I wouldn't expect people who proscribe to the conservative end of the political spectrum to fully understand it, but there is a vast difference between Equality, the virtue of sameness, and Fairness, the virtue of difference. After all, Equality is simple to understand: 2+2=4; you learn it in first grade and on, or earlier. To compare two things that are the same. But Fairness, the ability to determine from facts what must be unequal, is a much more difficult quality to discern.
Try this mental exercise. Let us say we all live in the same town, and it has one school, which educates all of our children. That school has seven steps leading to the only door entering the place. As a taxpayer, you give a share of your income, as everyone in town does, to ensure the school is in operation for our children's benefit, and the benefit of our community. That is an example of equality. Our families all use it—and we all partake in keeping it in operating condition.
Now, imagine you, of all the people in town, have a disabled child who is in a wheelchair. In her physical condition, she cannot enter the school to obtain her rightfully paid-for education and usage of the building and educational services within. Suddenly, your equal payment of taxes does not seem so equal, does it? So what happens when something that was so simple, so functional, so equal, stops being so?
Hopefully, we take advantage of the government afforded us by our forefathers and speak out at a City Hall meeting, and get tax money appropriated to build a ramp whereby your daughter can then attend school as she was promised when the school was built. But wait, others may say...how can your daughter get an additional outlay of tax money to build a ramp that only meets her needs? That isn't Equal...and that isn't Fair!
Wrong. So, so wrong it is perpendicularly aligned. Fairness is not the same as Equality. Fair is not (=) to Equal. It is precisely Fair. We as a town have been faced with one of the many inequalities in life that cannot be changed to equal—a handicapped, wheelchair-bound child that cannot ever be able to walk. No matter how much we whine, cry, gnash our teeth, protest, call representatives, or write letters, it will never change. It just is. It is unequal.
But, there is a part of it we can make nearer to equal, for the victim of the inequality. We, as a community, can offer to shoulder some of the load of the inequality, from the handicapped child and her family, in our empathic duty to be good fellow townsfolk and citizens, and pony up an additional small tax from each of us, and have that ramp built just for her...so she can attend school just like our children, whom she plays with outside of the school every day, oblivious to her inequality, as they know her so well. We could, of course, refuse to pay such an additional tax, and make all the usual arguments—all based on deep-seated self-survival instincts we have not lost, but tend to ignore until they come to the surface at moments when we can establish our credentials in either altruism or greed.
Because, as Gandhi once said, a civilization can be judged by how it treats the least of its citizens, and we could refuse to pay the tax, allow the family to spend the money to pay for tutors—or not, depending on their income level—so that we, as citizens, get to keep paying our equal (not fair, remember) share, like everyone should, and be guilty en masse of simply being too selfish to permit a pittance of our own money to assist someone whose family was, through no fault of their own, blessed with a child who taught them to see things differently than every other family in town.
Or...we could choose to pay the fair extra tax because there, but for the grace of God, go us. We can see in this mental exercise so many similar situations reflected in modern society—at least those that pertain personally to us or our own families or friends—but how many do we not notice or reject, simply because we don't have a personal stake in them? We have a social stake in them, if we are any kind of United States. So, think about it... you may believe in Equality, but... are you Fair?
And thus ends my first diary here at DailyKos.
Community Spotlight... thank you for such an honor!