2) Give up the word “deserve.”

<– 1) Do for yourself… Home 3) Get your hands dirty. –>

John C. Dorhauer’s “An Open Letter to White Men in America” begins:

Dear White Men,

You are persons of privilege.

You didn’t earn it.

This distresses me far less today than it did when I first read it.  Maybe I’ve become more comfortable with having things I don’t deserve.  More likely, I’ve lost all interest in whether people have things they don’t deserve or deserve things they don’t have.

I encourage you to lose all interest in it, too.

To say someone does or doesn’t deserve something is a value judgement (involving “shoulds,” “oughts,” approval or disapproval) prone to stir up lots of angst without empowering anyone to deal with What Is.  That’s my immediate point.

(As it happens, at this moment I’m weighing whether value judgments in general actually have any — value.  Attention to the is/ought dilemma is another parallel between my thought and that of David Hume.)

By virtue of seeking to take Dorhauer seriously, I have considered various aspects of my own personal privilege that I have not earned.

1.     The greatest single feature of my personal privilege comes from the fact that my parents were monogamous.  Mom chose to have all her children by one and the same man; Dad likewise chose to have all his children by one and the same woman.  They chose to marry before they would begin to procreate, and chose to remain married all their lives.

True, in the demographic of my childhood, marriage was the norm.  All that means is that I had opportunity to observe many marriages.  What did each one entail?   A ton of peace-making, problem-solving, acceptance, responsibility, love, sacrifice and work.  All those people provided for me powerful role models of those things.  Unfortunately, since I did not earn this background, neither can I give it away.

2.     The second greatest feature of my unearned personal privilege is my intellect.  Nowhere in my history is there any indication of my ever having worked to become this way.  As far as I can tell, I’ve been like this for thousands of years.  This is just the way God made me.  I can’t give this away, either.

There is privilege I have earned.  Albeit I appear to have been born with certain talents as to honesty and love, the story of my current life is of continuous striving to become more honest and more loving, as much as I possibly can be.  Thanks solely to the work I have done this way, I know what’s involved; I know how to do it; with the result that I can share this with others; as I’m doing now.

At this writing, there is some debate over whether non-working persons deserve food stamps, and whether those on “welfare” or living in public housing deserve things like microwave ovens, televisions, cell phones and laptop computers.  I’m surprised they don’t question refrigerators also.  In fact, almost every homeless person I know has one or more “Obamaphones.”  In my view, as to any of these things, they either have it or they don’t, and no amount of hands-wringing over whether or not they deserve it, matters.

To all appearances, this child got practically nothing she did deserve, and a ton that she did not.

Six-year old Kendrea Johnson had PTSD.

Read her story:

Girl, 6, died by hanging in foster care. County settles with family for $1.5 million.

Her biological father died in a drive-by shooting.  She was found “in her mother’s trashed home with various medications all over the floor.”  A mental health counselor noted in case reviews that Kendrea was experiencing suicidal or homicidal behavior every day or nearly every day.

Finally, she hung herself.

You just want to take her in your arms, hug her, and make all the darkness go away.

I read again and again of children who are removed from horrific conditions in their birth home, only to meet equally horrific conditions in foster care.  It is as if the child is born with a load of negative karma that she or he is destined to meet, one way or another, and that no state intervention can deter.

Did she deserve all this?  Did she not?  The question itself merely distracts us from the task of dealing with the facts of her situation as they are; from dealing with What Is.

<– 1) Do for yourself… Home 3) Get your hands dirty. –>


3 thoughts on “2) Give up the word “deserve.”

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