Frances Perkins, U.S. Secretary of Labor under FDR.
One of the many things El Cabrero likes about Jesus was his general disregard for the purity codes of his day. In the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke), he always seems to be making someone mad for transgressing this or that rule of apparent righteousness by hanging out with the wrong people, doing things at the wrong time or not doing things the "right" way.
I've found that purity codes were not limited to first century Palestine but can be found amongst almost any group. They can be particularly prevalent amongst people working for social justice.
It often happens that people will refuse to work with this or that group because they aren't pure enough or will oppose this or that reform because it doesn't go far enough--even though nothing else is on the table. Sometimes, people even oppose a positive measure because it isn't done with the "proper" motivation.
Whatever. This may be my Scotch-Irish talking, but I believe in playing the cards you're dealt, with the understanding that you try to improve your hand as much as possible. I tend to regard moral perfectionism as the unforgivable sin.
This chain of thought was triggered by reading Kirstin Downey's The Woman Behind the New Deal, a biography of Frances Perkins. Perkins served as secretary of labor under Franklin Delano Roosevelt and had an amazing record as an effective reformer way before that.
One of the things that contributed to her success was her ability to deal with people as they were, including corrupt old school Tammany Hall politicians. As Downey put it,
Her ability to accept human foibles, to see both failings and strengths was becoming a core personality trait, bolstering her effectiveness. She found that making deals with imperfect people and focusing on their strengths provided a pathway to actually achieving social change.
As the saying goes, "God is a potter, he works in mud."
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