Letters to the Editor

We've all been given a hand up

Re Jim Hill letter, "Don't encourage handout culture," April 16:

In a recent letter, Issac Bailey was taken to task by Hill for supporting a "handout culture."

Bailey's writing reflects a correct understanding of the history of our nation.

In addition to being a retired Presbyterian minister (the American Revolution was called the Presbyterian Revolution by the British), I'm a former infantry officer in the Army who swore to uphold and defend the Constitution.

The Constitution and the Declaration of Independence did not extend the rights of citizenship to slaves, poor whites and women. I respect and cherish our forefathers, but their intent was primarily to protect their culture, that of the landed gentry.

In my opinion, the history of our nation has been one of extending the rights of citizenship. And, as in the Civil War and the civil rights movement, the extension was often paid for in blood.

I'm all for Christian charity, but I know firsthand that individual gifts, no matter how generous, can't come close to meeting the legitimate needs of those who through no fault of their own have fallen through the cracks.

One of the most quoted portions of Scripture is from Matthew 25, Jesus separating sheep from goats on the basis of how they responded to those in need. When you fed the hungry, clothed the naked ... you did it to me. To whom was Jesus speaking? It wasn't a collection of individuals. It was the nations. Sounds like public policy to me.

One way of describing government is doing together that which we have a hard time doing as individuals. Sometimes we act together through government because the need is too large. Sometimes we work together through government because legitimate community need runs into the "total depravity of humanity." (Sounds awful, but what it means is that none of us can do any good save by the grace of God and left to our own, each of us can do rotten, selfish things. The reason we have checks and balances in the Constitution is because its writers knew something about this Calvinist teaching.)

Finally, Hill has missed a point that he himself makes as he describes his life. None of us truly makes it on our own. We all need a helping hand. His dad was there for him, and my hunch is so was a school system and so forth.

I once worked for a congressman, Ben Jones, who is better known as "Cooter" from the "Dukes of Hazzard" TV show. Ben was prone to saying that if you see a turtle sitting on a fence post, you know he didn't get there by himself. All of us are turtles sitting on fence posts. Some of us are just more lucky than others.

I was fortunate to be born into a family that held up education as important. I went to Georgia Tech, an excellent public (government) institution. The G.I. Bill paid for my graduate work. My recent hip replacement was paid for by Medicare.

As a citizen of the wealthiest nation in the world, I want to make sure that all of my brother and sister citizens have the opportunities that I often take for granted. And sometimes that means that the government has to step in.

The writer lives in Pawleys Island.