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Life is precarious for many people today Print
Letters to the editor
Thursday, Mar. 24, 2016 -- 12:00 AM

To the editor:

In reference to the recent column on the Parable of the Prodigal Son by the Bishop of the Diocese of Madison, His Excellency finds a spirit of entitlement to be pervasive in current-day American culture.

Granted, many if not most of us have the standard of living of the wealthiest of persons, both by historical standards and by standards of much of the world today. This, of course, needs to be qualified that there remain many, in our midst, who “fall through the cracks” and are in dire need, but again, this is fortunately not the case with most of us.

With that said, my perception is that the comforts of modern life we are said to take for granted without the proper spirit of gratitude are much more precarious than is considered. It is only a few among us who are not spending most of what we take in as income (if not more), and are as a consequence, one firing, layoff, or “downsizing” away from financial distress, one major illness, or one spousal abandonment away from the same.

Many of us spend money on things or services that we could do without, and if a person would forgo such things, they could save more and perhaps be less anxious and preoccupied with the things of this world.

Do we really need a cable-TV package, a cell-phone voice and data plan, or a gym membership? Do we need to eat in restaurants as often or eat expensive snack or convenience foods from the market? Do we really need to make payments on a late-model automobile?

On the other hand, it takes a great deal of discipline and willpower to forgo much of such discretionary spending as we are bombarded with persuasion that such things are modern necessities.

Our economic system is also centered around such “consumption” — were it to cease, many of us would lose our jobs to layoffs. Since the 2008 economic downturn, many of us have “tightened our belts to make ends meet” by forgoing many things, an action that has compounded the economic misery, especially among the most vulnerable.

There remain, however, necessities of food, shelter, health care, and transportation to work, health clinics, and food markets. Until very recently, fuel to heat our homes and power our cars had multiplied in price. A spillover of this made food a lot more expensive.

Some of this is the cost of fuel to plow the fields, power the delivery trucks, and operate the refrigeration equipment to bring the food to market. Another part of this is that we are converting a large portion of the harvest that fattens our cattle or could be directly consumed by people into motor fuel.

This turning feed and food into a gasoline supplement in the name of stewardship of the environment is becoming a grave moral concern, not only affecting Americans but many of the people beyond our borders.

As to health care, a plan with a mix of good and bad intentions has somehow “run off the rails” by making health care costlier to many. As to shelter, I don’t see the economic downturn as having lowered rents, rather, rents have increased when people are no longer able to make payments on houses they own. I suppose higher education is not a necessity of life, but for a variety of social reasons, credentials rather than a demonstration of skills are required for work paying a living wage while the cost of tuition keeps increasing.

People in America are unhappy because they feel entitled to things that they don’t have? People in America are deeply anxious and troubled because, yes, we enjoy a good life, but we are running in place to the edge of exhaustion to maintain that good life, and one false step on that treadmill and we are flung off.

Your Excellency, people are hurting, and the people not yet hurting are feeling one-step-removed from that hurt.

Our Lord calls us to a sacrificial life; would concur that the person losing their job, bearing a cancer diagnosis, abandoned by their spouse, or simply working as hard as they are able to support themselves and their family, that such a person is sacrificing, our Lord has conferred dignity to what they are doing, and they are in imitation of our Lord in persevering?

Paul Milenkovic, Madison

 
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