Let’s consider a fable.
Once upon a time there was a magical land of WE. The land looked a lot like our land without the internet.
The land had a lot of problems, children and adults were often afflicted with serious, crippling and sometimes fatal diseases. One really bad one was called polio. Some people in the land weren’t treated equally, politicians squabbled and something called the “nuclear bear” scared the heck out of everyone. People in the land of WE routinely practiced hiding under their desks and some really scared people built shelters in which to hide.
All was not perfect in the land of WE, but whenever things looked remarkably bleak, a magical spirit from some mysterious place breathed a very special fire on the people of WE. The source of this remarkable spirit was an inscrutable enigma, but it infused the land with a desire to help each other and solve problems together.
When the crippling diseases became an intolerable scourge, all the people agreed to get a special medicine to combat the disease. The people of WE seemed to intuitively understand that while the medicine would protect them as individuals, its real value was to protect all of WE from spreading diseases like polio, smallpox, and measles to others. The people of WE appreciated that they might be exposed to a small degree of risk, but the important thing was to protect the entire land from spreading horrible diseases like polio and measles. It was an all for one and one for all kind of thing.
When a certain group in WE was treated badly, fellow citizens rallied for legislation to protect them. Not everyone was happy with that legislation, but that special magic spirit that some people came to call the “common good” gripped the land. That same spirit helped people deal with the threat of the “nuclear bear.” The people in the land of WE just knew they were safe if they stuck together against the bear rather than looking out for their own self-interest.
Even squabbling politicians in WE often found ways to stake out a middle ground called compromise to make the land better. Self-interest by citizens and politicians was frowned upon by just about everyone. The people knew if all boats rise, and all boats are safe, the entire land of WE would be safe.
Not everyone was convinced the special magic came from a secret, special place. Some scribes believed the magic spirit that caused people to care for others came from deep within the people in the land of WE. Those folks argued that it was inherent in the souls of the people to embrace that special spirit called the common good and that the interests of the whole would forever win out over individual, mean-spirited self-interest.
This is a true story and it happened much the way I have told it. Sadly, many residents of our country in 2015 deem it a silly old fairy tale. They laugh at the special magical spirit called the common good.
Tim J McGuire is the author of “Some People Even Take Them Home” A Disabled Dad, A Down Syndrome Son and Our Journey To Acceptance