A Story of Two Men -a question of Compassion

Below is a simple parable about two neighbors, which will demonstrate starkly different ideas as to what compassion means. You, the reader, will lean towards one or the other, and this will tell you volumes about yourself.

There were two men, neighbors in fact. One man owned a slave who farmed the land, and the other man farmed his own land. Over time, tension between the two men grew as the man who didn’t own a slave became increasingly upset over the other man’s practice of slavery. He viewed slavery as immoral and he felt sorrowful for the slave that he was not free. He saw the inhumane manner with which his neighbor treated his slave, as a beast of burden rather than a human soul. He valued his own liberty above all his other blessings, and thought the slave deserved the same. He also felt it unfair that he farmed his own land while the other man took advantage of his slave to farm his.

His anger grew year after year. He demanded that the slave owner set his slave free. The slave owner ignored his demands. Tension reached a boiling point, and the first man finally took up arms, marched upon his neighbor’s land, threatened to burn his farm to the ground or kill him if he did not release his slave. The slave owner relented, and fearing for his life, set his slave free.

The slave, also fearing for his life, ran away. Not knowing where to go and having no place to stay, he appeared at the farm of the man who took up arms to free him, asking what he should do now. The first man offered encouragement and some advice of how the former slave could establish a homestead for himself. But the man was too busy with maintaining his own homestead, and providing for his own family to offer much additional assistance, much less provide all the food and necessities for this freed man and his family on a continual basis. Furthermore he knew that the former slave was familiar enough with farming, if willing to work hard, to establish himself; and that, by doing so, would be the only way to build a healthy self-esteem as a newly freed man.

Then, secretly, the former slave owner approached the former slave, and presented a friendly smile and a bargain. He offered the slave his former house on his land, fresh clothes, and 3 meals for himself and his children daily. This would be given with the agreement that the slave would return and continue to work the land of his former owner.

The former slave owner, however, realized that he had to make changes. No longer would he call “slave” but rather a “worker” who received wages and benefits. No longer would the slave refer to him as “master” because the slave owner voiced his understanding that this labeling was indeed hurtful. The name of the relationship would change, and their respective titles would change, but the dynamic of the relationship remained virtually identical. The “worker” would never be a land owner and the land owner had his worker back to farm his land.

Despite this, the former slave felt satisfaction in no longer being referred to as “slave”, and he began to resent anyone, including the man who had set him free, who continued to refer to his situation as “slavery”. He viewed the neighbor, who did not offer him any such bargain, with more and more contempt as he became somewhat comfortable, and developed a certain pride in his newly labeled status. He developed an almost irrational fear of the crazy neighbor who had once tried to set him free and thus, take away his food, shelter, and livelihood, however meager it was.

Fueling this contempt, the former slave owner, now newly titled “community based farmer”, repeatedly condemns his neighbor for still referring to his new “worker” as a slave. He also repeatedly pleads, and occasionally demands, that his neighbor contribute money to him for having to maintain his “worker’s” family, as well as his own, off one plot of land. He claims that it is not fair that the first man only has to feed himself and his own family off his land, and that he is greedy and selfish and unwilling to share. He repeatedly reminds his worker of these things as proof that the neighbor hates him. The neighbor, now marginalized, and deeply saddened at the current state of affairs, still longs for the former slave’s freedom.

The question:
Which neighbor showed compassion? The first one who freed the slave? or the second one who re-titled the slave, while giving him the identical deal that he had as a slave in exchange for food, clothing and shelter?

If you choose the first man, then you are most likely a Republican, if you choose the second man, then you are most likely a Democrat.

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