Have We Forgotten?

Reading time – 2:23; Viewing time – 3:14  .  .  .

If you scratch at the story of nearly any American you won’t have to go very deep – usually no more than 4 or 5 generations back – to find immigrants. And those immigrants not so many years back were not royalty. They weren’t moneyed elite. They weren’t the connected and the powerful.

Elizabeth Warren was right when she said that our business leaders, our entrepreneurs, didn’t build it themselves. They got their education because we all funded it. They’re able to find skilled new employees today for the same reason. Their supplies and their goods go to and from their shops on roads we all paid for and their toilets flush because we all got together and decided to build sanitation facilities. The list of the facets of infrastructure, education, incentives and opportunities no one person built is far too long to list. The point is that we support one another and none of us makes it on his/her own.

Back to your ancestors – they didn’t make it alone either. They didn’t pull themselves up by their bootstraps; someone gave them a job. Or someone gave them credit to buy a pushcart and fill it with apples. Let that stand as a metaphor for however your far-better circumstances came about.

At the Passover Seders just concluded around the world a message near the end of the service reminds us that the longing and search for freedom is never-ending and that it is the responsibility of each of us to do our part to bring about freedom for all. Jesus said “Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me” (Matthew 25:40). The imperative across religions is remarkably consistent: It is our duty to care for the poor and the stranger.

We are in this world and this life together and irrespective of anyone’s sense of rugged individualism, we are interdependent. We are all called upon to care for one another – we are, indeed, our brother’s keeper. Have we forgotten that and where we came from?

The next time you hear someone denigrating “those others” as though they are different from and less than “us”, and chest thumping over keeping refugee mothers and babies and bedraggled girls and boys and men from our shores, or ripping mothers and fathers from their children, or refusing to pay a living wage to laborers, or threatening to limit services to the widow or the pregnant teen across town, or blocking anything that might mitigate the slaughter of our people by handguns  – the victims are mostly poor people, like your ancestors – give some thought to the imperatives that come to us through the millennia.

We are cautioned at the Passover Seder: “Remember, you were slaves in the land of Egypt.” That isn’t some metaphorical or impersonal “you;” it means you. It’s where you came from, exactly as it is for the poor and the strangers among us now. Have we forgotten?


Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

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4 Responses to Have We Forgotten?
  1. John Calia Reply

    I couldn’t read past “Elizabeth Warren was right…”

    • Jack Altschuler Reply

      So sorry you limited yourself that way, John. Methinks that had you read or watched to the end you would have agreed with me.

      We have a big and destructive divide in America that keeps us from having conversations that are critical to our country. Imagine, for example, if I tuned out whenever Paul Ryan spoke. Truth be told, it’s what I want to do. More on that another time. The point for now is that I don’t disagree with everything he promotes, but I can’t learn that if I don’t stay open to hearing him out.

      And I know you know all of this. I invite you to engage what you know to be true.

  2. Brian Muldoon Reply

    Jack–you’ve gotten to the heart of it, as always. Human beings live at the juncture of choice–to care for others or myself. All wisdom traditions teach that disaster lies ahead if we forget those who need and who we can, if we choose, help. Unfortunately we keep having to re-learn this lesson, and at increasingly high cost.

  3. Sharon Sanders Reply

    Your words can’t be argued with in my humble opinion. It’s really difficult to understand the thinking from a perspective of hate and greed.