“Am I my brother's keeper?”
How often we hear people say that, and smugly too, as if the answer were obvious. Obviously no. Even if they know the origin of that famous query, they still think the answer is no.
“Am I my brother's keeper?” was Cain's response when God inquired as to the whereabouts of Abel, the brother he had slain. And the answer, unspoken, was, “Yes. Yes, you are.”
We all are meant to be our brothers' keepers – not to meddle in their affairs or to patronize them, but to look out for one another, to help when we can – and that includes constructive criticism, when warranted.
The problem with offering criticism, however, is that it's rarely well received, as the murders of the prophets of old demonstrate. A word to the wise may be sufficient, but to the unwise even a lengthy ethical discourse is likely to accomplish little.
Still, anyone who understands that he is meant to be his brother's keeper feels obliged to make the effort.
This, clearly, was the motivation for the letter to the editor that we received and posted last week from a self-described “simple Illinois farmer,” Loren E. Klaus of Glen Carbon.
“In my 88 years of life, my beloved Illinois has gone from being the Garden of Eden to a living hell hole,” Klaus began.
“How did this happen?” he asked. “Good people did it to themselves.”
Kraus offered a list of 12 things we did to ourselves that contributed to the degradation of our once edenic state, including adoption of our 1970 state constitution, the establishment of our state income tax, the election of venal governors, and lax enforcement of our Open Meeting laws.
Kraus thinks we can still turn things around, if we get engaged and demand better.
We appreciate Kraus's brotherly criticism, and the next time someone asks us if he's his brother's keeper, we'll say, “Yes. Yes, you are.”