What happened? I spent decades in the GOP and in that time I met many wonderful, kind, decent people. They would give you the shirt off their backs if you needed it. They were there to give you a helping hand. They were there to comfort you in times of sadness or grief.
Governor George Ryan, the former Governor of Illinois who was sent to prison, was my neighbor growing up. I recall one night I was very sick. My parents got a Doctor out of bed who ordered some medicine for me so I could breathe.
There were no 24 hour pharmacies in Kankakee, Illinois in the late 1950's. I would have had to suffer until 9 AM when our local pharmacy, Ryan Drugstore opened its doors. I would have had to suffer except George Ryan was our neighbor. My Dad called him at 2 AM and asked him to help. George Ryan got out of bed, got dressed and filled the prescription because a little boy couldn't breathe well.
It wasn't enough that he got up at 2 AM to help, he delivered the pills to our front door with some penny candy from the drugstore because he just knew penny candy would help me feel better too. He called the next day to make sure I was better.
The world knows George Ryan as a man who sold driver's licenses to those who should not be driving, when he was Secretary of State for Illinois. They know of him as a man who gave a license to a man who killed a bunch of kids with a car. That led to his downfall.
I know a different George Ryan and I believe I know the real George Ryan.
The act of a man showing concern for a sick child at 2 AM was emblematic of the GOP I knew for so many years. What happened? How did it all go so wrong?
The GOP Paradox
The Republican party today is a paradox. On one hand, many are church-going people who sit in service each Sunday and listen to the stories of Jesus and his compassion. They profess great love and commitment to a Savior who admonishes them to be compassionate and to reach out to others in need.
They say amen, walk out of the church building and it appears forget every word they just heard. Forget the "if a man has two coats he must share one with someone who has none." That is out the window. It appears their notion of showing compassion now is typing "prayers" on social media.
Their ministers have tried to spin the idea that Jesus was not speaking to the Government, rather to individuals. Many feel that way and they think it gives them cover. It doesn't give them a shred of cover. Separation of church and state is a new idea that started in 1789 and the US Constitution. 2000 years ago, the Temple in Jerusalem was the Department of the Treasury in ancient Israel. When Jesus spoke about the Sadducees and Pharisees to put it into American terms, He was speaking to the Cabinet Officers of King Herod. So the message was direct to the Government.
This notion that has come into being that the government has no role in helping the sick or the poor is from the 19th Century. The world has changed and the GOP seems to be wanting to stay the same.
Stereotypes are rationalizations for bias.
The degrading of those who are poor and the belief they are all just takers I also find offensive. A conservative CPA from Chicago openly called the people who live in Chicago "takers," in a comment on this very site. He meant African-Americans. Chicago is the economic engine that drives the entire state. You trip over wealth in the city, as well as poverty and I don't mean modest wealth. Some of the wealthiest people in the world call Chicago home. The "takers" comment was aimed at African Americans.
We think of bigotry and racism being unique to the Antebellum South. That is like thinking cancer is unique to Texas and rare elsewhere. Bigotry is a cancer on our society, and so is greed. It is virulent and this is not new. As I read the ancient words in the Bible I realize the struggle between the rich and poor has always gone on and probably will continue.
There is nothing wrong with being rich. There is something wrong with being selfish and greedy. That type of wrong is loose in the GOP. It is why I left. There is a balance between taking care of me and looking out for "we". The GOP does not have the proper balance.
To my GOP friends who still speak to me after my leaving the party: if you are going to act holier than thou then put some action behind the words and actually be holy instead of selfish. The argument that your church runs a food pantry and it gets you off the hook doesn't fly. Running a food pantry is a noble thing to do. It doesn't alleviate hunger. Food stamps help to keep people alive too and not all people on them are "takers."
It is time to get back to empathy and compassion as American ideals.
Illinois Governor Rauner has a bill on his desk which he can show great compassion, or he can show he is a heartless man. The bill is House Bill 2721, Charlie's Law, which stops insurance companies from pretending they are doctors and forces them to cover a known disease called brain inflammation. CBS 2 News in Chicago did the report below, and my colleague from Chicago Now wrote this article about the disease and the bill.
The Republicans like to say the Democrats are looking for a utopian world that doesn't exist. I used to tell that story too. It's not true and it was many of the things I said as a Republican that I was wrong to say, and wrong to think.
Democrats are not looking for a utopia. Democrats are just looking for the USA to be a fairer place. After all, it's our home too.
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