Well, this election cycle is now over, except for the changes that have to be realized in the next few months.
I voted. I did my civic duty, but this election cycle sucked. I found myself voting not so much for who I wanted, but voting against what I thought to be terrible prospects. This isn’t a good rationale for voting!
Here is one of the problems in the American psyche that we have to face and deal with. Many of the founding ideals of the American Republic sat squarely on the notion that the common citizen is the best locus for control and for fulfilling the Declaration of Independence‘s call for the “pursuit of happiness.” What we have done, which in some ways is the triumph of “liberal” dogma
that the government best holds our individual futures and is the solution to
our common problems, is to give over to the government the responsibilities
to make us happy, not just guarantee a free and even playing field for
each person to pursue happiness. We have given over to the government many of our rights, freedoms, and perogatives, so that government will play the role of Nannie to our collectively childish whims. We don’t want the responsibility for our own happiness; we don’t want the responsibility for our own jobs, we don’t want to deal with the consequences of our own laziness or short-sightedness or irresponsibility concerning money, health, or the common good.
One of the triumphs of the “conservative” dogma is the hyper-individualism that has driven us so far away from notions of the common good that in our hyper-individualism we have fallen out of the practice of looking out of the good of one another. We forget what it means to be part of a community, so that when we face hard times we no longer have others to rely upon for help, support, and encouragement, which then simply drives us out of fear, necessity, or ignorance into the waiting arms of a governmental bureaucracy needing to justify itself and its growth. We look to government for social salvation because we no longer know how to rely on one another or that social salvation rests with each of us, together. Well, perhaps we don’t really want to help our neighbors anyway, since in a selfish compulsion we try to accumulate things or money or a sense of personal security in an attempt to protect ourselves, as individuals, from the harshness of the real world.
(What also needs to be acknowledged is that the founders generally believed that the “citizenry” consisted of white, male, landowners. They were, after all, the ones who were allowed to vote. They were expected to be educated enough to know the issues and be less susceptible to manipulation or deception. They owned land so they had a true vested interest in the success of the whole enterprise, it was assumed. I wonder, sometimes and particularly after this election cycle, if perhaps there were elements of truth in their thinking, at least concerning education and vested interest – not concerning participation based on sex or race.)
By the way, we are not guarenteed “happiness,” just the freedom to “pursue” happiness – this is a big difference. We’ve also gotten this mixed up. Now, we demand of the government in whatever form that it guarantee our happiness, our jobs, our success, our health! This is impossible and cannot be the responsibility of the government, at what ever level. Yet, because as a society we have for the most part abandoned individual responsibility for our own actions and prosperity, we now make these untenable demands of our government. When the government doesn’t deliver, immediately, then we are convinced by certain groups that benefit from chaos, mistrust, and mismanagement that the government in power, or the party in power, is not listening, is not doing “for the people,” is not fulfilling its responsibility to us. It was never the government’s responsibility in the first place, and we are near idiots to try to place such expectations on the government. We will always be let down if we try, and we will then act irrationally as a citizenry and an electorate, as we are now doing.
It we expect the government to take care of everything so that we don’t have to think, exert effort, or take responsibility for ourselves, then we will never find happiness and will probably have the freedom to pursue happiness withdrawn by a “Nannie” government that believes it is acting for our own good. Kind of like the computer AI in the remake movie, “I, Robot.”
Government can and does do many good things. Yet, for the balances of power to work and for the form of government to work as was envisioned by the founders, we the people must be informed, motivated, active, concerned for the common good, and willing to see the best in even our opponents – in other words, compromise for the good of the whole. I fear that too many of us in the country are now unwilling to do this any longer. “I want mine, I want it now, and the government better give it to me!” is the attitude that comes across the strongest in many quarters. Some may be motivated, but not informed (and think that is just fine because they naively trust the good sounding people striving for power). Some may be motivated, even informed, but act from only their individual greed. It goes on and on.
I do fear for the democracy and the continued integrity of the Republic. Nothing guarantees the unending continuance of our form of government, the geo-political entity known as the United States of American, or the continued success of this grand experiment in “self-government.” We will not fall from forces outside our borders, but we may well fall from within.