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I am grateful today, Sunday, August 11th, for Theresa Manzella’s op. ed. about standing on principles in the “Ravalli Republic.” She is upset with the Republicans in the Montana Legislature who did not always vote with their party this year, specifically on Medicaid Expansion. She seems to believe that politics is a team sport, and the rules for her team are as follows:

“The Republican Party that I signed on to support believes in limited government, regulations and taxes, economic development that supports private industry, and individual rights with correlating personal responsibilities.” She concludes, “My vote shall remain that of a Christian, constitutional, conservative Republican.”

This brings up a disagreement I had with my dad as I grew older, though he died before I had the guts to discuss it with him. I am convinced that while principles and rules are important in establishing a common sense of values and purpose in any society, they are inhumane and unrealistic if they cannot be flexible enough to embrace what human beings need and can do, both in groups and individually.

I don’t identify as a Democrat, nor as a Christian or anything else that requires me to follow someone else’s rules set down in their words; heck, I don’t even follow recipes much, because it hems me in and is boring. In general, though, I do follow rules that have been proven to be worthwhile and to be in the best interest of all of us, like not killing people and traffic lights and paying taxes and returning library books on time.

My key point is “in the best interest of all of us,” regardless of our gender, disability, race, color, creed, sexual preference, brain-power -- whatever. We are all God’s creatures, if you will, and so our job is to help take care of each other. Jesus is supposed to have said, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35). Notice that “love one another” is repeated three times in this short quote.

It’s not just the people on our team. It’s not just the people who have enough money and education and taste to be “like us” and therefore unproblematical. It’s everyone, though that’s quite a challenge.

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I do not intend to draw any parallels here, but among of the best/worst examples of following the rules were Hitler’s followers, who said they were just following orders. So were the Roman soldiers who crucified Jesus.

It’s scary not to follow rules, orders, principles; but we have hearts and minds that are capable of so much more, and people around us to help us when we ask.

Team sports can be important, but politics -- people figuring out what works -- is so much more.

Mary Fahnestock-Thomas

Hamilton

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