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Poverty & Equity Thought Leader Uncategorized

Nero Fiddled While Rome Burns: 2018 Edition

John Berry, Chief Executive Officer, St. Vincent de Paul GeorgiaBy John Berry, Chief Executive Officer, Society of St. Vincent de Paul Georgia

I think most, if not all of us have heard the expression ‘Nero fiddled while Rome burned’.  It is ‘urban legend’ from 64AD (or maybe ‘fake news’?) because in reality it didn’t happen.  Yes there was a big fire in Rome, but Nero was in fact over 30 miles away and came back to Rome to coordinate relief and measures when he was informed.  But he also used it as a convenient excuse to blame the Christians and begin a persecution of them.  The people didn’t like or trust Nero and he became an easy target.  The fiddling derogatory was a result (although that is actually a modern variation – the fiddle wasn’t even invented for at least another 900 years.

In 2018 we are creating our own legend that the people in 3018 or 4018 will be able to use as a new derogatory.  It is that our elected officials in Washington DC fiddled while people suffered.  But in the 2018 edition our elected officials aren’t hurrying back to work to find a solution like Nero did in Rome.  Rather they are pointing at the other side, blaming the victims for the crime, and kicking the can down the road.  If there was a fire, the place would be ashes by now.

While our elected officials whine, argue, delay, and point fingers, people suffer. Children don’t get the health care they need. Families go hungry.  

And why? Because neither political party is willing to do anything that might in any way give the other political party a chance to claim they’ve accomplished something. It’s the opposite of the ‘everyone gets a trophy’ problem this country has.  Instead it’s a ‘no one gets a trophy’.

The CHIP and Dreamers issues are just two blatant examples of needless suffering and pain being inflicted on innocent people. The reality is that the overwhelming majority of people in the country and members of Congress agree on these matters. But small and vocal minorities on (on both sides of the aisle) are holding these matters hostage to their idealistic agendas. And as a result, people are suffering.  

This is wrong.  Children who need health care should not be pawns in ideological battles between the right and the left.  We need to declare that the innocent shall not suffer while the politicians ‘fiddle’.  We need to declare that some child brought here as a young child or as an infant, with no understanding, knowledge, or complicity in the violation of immigration laws; and who has lived as a law abiding member of our society – maybe even serving this country in the military or a first responder job – will not have to suffer the fear and uncertainty of having a knock come on their door that will expel them from the only land they know.

If we continue to allow our elected officials – and make no mistake, WE put them there – to fiddle while people suffer we will be no better than them. We will be the Nero’s who fiddled while Rome burned.


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1 Comment

  1. Tom Baxter January 24, 2018 1:20 pm



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