“It’s not fair!”
This was the battle cry of young Cornelius Cornell, age 7, who was compelled to go to bed early because of his inability to live life without screeching. The wailing in question was spurred by restrictions on the use of the Wii, and how time with this device was being distributed inequitably, and thus did the high volume lament of “It’s not fair!” continue with impressive repetition and considerable force until the young lad essentially screeched himself to sleep.
In the full light of day, I want to take the time to reassure Cornelius that he is, in fact, correct. It’s not fair; it never has been fair, and it never will be fair until Jesus comes to reign personally upon the earth. Until such time, get over it.
That’s hard to do, because a sense of fairness is a basic component of who and what we are. CS Lewis, in Mere Christianity, opens the book with a discussion about fairness, demonstrating that each of us has an innate sense of right and wrong, and everyone engages in discussions about such things without ever questioning the underlying principles that drive them. He cites this as proof of a deity, because nobody has to be schooled or educated in the ideals of justice; they are written in the fleshly tables of the heart long before we are born.
I illustrate this concept in Sunday School classes with my own Parable of the Parking Lot, which goes something like this:
Suppose you arrive at a parking lot with a car about to pull out and leave an empty spot. There is another car that has been patiently waiting for that spot, and it has been there since long before you arrived. As soon as the spot becomes available, you maneuver your own car so as to preempt the car that has been waiting and take the spot yourself.
How can you be justified in doing this?
The responses usually focus on possible extenuating circumstances that could mitigate the unfairness inherent in the scenario. Usually, the story revolves a medical emergency – a woman about to give birth, or a life-threatening injury where no time can be wasted. In every case, something has happened that is more important than basic fairness at issue – it’s not that taking someone else’s spot is a good thing; it’s that good reasons can make the bad thing a necessary evil.
At this time, I point out that nobody ever says “You’re justified because you got there second.”
It takes a moment for people to realize what I’m saying. Indeed, the idea seems so strange and foreign that people wonder if they’ve misheard me. Because underlying everything in the discussion is the unspoken assumption that the person who gets there first is the one who is entitled to the spot. To suggest otherwise is tantamount to lunacy. Yet nobody ever sits down and explains this to us. Children who scream “It’s not fair!” haven’t been instructed in the finer points of fairness by parents, who would just as soon avoid the issue altogether every time it comes up. It comes from a deep-seated hunger for justice, planted there by a perfectly just God.
So, having established that we all yearn for fairness, I now submit that we all face the challenge of a world that isn’t fair, a reality that begins the moment we’re born. Some of us have healthy bodies that are welcomed into families that love and care for us – others fall prey to disease, abuse, neglect, and hunger right at the outset. People are taller and shorter and fatter and thinner than other people. Some are good musicians; others – not me – are outstanding athletes. Some with considerable talents are stymied by limited opportunities to use them. Others, like, say, Myron Felgewater, are imbeciles too stupid to appreciate how good they’ve got it. When I was in Mr. Felgewater’s employ, I kept waiting for justice to be served and for this weenie to finally “get his comeuppance.” It took me a long time to let go of that, but now that I accept it for what it is – unfair and unchangeable – I’m a much happier person as a result.
I don’t think we ever stop trying to make things fair, but we get into trouble when we become fairness fanatics – i.e. when we see fairness as the only virtue worth pursuing, to the exclusion of all else. I’ve been greatly blessed by marrying a woman who’s considerably better looking than I am, which is great for me, but not particularly fair to her. Should I have married someone as hideous as I am just to even up the cosmic score?
This is a lesson that government never learns. The Left sees fairness as the only worthy goal of the Federal Government, but the only way that goal can be achieved is by ripping down success so it looks a lot like failure. Obama wants to tax people more even if it costs the government money to do it. That’s fair, but it’s stupid, because nobody benefits. Imagine if someone came to you and told you that you had two choices: Choice A is that you get ten bucks and another guy you don’t know gets twenty. Choice B is that you each get five bucks and call it good. Choice B is fair, but Choice A is better for everyone, so who in their right mind would choose Choice B? When did fairness become the only thing that matters?
Neither Obama or McCain understands this. That’s why I’m voting for Jacques Cousteau, famed undersea explorer and adventurer. Sure, he’s dead and he’s French, but why should that exclude him from serving? I ask you, is that fair?