Every day, on my way home, I enjoy listening to the National Public Radio station (NPR). They, more than anyone else, are able to provide the most important domestic and world news in a very clear and concise way with little to no spin or bias. Just yesterday, as I was listening to NPR, something that was said struck me and caused me to think. A story was being delivered by a NPR reporter who has spent considerable time with President Obama. In the story, the reporter said, in essence:
“The President is very frustrated by the fact that the opposition is successfully portraying him as a radical more interested in his own agenda than in the American people. In his mind, Paul Ryan is the true radical who is set to destroy America as we know it…”
My knee jerk reaction was one of disgust. “How can you, Mr. President, really think that Paul Ryan is going to destroy the country and that you are really who is best for the job?” After my political reflex wore off, I was still left wondering, “Does he sincerely believe that the opposition will ruin the country? If so, what does that mean for his opponents who, with all sincerity say the same about him? Who is right, and how are we to know it?” This almost started to sound to me like a question of faith.
Most social scientists will agree that a person’s beliefs and value system are most often acquired in the home during child hood. We as people are influenced by the people who surround us. If we grow up in a Republican home, we are often Republican. Democrats beget more Democrats. And why is that? If we hear something from a trust worthy source, we are more likely to take it on faith. What if we didn’t grow up in a political home? Well, there are also cases where people say something that they may not necessarily be convicted to enough that soon it becomes their core ideology. “Oh, so that’s why Obama actually believes he is good for the country,” you may be saying. Well, not so fast. Who’s to say that you aren’t the one that has been indoctrinated past the point of recognition to the point where you rally behind things you may not have otherwise even agreed with?
There will be some who say, “It doesn’t matter because in politics nothing gets done anyway, so all you’re really doing is voting for a face, a face that will harm the country just as much as the next guy.” I don’t agree with that. Chances are slim to none that the plans presented (even if they are not entirely fulfilled) will result in the same outcome. But if that’s the case, how are we to know which plan will produce the most positive (or at least the least negative results)? How are we to discern between those who actually have the right ideas for the country and those who only have fooled themselves into a false conviction?
My answer may be too complicated in its simplicity; open your mind. Honestly ask yourselves the question, “Why do I believe that this is right?… Why do I think socialized medicine is good for the country? Why do I think it is better for the nation to outlaw abortion? Why do I support higher taxes on the rich? Why do I want to cut regulations on business? What are the results of my preferred policy? Am I better off because of it?” This is the only way that we, as a nation, are going to be able to solve our problems. We must all take the time to ask ourselves these serious questions before we get too involved in politics. And as we ask ourselves these questions, don’t be content just regurgitating the talking points from your party leaders. Be open minded enough to go beyond that. Ask yourselves why there even is a debate. If your side was so clear and so right, why are people even fighting against that position? Do you think that you are just inherently smarter and less blinded by the craftiness of politicians than over 150 million other capable Americans? Unless you take the time to explore the issue, you can’t be sure of your own belief.
Now, I understand that this takes a lot of time and effort. I understand that if you are reading this, it’s likely because you simply don’t have the energy to devote to exploring every issue in depth. But that’s why this blogs like this exist, to inform. Read what I have to say and ask questions until the point where you feel that you are confident in your understanding of both sides of the issue.
Too often, people just brush politics aside because it is simply, “too partisan” and no one really cares about compromise. It’s true. There is a lot of waste simply because the system has evolved into one of good guys and bad guys. How scary is it to think that someone with a brilliant idea for improving America may be completely passed over and ignored because it is not coming from the party in control? What would our constitution have ended up like if we rejected the idea of separation of powers because the person who brought it up was from the wrong party? What about the Bill of Rights? I think you get the picture.
The truth of the matter is, a change in the way we do politics is going to be a slow change. In the current system, there is no room for political contenders to challenge their own beliefs. To do so would be to commit political suicide. That’s unfortunate, but it’s just the way it is. That, however, doesn’t always have to be the case. We can change things. We can make the government a place of grand ideas again. We can create an atmosphere in Washington that is conducive to healthy debate for a better tomorrow. But that’s only going to happen if we choose to care. That’s only going to happen if we choose to not simply accept what we are told by the leaders of the party we feel we should belong to. We need to take the things that are said and think about them. Really listen to what they have to say, listen to the other side, then decide.
You may decide after all of this that you still fall into the category of one of the parties. Great. I know I do. But I will never stop asking myself the question, why does the party think this is really helpful?
If you’ve made it to the end of this article, that means that you really do care about what’s going on. I commend that. Keep it up. Never be content with the way things are when you know that they could be better and allow me to help guide you as much as I can along the way.
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