My Brother’s Keeper? October 8, 2007Posted by mm69 in Uncategorized.
Barack Obama is a feisty guy. Aside from his wife –who might consider less conjugal dressing-down in public — the presidential candidate doesn’t seem to be scared of very much, including political incorrectness. Asked recently about social responsibility, Barack tossed caution to the conservative winds, announcing that, “I am my brother’s keeper!” This comment was striking to me — not only because the gangly, cigarette-smoking, Abe Lincoln-drawling, baby-faced, would-be President seemed to be turning a cliche on its head — delivering a commie-sounding social ideal as fodder to his Republican opponents — but because it forced me to realize how often I (and many other mind-your-own-business types) hide behind disinterest in the name of detachment, unhelpfulness in the name of non-interference. But am I my brother’s keeper, I wondered? Or was this socialist clap trap? Is it virtuous or cowardly to turn our backs on problems which might not affect us directly, but cause others clear and present danger? Where is the line between us and them? When is it right to cross it? Barack’s audacious remark made me wonder, or was the belief in such a line merely a license not to care? Not to be troubled with others’ pain? I was brought up in the church of To Each His Own — the temple of Mind Your Own Ps and Qs — where self-obsession was next to godliness. But where did this church lead, exactly? Which brothers, in its shallow gospel, were actually worthy of my keeping? Only me and mine, I realized. This left the family of man outside the circle of what I needed to worry about in any direct or responsible way. And yet, how cold and incomplete, how isolating and insufficient such an ethos could become. With his candor, Barack made me rethink this old saw; to consider that, maybe, I was the keeper (i.e. the direct relation) of needy brothers and sisters I’d sought to keep at a distance. Maybe minding one’s business is never enough when the world is on fire and burning fast. Barack seems to think so.
– Mark Matousek, Contributing Editor