Live By The Sword,

Die by the sword.  The old aphorism is biblical, and was meant, originally, to convey that if you choose violence you must choose it’s consequence, which is a violent death.  By now, the phrase has come to mean “choose your: poison, path, worldview, moral outlook or religion, creed, constitution, — and swear, live, and die by it.”  If you are a Buddhist, live by Buddhist ideals.  Pretty simple.

The mark of an examined life is living by one’s own ideals, whatever they may be.  If you call yourself a Christian, you should admit that your ideals include taking care of others.  This includes your children, of course, but it also includes your parents, and your neighbors, and people who are worse off than you.  To what extent do you do this?  Sometimes those who shout their ideals most loudly would do well to shut up and meditate on the discrepancy between what they’re broadcasting in very public forums, and what they do when no one is watching.  Look, I have no problem if you have no desire to take care of others.  I have no problem if your life is completely driven by self-interest.  Your self-interest doesn’t bother or hurt me a bit.  But it irritates the hell out of me when you declare with pride that you are some person of lofty principle and then violate those same principles, either without thought at all, or worse, with the hope that no one notices.  People notice, and you’re giving yourself and your principles a bad name.  Live and die by your sword.

If you consider yourself a conservative, it may be within your line of thinking that people take too much.  People are too quick to suck from a government teat, too slow to earn their own way.  Every one in this country has an opportunity and responsibility to fend for themselves.  Right?  If you are among those who believe that, I’m only sorry that I can’t truly even the playing field, and make you not-white, not-attractive, and not-that-smart.  But let’s go ahead and let you keep the advantages I can’t take away from you, and pretend that everyone’s not starting at different distances from the pot of gold.  If we all need to fend for ourselves, and you want to live by your ideals, don’t let your parents help you out.  Don’t let them get you out of credit card debt.  Don’t let them give you a down payment on your house. 

I’m sorry– What’s that?  They WANT to help you, which is why it’s ok for you to take-take-take, spend beyond your means, and enjoy a lifestyle you didn’t earn–?  So it’s OK for you to have nice things that YOU didn’t earn, but it’s not OK for those on public assistance to have the basics– food and medical– that they didn’t earn…?  When you demonize them you look like a fool, unless, and until, you are prepared to say no to every handout you’re offered.  Die by your sword: make your own way, and show the lesser people– the ones who may not enjoy being white, attractive, and smart,– what it looks like to work hard and succeed without entitlements and subsidies and wealthy parents.

2 thoughts on “Live By The Sword,

  1. I read this before going to work this morning, thought about it off and on through the day. Never realized that “die by the sword” had biblical origins although it makes sense. I think your perceptions are interesting and true although I fear that the people to whom you are referring will never recognize themselves. I struggle to explain what I will now try to say(bear with me) – something I have realized as I have aged – I will not be able to change the mind of anyone who is truly certain of their conviction. This can be applied to larger issues but also to personal ones. Try as I might I do not have the ability to alter the perception of another person no matter how sure I am of my own rightness. So I am not inclined to try – and that makes me feel sad and old. Makes me wonder if there is a point to the capriciousness of our minds. I hope this is only my peculiarity.

    1. I agree that we will rarely change another’s mind. I guess my hope is that people will recognize hypocrisy. We’re all guilty of it, as we all have our best selves and our less-than-great selves. But I can’t let go of criticizing public policy that is born of people pretending that being one’s best self is easy, especially when one’s best self isn’t “one’s” at all, it’s one’s upbringing and family and social status and privilege. The people (plural) of whom I speak are the same as those who loudly criticized Obama’s “You didn’t build that” comment. Striving for all to be independent as they’re able is one thing; pretending we don’t need or haven’t used other people and advantages ourselves–while demanding that less-advantaged others stand alone with zero help– is quite another jar of gefilte.

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