Rodger McDaniel FILE

Rodger McDaniel

“Am I my brother’s keeper?”

Early in the biblical story, one human smugly informs God that he takes no responsibility for the well-being of another. Face to face with the Creator, his brother’s blood calling from the grave, Cain smugly denies he should care.

There are a lot of good things about Wyoming. Taking care of basic human needs of “the least of these” is not among them.

Cain’ attitude reverberates today as Wyoming people are vaccinated at rates far lower than nearly every other state. As they fill up public venues, unmasked, refusing to be socially distanced from others, I suppose you could say in a perverted sort of way, “They love others about as much as they love themselves.”

Some carry the COVID-19 virus and infect others. Hospital beds fill with the unvaccinated, many on ventilators. Neighbors continue to die because too many selfishly put others at risk by refusing the vaccination.

Truth is not welcome these days in most quarters, but truth is that “loving your neighbor” is a trait largely unembraced by a majority of Wyoming citizens. Wyoming’s “Cain attitude” appears in the state’s callous failure to expand Medicaid. They’d rather make political statements than provide working families with adequate health care.

As it often is on health-care metrics, Wyoming is among just 12 states refusing to undertake this humanitarian step.

The failure rears its ugly, partisan head when the Casey Family Program assesses the health of children in each state. Wyoming scores in the bottom third perennially, 45th in the latest survey.

In the 1980s, when too many 18- to 20-year-olds were killed while driving impaired, Wyoming held out until it became the last of the 50 states to raise the drinking age to 21. It happened only in the face of a federal threat to take away millions of dollars in highway funds. Similar threats proved necessary before the state mandated seatbelts and child restraints.

While health-care experts demonstrate beyond doubt that higher tobacco taxes reduce the numbers of kids who smoke, Wyoming ranks with tobacco-producing states, near the bottom, in the rate at which it taxes this source of death and suffering.

While criminal justice experts nationwide urge reform, Wyoming is one of only four states where marijuana remains fully criminalized.

Hapless policymakers are unable or unwilling to stop Wyoming from having the highest rate of suicide in the country.

It’s not just health care. Wyoming is the only state still refusing to enter an agreement with the federal government for relocation of refugees. Not a red/blue thing. Mississippi has such a compact. Alabama and Texas do. Every other Red State does. Not Wyoming.

In 2013, Wyoming waited until 49 other states did so before agreeing to a law banning human trafficking.

Wyoming was next to last to adopt a holiday honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Alongside slave states Arkansas and South Carolina, Wyoming is one of the last states with no hate-crimes law. Our state continues to refuse to protect LGBTQ citizens from discrimination in hiring, employment and housing.

Wyoming’s rush to the bottom inevitably impacts the economy. The so-called Equality State was the first to elect a female governor (a once-in-the-state’s-lifetime event), but it boasts the largest gender pay gap in the U.S. The Institute for Women’s Policy Research awarded Wyoming a well-earned “F” for its lack of employment opportunities and earning potential for women.

At a moment when learning civics and history has never been more critical, Wyoming is awarded an “F” from the Fordham Institute for the Department of Education’s inadequate standards.

Don’t blame elected officials. They don’t elect themselves. These last-place ribbons belong to voters. They were preordained on Election Day. Ignoring basic human needs is a trademark of Wyoming conservativism.

As God preferred Abel’s offering over Cain’s, Wyoming voters prefer Cain’s apathy toward fellow human beings. It’s not Democrats versus Republicans; not about separating conservatives from liberals. In Matthew 25, Jesus said it’s about separating the sheep from the goats on Judgment Day.

Rodger McDaniel lives in Laramie and is the pastor at Highlands Presbyterian Church in Cheyenne. Email: rmc81448@gmail.com.

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