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Am I my brother’s keeper?

God, Country, Notre Dame | Monday, September 30, 2013

The society that has developed in America in the opening decades of the twenty-first century is fast paced. Not only must we move fast, we must move faster and better than everyone else in order to succeed, get ahead and survive. This whirlwind suction funnel which our capitalistic free enterprise economy creates forces us to focus on ourselves and maintaining and receiving our portion of the pie, however big or small, so that we can provide for ourselves food, clothing, housing, education, healthcare and so many other elementary human needs. It seems this rigorous competition between producer and producers, between consumers and consumers, and between producers and consumers, somehow leaves people out, lacking the basic needs of every individual. 
The stark reality of the matter is that here in the most robust of all capitalistic free market economies, despite our wealth, we fall short to provide basic needs for all of our citizens. Can we then call our system good when we have people who are hungry, who need clothing and shelter, who can’t afford an education and who can’t afford proper healthcare services? It is hard to say the system is good when it produces such bad effects. Perhaps someone would make the argument that the poor, the starving, the homeless and the sick represent just a small minority of our society and therefore we can ignore them and still say our economic system is good. Someone could make this argument, and unfortunately many do, even if they only indirectly advocate this point by continually asserting that we have the best system that serves the greatest number of people possible for the better.
We must challenge this notion that an economic system could somehow be the greatest when it still marginalizes and leaves people in need. Is there a system that works better? Maybe, but that might be another exploration in its own. Possibly easier to explore is if the system is not the problem, then are the people in the system the problem? Stated more clearly, are we the people of the United States of America, with our attitudes and actions, responsible for those people of the same United States of America who suffer and want. If it is not the economic system that fails and is bad, perhaps it is the people in the economic system that fail and are to blame.
Looking specifically into healthcare as an example: Should it be socialized? Who is to pay? Should insurance be required? Is the current healthcare system our best option? 
There are many questions and there are many different opinions on these questions. With the current system in place, it can at least be agreed upon that it is not perfect for people without access to healthcare, partially due to their own financial constraints and partly to the ever-rising costs of healthcare in our nation. What do we do about this problem as a nation? Do we ignore the people who cannot have health coverage and healthcare while we get our vaccines, surgeries and eyesight checked? Or, do we strive to find a way for all to have equal access to these rudimentary services that help us withstand healthy life here on this earth? 
We should also not ignore that an individual might take personal responsibility for his or her own health. For instance, it is really hard to sometimes see an overweight smoker and be tolerant of their habits when they are asking for help. And what about the alcoholic that needs help with medical costs? And the pregnant teen who needs help and assistance in her pregnancy? How can we help these people, our brothers and sisters in Christ? It appears to be that when others show that they want to help themselves, we as a society tend to be more willing to help them. While ideally all people should want to work towards the goal together, there are some that will not want to or are unable to, yet we must not cast judgment upon these people. They too deserve to be considered and attended to.  
It comes down to a basic question that we reflect upon from Genesis 4:9, “Then the Lord said to Cain, “Where is Abel your brother?” And he said, “I do not know. Am I my brother’s keeper?” Applied outside of the bonds and unities of family and taken into a broader scope such as the American society, how do we answer the question “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Are we here only for ourselves, or are we all interconnected in ways beyond our tangible grasp which binds us together so intrinsically that if one of us is in need, hurt, or pain, we stop, heal and ease this pain to our fullest capabilities. In looking to find better solutions to the issues we find, we must first be able to say yes to the needs of others, to the inherent duty that comes with our rights, to the responsibility we share to care for all of those who are in need around us.