When does it stop?

That was the question posed to one of my sons who had posted on Facebook about the Biden administration’s student loan forgiveness program. “When does it stop?” this person asked, before expressing his uninformed opinion on the matter.

One of the trends today is to state something that is wide of the mark and based on partial or inaccurate information, and then treat that statement like it is true and get angry about it.

Views on the loan forgiveness plan are like that. Some folks don’t want to take the time to get the facts on the parameters of the loan forgiveness program.

The New York Times published a helpful overview, but for those who don’t want to navigate their paywall, you can find information at StudentAid.gov.

I am hearing a lot of squealing about loan forgiveness for a lot of reasons. “This is not fair,” “This is just aimed at the elites,” and “If it doesn’t help everyone, we shouldn’t be helping anyone” are some of the common refrains.

I think the question posed to my son on Facebook is a great question, “When does it stop?” But the real key is to identify and define the “it” that we are talking about. When does “it” stop?

Context is always important. In this particular interaction, the “it” was giving people money via loan forgiveness. We could look back just a few years and ask similar questions:

  • “When will we stop giving tax breaks to the wealthiest of the wealthy?”
  • “When will we stop providing some support for those households and businesses so powerfully impacted by COVID-19?”

“When does it stop?” The truth is, what some people are upset about is that the money is not going to them. So, they see it as unfair, and they assert that it needs to stop because it is making people lazy.

But let’s consider if there is another “it” at work.

Suppose some folks never really seem to get to a level playing field in life. Suppose “it” is always something: not enough food, not enough money, not enough shelter or opportunity, or not enough quality education.

“When does it stop?” When does the playing field become more level? When does opportunity come calling in sections of some communities? “When does it stop?”

For me, “it” stops when across this great nation everyone stands on the same level ground with the same rights, privileges and opportunities afforded to every other person in this land. “It” stops when the Constitution and the Bill of Rights rings true for every person from coast to coast.

“It” stops when the limitations that rest on a person have everything to do with their limited aspiration to be, to do or to become, instead of what’s left over, or only available to some, because institutions and systems push down, ignore or leave some people out.

“It”stops when real justice is blind, not weighing wealth, social standing, affluence, privilege or connections. More than that, “it” stops when justice is tempered with mercy, weighted toward redemption, rehabilitation and reintegration.

“It” stops when law enforcement around this nation treats all with respect and dignity, instilling confidence while projecting and protecting peace. “It” stops when no citizen has to unduly fear a person in uniform.

“When does it stop?” is a question oblivious to the struggle of folks who are not like us.

It is a question asked in the darkness of not seeing what holds people back, what makes any social movement upward more challenging for some than others. It is a question voiced without insight or empathy.

Perhaps this question asked grudgingly about a limited program of school debt relief should become a question asked about the soul of America.

When do racism and racist rants stop? When do the lives lost end because each life means as much as another life? When does the violence stop? When do the mass shootings stop?

Many politicians today don’t want us to talk about “it,” don’t want us to see “it” and don’t want us to read about “it.” The fear that surrounds all the “its” is the very reason we must face “it,” talk about “it” and come to terms with “it.”

Why? Because “it” has always been about the people we don’t see, the struggles we turn away from, the difficulties visited on others but not ourselves, such as the homeless, the poor and the document-less immigrants, to name only a few.

Not seeing, not acknowledging, not addressing and not connecting does not make “it” go away. Instead, it makes a mockery of every moral statement one might profess.

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