/ Posts / I can’t add one single word to the many heartfelt thoughts expressed by the black community during this terribly traumatic week of death and riots
I can’t add one single word to the many heartfelt thoughts expressed by the black community during this terribly traumatic week of death and riots, but I can tell a story about when I realized that government should focus on the downtrodden more than on society’s winners.
So yes, I own a brewpub in Northern Wisconsin and can no longer run five miles without my Achilles’ tendons screaming at me, but a LONG, LONG time ago I was an ideological kid who miraculously got into Harvard University coming from a middle class family in Stevens Point.
I wanted to change the world as many kids do, and I had very little clue about what political parties stood for at the time, but being an 18-year-old without a ton of empathy, I leaned towards whichever party would help me get ahead in life, which in my limited worldview lead me to the Republican Party.
I majored in government, wanting to be in politics as early as I can remember, and enrolled in a class where I had to read the book “A Theory of Justice” written by Harvard professor John Rawls in 1971.
After reading this book, I decided I had no choice but to become a Democrat.
Now this is gonna get egg-heady, but it’s beautiful if you dig into it a bit.
John Rawls introduced this theory called the “veil of ignorance,“ and this theory is what changed my life forever. Here is the shortest description I could find on this theory from Wikipedia.
“The "veil of ignorance" is a method of determining the morality of issues. It asks a decision-maker to make a choice about a social or moral issue and assumes that they have enough information to know the consequences of their possible decisions for everyone but would not know, or would not take into account, which person they are. The theory contends that not knowing one's ultimate position in society would lead to the creation of a just system, as the decision-maker would not want to make decisions which benefit a certain group at the expense of another, because the decision-maker could theoretically end up in either group.”
That’s the quote, and it’s a little bit esoteric, but what it meant to me was even though I was a white male that would be graduating from Harvard with every possible benefit that those three labels got me, if I wanted to go into politics and make the world a better place, I had to put myself in the shoes of those that didn’t have my privilege, because however a law affected those people should be the same way that it affected me.
Figuring that out gave me a huge shot of empathy, and I’ve tried to see the world that way ever since, even though I still stumble on many occasions.
What does this ivory tower gibberish really mean? It means that we need laws and systems to carry out those laws that don’t punish people because of their race.
It means we don’t decide to open up our economy without rules in a global pandemic if it means hurting senior citizens who by necessity live in assisted-living homes where the virus spreads more quickly, or the poor who by necessity live in large apartment complexes where the virus spreads more quickly.
Now if you happen to identify with the Republican or Democratic Party at the moment, you may do so for a variety of reasons, just like the reason that I chose to be a Democrat at the age of 18. Your reasons and worldview for voting for a certain party are completely your own.
But, if you agree with the theory of “the veil of ignorance,” like I do, and see how one party has pitted the privileged against the less fortunate, on everything from police training to corporate bailouts to liquor sales during a pandemic, then I think you really only have one choice this November.
And by the way, since writing this post was my “church” for the day, I believe that Jesus would have bought into the theory of the “veil of ignorance” as well. Do you?
Written by Kirk Bangstad on 05/31/20