I feel very overwhelmed with this US presidential election year.
Usually politics concern me, but do not worry me. I watch and comment and get involved where it seems prudent or useful.
This year feels different. I see the hate speech and violence ramping up at Trump rallies. The machine that the GOP made using the Southern Strategy has been so successful that it created a vacancy that Trump stepped into seamlessly.
I seem to be mostly surrounded by people who do not see the appeal of Donald Trump. Most of us have sat helpless and hopeless watching his effect grow.
Yesterday was Super Tuesday in my state of Georgia and I watched my state’s conservative Primary voters turn out to support Trump. My own feelings of hopelessness grew. I listened to Trump talking about ‘Making America Great Again’ and heard echoes of other similar historical promises made.
I woke up with my mind ruminating on this and spoke with a friend about it. How do we fix this? How can we fix a world where cutting one’s self off from others seems the safest solution, or the only viable solution.
The answer we finally came up with was charity. The world is broken, and the only way to go about fixing it is to directly apply ourselves.
People do not feel hopeless when there is hope. They do not feel helpless when they are helped or helping. They are not prone to the charismatic and empty promises of hatred that are simply an act of cutting one’s self off from compassion and empathy when they have been directly touched by compassion and empathy.
So the question of what to do is charity but the question of what charity is and how to do it remains.
Maimonides said acts of charity are:
- Giving an interest-free loan to a person in need; forming a partnership with a person in need; giving a grant to a person in need; finding a job for a person in need; so long as that loan, grant, partnership, or job results in the person no longer living by relying upon others.
- Giving charity anonymously to an unknown recipient via a person (or public fund) which is trustworthy, wise, and can perform acts of charity with your money in a most impeccable fashion.
- Giving charity anonymously to a known recipient.
- Giving charity publicly to an unknown recipient.
- Giving charity before being asked.
- Giving charity after being asked.
- Giving willingly, but inadequately.
- Giving out of pity or sadness.
This seems like a reasonable accounting of the ways of doing charity. It even lists the ways that are imperfect, but still doing charity. Life is not perfect, and I am not perfect, so I can do this.
So I am going to dedicate myself to [at least] one act of charity a week. My friend agreed and we will hold each other accountable.
In this way I can help restore the world. No empty promises of making America great, but actual work toward humanity.