As long as we continue to use our conservatism and liberalism to adjust the behavior of others, we will continue to squabble, divide, and ultimately lose as a society.
I wish everyone thought like I do on everything: if such were so, life might (or might not) improve for all of us – but whether things go wonderfully or tragically, it sure would be simpler to know everyone agreed with me on everything.
But they don’t. And they shouldn’t. The autonomy of thought and behavior – within the bounds of what benefits (or at least doesn’t harm our fellow citizens) – is beneficial for us all. It’s an important part of life to make our choices and deal with the consequences; you cannot force others to learn the lessons you have already learned. You cannot strong-arm folks into behaving the way you feel they ought to behave.
And the doctrines of conservatism and liberalism each attempt to herd the members of our society toward the right decision, and each ideology has its own unique opinion of what is right. Each of the major parties believes that its one vision is the singularly righteous ideal of how all men and women should live.
The only break to the deadlock our country is facing will come when we realize that people are going to have to figure certain things out for themselves. Each of us is going to have to use our successes and our failures, our happiness, and our guilt and our trials and our errors to guide our decision making. Faith often has a voice in our moral approach to life’s difficult decisions: we have the freedom to do what answers our moral obligations, and not to perform the actions that violate our sense of right and wrong.
If government allows a behavior that you feel is morally objectionable, then you need not participate in said behavior. The people around you have the freedom to do as they wish, and to some extent, you’ll have to just deal with that fact. The world doesn’t become a better place when you insist everyone behave the way you behave: the world becomes better when enough people make the individual choice to take the moral high ground.
You want to see stronger families in the good ol’ USA? Build one at your house. You want less crime? Set the expectations high for the legal behavior of you and yours. Want to see fewer abortions? Give your help to young mothers, particularly those in difficult situations.
That’s not the narrative of your government. They much prefer legislative interventions based upon their behavioral codes, enacted on your behalf to save you from yourselves. The blessings in your life don’t come from your leaders or from their legislative leanings. If you believe in God, then He gets a healthy share of credit; if you don’t believe in that higher power, I still challenge you to prove that your government has endowed you with your freedom to do the right thing in the privacy of your own home.
So, if you want to spend the next 20, 30, 40, 50 years resenting everyone who has different views on guns, drugs, parenthood, foreign policy, whatever – then be my guest. I know what I believe is right, and in my home that’s what we try to do. My neighbors might live in a way that violates my moral code, but that must only strengthen my personal resolve to live as I chose.
Yeah, that’s what I’m saying: take care of you first. Let’s say you are right, and let’s say that you have the correct vison for human morality; how will you do more good: by pushing your vison onto others who aren’t ready to see it your way, or by simply doing what is right, thus setting a successful example to others around you?
But if we’re going to try to set this country right by electing the best possible president, then I’m afraid we’ll all end up disappointed and divided.
Matt Pearl owns and operates newspapers in King City, Albany and Grant City.