Ideologies, politics, and a plea for sanity

2009/03/06

These days, it seems that political ‘dialogue’ consists primarily of dueling ideologues at each other’s throats, each trying to drown out their opposition. Our Cheerleader-in-Chief is not helping matters, with his ‘crusade’ of molding an ideology out of Change™ itself.

Ideologies are dangerous; history teaches us as much (that is, if we actually pay attention to history anymore). People will fight tooth and nail for their chosen ideologies. In some cases, they would even die for them. This is nowhere more evident than in the history of religious-motivated conflicts throughout history, and even now in the actions of extremists around the world (note: I don’t mean to rag on religion itself, but the things that have been done in the name of various religions encompass some of the worst atrocities in human history). World War II showed us the dangers of secular ideologies carried out on a massive scale. Ideologues do not like compromise; why would they, when they hold the moral high ground? Ideologues do not embrace change; why would they, when their worldview is already neatly defined? Ideologues would like nothing more than to impose their ideals on everyone around them: after all, they know what is right and good; wouldn’t the world be a better place if everyone shared their high ideals?

One would think that we would have learned from such matters, but alas. Sanity does not appear to be popular in Washington these days.

Our nation was not founded on such specific ideologies as those being pitched today. The Constitution makes clear that the only ideology that guided its creation was the notion that the federal government should do all that is necessary to ensure the free exercise of liberty by its citizens, and that said citizens are better judges of what to do with their own lives than the government itself could ever be. Ideologies lead to factions, and George Washington himself warned against the dangers of factionalism within the nation [1]. More often than not these days, the dominant factions in the government seem to do more to hinder the pursuit of the greater good than aid it. Such division weakens the nation and its security; we may not be as threatened by external enemies as we were in Washington’s day, but such internal division also means that our citizens themselves suffer when the government cannot determine a rational course of governance. And for all the talk from our C-in-C, he himself has been less than helpful in rising above the ideological fray.

 If we truly wish to move forward, then let us have an actual discussion, not the constant bickering and mutual recriminations. We would do well to recall the words of another of our presidents, when it comes to such matters:

“(Let us remember) on both sides that civility is not a sign of weakness, and sincerity is always subject to proof. Let us never negotiate out of fear. But let us never fear to negotiate…if a beachhead of cooperation may push back the jungle of suspicion, let both sides join in creating a new endeavor, not a new balance of power, but a new world of law, where the strong are just, and the weak secure, and the peace preserved…now the trumpet summons us again…not as a call to battle, though embattled we are, but as a call to bear the burden of a long, twilight struggle, year in and year out, ‘rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation’ – a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease…” (emphasis added) [2]

We have common enemies within and without; maybe its time we focused our collective attention on those, and remember that we are all Americans first and foremost, regardless of the individual opinions we may or may not share.

Notes:

[1]: “The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence, the support of your tranquillity at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But as it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed, it is of infinite moment, that you should properly estimate the immense value of your national Union to your collective and individual happiness; that you should cherish a cordial, habitual, and immovable attachment to it; accustoming yourselves to think and speak of it as of the Palladium of your political safety and prosperity; watching for its
preservation with jealous anxiety; discountenancing whatever may suggest even a suspicion, that it can in any event be abandoned; and indignantly frowning upon the first dawning of every attempt to alienate any portion of our country from the rest, or to enfeeble the sacred ties which now link together the various parts.” – from George Washington’s Farewell Message, 1796.

[2] John F. Kennedy, Inaugural Address, 1961.

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