I bumped into my friend John last week and asked him the routine question, “How are you today John?” His answer was a cheerful “Better than I deserve.” And I responded, “That’s how we all would like to feel.”
After a few steps past John I asked myself, “What do I deserve, if anything, and what does anybody deserve?” Those questions can lead us in many directions, but why don’t we just take one of those paths and see where it leads us.
One path may be the question whether we get the government we deserve. If the government we have today is what we deserve, it should be clear, that as a society, we’re doing something seriously wrong. This country is in a political civil war and most of us are on one side or the other with very few in the middle in neutral territory.
Listen to the comments and conversations. Read the letters to the editor, the articles, the books. Listen to the opinions on your favorite TV channels. They’re all one-sided, sharply worded and critical. Everybody’s on the attack. Nobody is suggesting concessions or middle positions. Everybody demands, nobody apologizes. And the people we elect believe they have to be on one team or the other. No wonder we’re getting a divided, dysfunctional government. We deserve it.
Does every American deserve a system of health that guarantees care whenever it’s needed regardless of pre-existing conditions? Your answer to that question may depend on which side you’re on in the civil war.
We would all like to believe we start life with a place on a level playing field. That would suggest everybody is born deserving an equal chance of living a happy, healthy life. But the deck is shuffled and the cards we get are random. Many are born with physical or mental handicaps from day one.
Do they deserve them? Nobody deserves cancer or schizophrenia, but we have them. Nobody deserves to be born in poverty or into an abusive home, but it happens every day. So, for those who are born with good physical and mental health and into families that are functional, are they getting more than they deserve? Are the others getting less?
What we need to recognize is that there is no such thing as natural justice that assures us we get what we “deserve.” Some people get less than we might assume they deserve and some get more. And Stewart Stafford has written “life occurs somewhere between our aspirations and our just deserts.” You can call it chance, luck, grace, mercy, or “that’s how the ball bounces,” but you can’t call it justice.
I hope you get a good bounce of the ball and I hope I do too.