Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Topic: Presidential Campaign 2008

A Voice in the Wilderness
Don't be the Lowest Common Denominator in 2008 (or in life)
by R.J. Moeller(Conservative)

The fundamental differences between the candidates for President in 2008 themselves are very real and very important to understand. But by favoring YouTube debates and 30-second answers to complicated questions involving topics such as Iran's nuclear weapons program, the respective candidates and their campaign staffers have made the search for real solutions to real problems increasingly more convoluted and insincere.

They're playing to the lowest common denominator, and we're letting them.Both sides of the political aisle are guilty of pandering, posturing, and proselytizing to be sure, but does that really mean all ideas held, and all policies proposed, are equal in merit and practicality? (Or in flaw and impracticality?)
What this nation and her people need to rediscover isn't necessarily that "Old Clinton Magic" of the 90's or the "Glory Days" of Reagan's Revolution in the 80's, but a reinvigorated pursuit of real solutions, an appreciation and understanding of objective economic realities, and a renewed sense of the republican (small "r") ideal that personal responsibility and civic duty are compatible and necessary prerequisites for a healthy America. In short: we need to rediscover ideas.

The confidence I have in my conservative convictions didn't come over night, and it would be a gross understatement to even say that I'm a long way off from being an expert on any topic other than what comes on a Chicago-style Hot Dog. But the road to discovery and understanding begins by taking that first step down what Robert Frost famously called the "path less traveled by." This path only appears ominous from the vantage of that fork-in-the-road we all reach in life where it is no longer intellectually and emotionally satisfying to be blissfully oblivious as to why you believe any of the things you claim to. A few clicks down the path you realize that so many great men and women throughout history have been there before you, and they've left maps and compasses along the way to aid you in your journey toward Truth. It's comforting and inspiring.

Growing up in the suburbs of the Windy City, it was all too easy for my peers and I to accept the things we were taught, heard, or watched as gospel. This was the case in everything from Sunday School at my local church to the random snippets of "news" I would read for that split second it took me to flip past the front-page en route to the Sports section to see if perhaps the Cubs' horrendous collapse in the 9th inning the evening before might have been a bad dream. If a teacher or parent said it, even if I appeared apathetic to it on the surface, I generally believed them to be telling the truth. This is the case for most teenagers and young adults in modern America.I didn't know any better when my 8th grade Social Studies teacher would say things like: "Communism is a good idea, but just has never been given a fair chance to work." Sounds good to me, Mr. S.? What's for lunch? That was about the extent of my inquiry into the purported "facts" surrounding the (at that time) recent implosion of the USSR.

At church, when a Sunday School teacher or pastor (usually my own father) would explain theological doctrines like why it is that we as Christians believe the Bible to be the inerrant Word of God, I was "busy" writing fake sicknesses on the "Prayer Request" cards (under the name of some kid I didn't like) to tactfully place in the offering plates going by. Even by the time I graduated high school, my belief and faith in a Creator-Savior God was abstract, untenable, and weaker than the excuses I gave the deacons and church officials who would trace the bogus prayer cards back to me. ("Oh, I thought I had heard Ryan did have rickets, sir?") The problem I, and most Americans of my generation, found myself in was that I was a walking, talking contradiction of beliefs, narrowly held together with a hodge-podge of barely comprehensible talking-points. My logic was flawed (or non-existent), my facts were wrong (or misunderstood), and there was little-if-any application of my beliefs in my daily life. I was the physical manifestation of a Michael Moore film, and ready to run for public office with a "D" in front of my name.

What finally got me turned around and set on the path of a life-long pursuit of truth and understanding was the empty feeling I discovered a year or two into college when the realization came over me that I couldn't explain to anyone what it was I thought I believed. My 20-year love affair I had been having with myself (instead of Truth) had created an ignorant monster of my own making. It would be unfair and untrue to lay the blame for my lack of understanding at the feet of my parents, or society, or my liberally-inclined teachers. I was the one accepting things at face value. I obsessed myself in sports and Nintendo instead of getting to know the writings of John Locke, Milton Friedman, or the Apostle Paul. I naively trusted, but rarely, if ever, verified.

"Disillusionment" might well be the epitaph of my generation because of our collective inability to not only articulate, but also to fully (or at least more fully) understand the reasoning and motivation for even getting out of bed in the morning. "Truth is relative", and "God is dead" are mantras we are bombarded with from the time we enter junior high until we're eligible for membership in the AARP. We need and want more than this. It doesn't sound or feel right, and when we put these "progressive" teachings into practice, we end up where we started: empty and desiring real answers.

Admittedly, the socio-political stances we as individual American voters hold on the "issues of the day" seem, at the surface, to be far removed from the discussion of philosophical (and in some cases, theological) concepts and questions each of us undoubtedly have in our lives. But are they really? Wouldn't it be fair to say that someone's view of their own purpose on this planet might affect their position on, oh, say, something like abortion? We breeze right past developing what should be our central, core beliefs, and spend inordinate amounts of time fighting over the peripheral ones. The rabbit-hole, Alice, goes deeper than simply "thinking" about what you believe in. It's a great start, but knowledge and contemplation alone do not ensure sound judgment and success. They are necessary preconditions for a decision (i.e. Who should I vote for? Is there a God?), not for that decision's ultimate worthiness or validity.

And this is just the problem I'm trying to get at: too few of us have ever gotten to the point of "knowledge and contemplation", let alone a discerning assessment of what real Truth might be. I'm not talking here about housewives needing to spend 4 hours of their hectic day in secluded study of Adam Smith's Wealth of Nations, or busy businessmen having to neglect their work at the office to pour over Platonic manuscripts and treatises on how governments ought to be run. The great ideas almost always lend themselves to reducible, intelligible levels for mass consumption. The problem is: so do the bad ones.The only hope a representative democracy can have is if her citizens take it upon themselves to remain: vigilant of encroaching centralized power (in any areas not specified by the Constitution), cognizant of threats from abroad, and well-equipped with thoughtful considerations regarding the Judeo-Christian moral standards which, according to Thomas Jefferson and Abraham Lincoln, will either hold this republic together or tear it apart.

We have that duty. We have that obligation. We have that power.