Monday, June 30, 2008

Hope as a Corrective Measure

I read an article yesterday talking about how, for all the lip service this election from both campaign in favor of change and a radical shift from polarizing policies and politics, this election has quickly become a grudge match along the same lines as the last several. While the Democratic primary was a reasonably sedate affair, Obama v. McCain went nasty almost immediately after the Illinois senator secured the Democratic nomination and is likely to become notably even more mudslinging by the time it draws to an end in a little more than four months.

For those of us who love a good political fight and are incapable of seeing politics in any other manifestation, this kind of back-and-forth bickering is much in line with our desires and expectations.

For all of the talk of a new spirit of bipartisan compromise and the ability to seek commonality between the right and left, the instant the gloves came off, this too went by the wayside. I personally wasn't surprised that this came to pass but I'm left wondering if stalemate and partisan rancor are the best we can expect from this point forward.

A fellow blogger's recent post reminded me of something quite pertinent to today. He was talking about the idea of hope as a corrective to today's fashionable skepticism, if not outright cynicism. I think post-JFK's assassination, and particularly post-Watergate the times warranted a corrective measure that forced us to get out of an unrealistic, starry-eyed perspective that was rooted in good intentions, not reality.

The problem with this kind of mentality is that it was never meant to be the default lens by which we see the world. So often the metaphorical pendulum swings much too far in one direction, necessitating a polar shift that almost always end up too far in the other direction. Taken to an extreme, this kind of fatalistic defeatism is what has limited voter turnout, participation in politics, and an unwillingness to take much of an interest in the inner workings of government.

It's time to embrace a new spirit of optimism and a communal spirit of cooperation the likes of which many of us have never experienced personally. I am aware in saying this I will no doubt invite many to decry my words as naive and unrealistic, but I'm prepared to bear that kind of criticism. I've seen the role of an individual in government is not a way to skillfully divide us around ideological lines, but a manner by which we find a way to live in peace and harmony. It is not written in stone that humans must fight each other and squabble over every precept by which the direction our society is headed.

If not now, when?

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