Sunday, October 31, 2010

Time to Vote

It's time for me to make up my mind again and, as usual, I have a dozen shades of vanilla to choose from. Do I choose the obnoxious, in-your-face vanilla, or do I prefer the more subtle, sophisticated vanilla? Can I even tell the difference? I am assured by the advertisements that the differences are clear. This candidate is so sweet, the others so bitter! Or, so they all claim.

The interesting thing is the vehemence of our politics. This is interesting when you think about who is typically vehement.

For instance, I understand that identical twins are sometimes terribly desperate. Even siblings who are close to each other in age are great rivals. This disruptive tendency in children seems less when the age difference is greater.

Women frequently despise other women while men engage each other in heated competition. Often if you put the man and the woman together, though, there emerges a blissful peace! That is to say, there is peace right up until these two different people discover their relative equality. In the moment that each individual's otherness fades from the partner's view, war erupts.

At the national level, we find that most wars happen between nations that share something in common, such as a border or natural resources.

There is greater strife between religious sects that claim the same god than there is between those religions whose gods and beliefs radically diverge.

If anything, political campaigns grow uglier even as they become more alike. The polarization of the American public isn't so much about our differences as it is our equality. We cherish our equality, yet it tears us apart. The limbo-world of equality is a terrible thing; we're always looking for a way out.

I don't see spectacular differences in the political platforms of the various candidates vying for votes in my precinct. For one thing, they all seem to agree on what the issues are. Certainly they all agree that politics is about "the issues."

All of the candidates on my ballot hold the identical view that education, for instance, has something to do with economics, and that health is something dispensed from a health care provider. If their particular ideas about these things aren't exactly alike, at least they agree about what the problem is.

Where I live, all of the candidates agree that immigration is a problem and that we should do something about it. They all believe in the rule of law. They all venerate the Constitution. They all believe, quite regardless of party affiliation, in the "sanctity of life" and in the traditional nature of marriage. They all agree that government should be limited.

None of this abundant and essential agreement has made for kinder, gentler politics. Isn't consensus supposed to result in peace and harmony? Not if we are interested in personal ownership of orthodoxy and right belief. It is almost more important for similar people to tell scandalous stories about each other than it is to speak for themselves. When men, who were evidently created equal, begin to tell their own stories, there arises a terrifying possibility that all of the stories will be the same. After all, what does equal mean if not the same? Why choose between same things?

My test for political preference has become the humanist test. In other words, do people really matter to politics, or is some other ideal elevated above flesh and blood? Is government for people, or are people for government? Do we first have to discover and worship some sublime ideal--some fundamental law--before we can be of suitable service to our neighbors? What is the nature of the civic relationship between citizens and government? Is it an abstract relationship, defined primarily by money, or is it a concrete relationship, defined by the giving of ones' self through service?

Sadly, I find very little of the humanist principle in the local political landscape. Almost everyone has some other, loftier cause that must first be served in order for humanity to ultimately profit. It is said that we have to return to the right principle, which is honor, or justice, or the rule of law, or the Constitution, or the free market. We've lost faith in ourselves--in mere people--to do anything for each other. The word on the street is that, if you want things done and if you want to see change, then you have to get the right person in office. That way, money changes hands, contractors are hired, and the world is made well again.

We've always wanted someone else to save us. When the Hebrews couldn't worship their golden calf, they began to worship their laws instead. The laws would save them!

But it seems that God Himself grew weary of their oblations and their devotion to holy ideals. What a strange new thing, this god who does not care so much for cultic worship. Instead He says, "Learn to do right, seek justice, encourage the oppressed. Defend the cause of the fatherless, plead the case of the widow."

We still don't believe it; not where I live. Our most pious politicians can hardly countenance those poor wretches who are most in need of charity. An invasion is what they are. Get the filth out of here! Give the lawbreakers what they deserve. We're surrounded by them; deviants, the licentious, baby killers, illegals. Who will put an end to it? Hide them from us--cast them out! The rule of law! The Constitution! These politicians, who draw close to God with their lips, are modern-day Pharisees.

I even read a statement from one party claiming that foreign aid in the form of private charity is a great evil. I'm well acquainted with the arguments against government charity, but this was news to me. Apparently even the Catholic Relief Services and the Peace Corps are sowers of famine and destruction. I had a sudden vision of apoplectic old Gudge, who, "if you mention poverty to him, he roars at you in a thick, hoarse voice something that is conjectured to be, 'Do 'em good!'"

"It is true that there is a thing crudely called charity," continues Chesterton, "which means charity to the deserving poor, but charity to the deserving is not charity at all, but justice."

I like that quote, but I'll be called a socialist for bringing it up. I'm sour because I'm a sorry socialist who can't find the right Marxist candidate this year. I'm just bitter because of all the successful people. I want to steal their property from them and redistribute all of it in order to create even more of that maddening equality.

Nonsense. I'm just looking for something different. I want to see someone, just once, suggest that maybe the cure for education isn't more funding. Maybe learning has a more glorious purpose than to make us fit to compete with the Chinese. I want to hear a confession from a politician about how health care and disease care are two different things, and that we don't need much money, or any experts, to take care of our health. I'd like to see someone suggest, if we really believe that families are important, that we should actually live as if they were. Perhaps then all of the other arguments surrounding the purpose of families and marriages would just go away.

I want to see a politician acknowledge that economy starts at home and not on Wall Street. Maybe then we wouldn't harbor anger about government bailouts of the bankers who duped us--because we couldn't be duped in the first place. I want to see someone put the humane treatment and merciful consideration of the millions of illegal immigrants as #1 instead of #4 on his list of guiding principles for immigration policy (if he even acknowledges that illegals are human beings in the first place).

Finally, I want to hear someone tell me that, if something is wrong in the world, I don't have to wait until election day to fix it.

I'd vote for that person.

1 comment:

Peter McCombs said...

Well, I voted for vanilla and I got vanilla! Only, not the vanilla I wanted. This will have to do.