Debtors Prison: Here in America

Lamar Alexander, the republican senator who once walked across Tennessee wearing a red plaid shirt, belongs to a Presbyterian Church on West End Avenue in Nashville.  I used to see him there, but lately he’s been among the missing.

Lamar AlexanderSo have I.  Been among the missing.  I yearn to hear a message from the pulpit that addresses the things in this country that threaten to tear us apart.   Too often, I don’t hear that message.

Our ministers talk of personal imperfections and failings, but they rarely mention the big sins, the terrible injustices that occur in the world, the things we as a nation do that kill thousands of people.  They never mention the corporations that by their profit-driven policies deprive families of their homes, their freedom, their very lives.

Presbyterians build homes for habitat.  Three or four families each year are able to move into brand new houses, and they are happy.  But what of the thousands who are driven out of their homes by profit-driven bankers and stock-brokers and insurance executives?

I don’t care so much if someone tries to bring some pleasure into his/her life by finding someone to hold in the night.  It’s wrong to inflict hurt on others, spouses and children, it’s a wrong as it can be, but if they need to be touched, is that such a bad thing?  Don’t we all need that?

Lamar Alexander is a very rich man.  Over the years he’s been invited to participate in some sweetheart deals that have paid off handsomely.  Lamar and Honey (Honey is his wife) are pretty well set for life.  They will never have to worry about the things so many of us worry about: mortgages, health insurance, grocery bills.  He’s come a long way since those red shirt days.

Lamar and Honey have a daughter named Leslie.  My two daughters competed against her in hunter/jumper competitions.  Leslie’s horse cost a lot of money, over six figures, according to the trainers who worked the circuit.  Leslie won a lot of blue ribbons, riding that horse.

As a politician, Lamar stands solidly against universal health care. If he came to our church on some rare Sunday when I also came to church, I might ask him if he really understands the kind of society Jesus envisioned for the world.

There was a story in Sunday’s Tennessean about a man, Kenneth Hoagland, who was jailed because he couldn’t pay a medical bill from Vanderbilt Hospital.  The clerk who fingerprinted him and took his picture – mug shot, I should say – said he didn’t know we arrested people in this country for not paying medical bills.  Hoagland said he didn’t know it either.  Still, he was put in handcuffs and carted off to jail.

I thought Debtors prisons were done away with a few hundred years ago.

Maybe some Sunday morning the minister who stands on that high altar can say something to shame Senator Lamar Alexander into paying the bill from Vanderbilt so Hoagland can go home to his family and back to the job he might still have.  Better yet, abandon the party of “no” and start voting for measures that help the people you were elected to represent.  Unlock the doors for hundreds of Hoaglands across Tennessee and across the country.

Wasn’t that what the red shirt was all about?  Where is it now, Lamar, that flannel shirt you wore so proudly?  Did Honey send it to Goodwill?  Or did she toss it in the garbage?

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