Sunday, November 9, 2014

Hope and Change

I do not have hope that the oligarchs who run Washington will decide to burn bridges with their masters on Wall Street--to save me, or people like me (small statistics who don't matter, until we become part of a large mob demanding Coke or Pepsi).

I do not have hope that it makes a great difference whether the oligarchs identify as Democrat or Republican.

I do not believe that America is the hope of the world.  (If it is, then I suspect that is at least as much a curse as a blessing.  We might legitimately hope to kill or bankrupt the world, given our past, but how can we hope to replace its hopes with our own?  How is this not the worst kind of arrogance, even supposing--as some do not--that we are in some sense envied by the entire world?)

I do have hope that individual people can make a positive difference in the communities where they reside.  I believe in doing good that we can see and respect, among people we know (or might know--as people rather than "constituents" or "customers").  I believe in the community I reside in.  I believe in my neighbors, my friends, my family.  I might even believe in local politicians.  But that is the limit of my belief.  I cannot believe in what I cannot know (America), in ideals pretending to serve a population or populations so vast that they become incoherent to the point of being practically meaningless.  "We the People" of the USA are 300 million souls, give or take, scattered over a geography and ecology (political, economic, religious, social) so vast and diverse as to be utterly incapable of sharing much besides ignorance and hostility--in my considered judgement (that anyone is welcome to question, to dispute, to reject, etc.).

Too often, when stewardship of others is invoked--by Left or Right--it is in a context of somebody else doing something for me, in my place, without my having to lift a finger or take any responsibility.  I am asked to punish people I never met, to give money to people I never met, to hope against hope that people who don't know me from Adam know better than I how to reward and punish.  I am supposed to cede moral agency to "representatives" who act in my name, waging war and granting charity for reasons I am never supposed to learn.  All I am required to do is listen attentively to the latest commercials, put my hand on my heart when the music plays, and burst into tears as I affirm with emotional conviction that Coke or Pepsi, Democrats or Republicans, is certain to save the world.  I find this vision of my activity as a citizen of a free republic rather confining--since I have no love for Coke or Pepsi, no private inclination to prefer either as I make my diet of water, coffee, tea, and milk.  It would be easy to brand me as somebody with no hope--a desperate cynic with no commitment to the ideals that made this country great, blah blah--but what does this really mean?  I was born in the United States.  I have lived the greater part of my life here.  I pay taxes.  I even vote--though I confess my motivation is not hope for change that my sober judgement views as impossible.  I work (for money when I can, for the comfort and security of those I care about when monetary employment is lacking).  I observe the laws as carefully and conscientiously as I can.  I am polite.

I don't expect people to live like me, to like me, to "join my cause" and make it into the kind of nationwide farce that is Coke, Pepsi, the Democratic Party, or the GOP.  Whatever hope I have for humanity existing in relative peace comes from my trust that individuals like me tend to love their family and friends, and the community around them--without losing sight of the reality that this love is fragile and historically inclined to become hateful (when the interests of my family bring me into conflict with yours).  I can give you space to make a family that is not mine, but I cannot bear it when we must all become part of the same gigantic, dysfunctional family.  "One nation" of 300 million people is a disaster, from my perspective, when we must all have the same moral values--the same diet, the same healthcare, the same marriages, the same education, the same careers, the same uncritical devotion to factional politics that makes us pawns.

1 comment:

  1. Well said. I wholeheartedly agree!