirit of good will, Santa, Rudolph and the miraculous birth of Jesus Christ, politics seems to be the last thing on anyone’s mind these days. Maybe that’s a good cultural shift. New movies are coming out for the whole family to enjoy. The Thanksgiving hangover has hopefully mended old family wounds before the upcoming Christmas dinner. And hopefully you are thinking about reconnecting with your local church or temple to remember that God is above all the hustle and bustle of shopping and spending money. If there were ever a time for the Left and Right to take a break from bickering, I would say this month would be perfect.

I’ve gotten a lot of letters over my five years writing for the VCReporter. Some have been positive and encouraging, while some have used a fair share of controversial words to describe me and my ideas. But one constant theme has been for me to write about common ground that the political spectrums share. So in the spirit of the Christmas season, I’m going to do just that.

For the next few weeks, I’m challenging all of us to be good to one another for the remainder of the year. Let’s start the Help a Stranger Campaign. My challenge to you, and to myself as well, is for each of us to help and care for someone we don’t know, in an attempt to show how our politics and religion and cultures do not completely define us or our humanity.

One of the reasons the Left and the Right, liberals and conservatives, and Democrats and Republicans don’t get along is because of preconceived notions about the other “tribe.” But by helping strangers we can start the process of helping those whom we know nothing about, and therefore we can’t prejudge and decide them unworthy.

So often the Left and the Right see each other in the wrong light, creating a real disconnect and hindering real progress. The Left sees the Right as morally wrong and uncompassionate. The Right sees the Left as misguided and naive. And because of these worldview prisms, we disregard the humanity and decency of each other. By helping a stranger, we take away the politics, and the surprise might be that a person once thought of as a political fool turns out to be a one-time savior.

There are many ways to help a stranger. Pay a tab at a restaurant or bar. Help someone load up the car after holiday shopping. Say “hello” and ask a person how you can help. Buy a stranger a cup of Starbucks coffee. Invite a person to your holiday party. These ideas are not new but can be traced back to the ancient world.

Jesus states in Luke 14, “When you give a luncheon or dinner, do not invite your friends, your brothers or sisters, your relatives, or your rich neighbors; if you do, they may invite you back and so you will be repaid. But when you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed. Although they cannot repay you, you will be repaid at the resurrection of the righteous.”

Atheist and liberal Richard Dawkins has been known to use the Golden Rule of “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” as a moral compass in debates scattered throughout YouTube, arguing that one does not need God to follow this rule. But even if you believe you need God, the government or just human will to be good, following this principal this holiday season will challenge both the giver and receiver by challenging their preconceived ideas about those different from them.

Mike Huckabee once said, “I think people forget that bipartisanship is really the burden of the victor, not the loser.” The real winner will be all of us if we find common ground and promote human goodness and not political affiliation.

Sure, this is an ideal way to live all year, but let’s start small, Ventura County. Let’s start this holiday season on this common ground and see what happens.F

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Comments

Moomjean's exhortation is a cut above his usual missive, although even here can't avoid a sly dig like defining Richard Dawkins as "atheist and liberal" without crediting his preeminence as an ethologist. But elevating Huckabee's hypocritical musing to diplomacy is a bridge too far.

For balance I offer these maxims. Bipartisanship is the privilege of duopoly. Nonpartisanship serves the public good. It takes two to tango. And my favorite is "Elections have consequences"—Boehner

"Misguided and naive" was long since gifted to the "morally wrong and uncompassionate" Right. The unmentioned "indulgent and unambitious" I'd excise from the impoverished Left. "Empathy and revolution" is my challenge to an apathetic Center.

Moomjean's prescriptions are by and large excellent and deserving of respect, dialogue and charity are well and good, but alas "Adversity is the first path to truth"—Byron.

posted by WildLaw on 12/31/13 @ 03:06 p.m.
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