Fearless Reason

Fearless reason in an age of frightened absurdity.

Tag: Democrat

Growing Our Hearts

My heart has been hurting over the last few days, but maybe this will provide an opportunity for it to grow. This was a complicated election, with lots of ideological, economic, and sociological components. But at the meta level it was a choice between love versus hate. Inclusion versus exclusion. Empathy versus resentment. Love, inclusion, and empathy lost at the ballot box, but must never lose in our hearts and daily lives. It is tempting to hate, resent, and exclude those who brought this about, but then we become the thing we revile. Hate cannot defeat hate, only love can do that. Darkness cannot defeat darkness, only light can do that. We win by living our values more fiercely and unconditionally than ever before. We win by loving, including, and empathizing even with those we find offensive.

A Millennial in Early Adulthood

I was a toddler during the Reagan presidency, a child when Bush, Sr. took office, and a teenager and young adult under Clinton and Bush, Jr. By the time Obama took office I was transitioning from being an undergraduate to a law student, and have spent my young professional life under his Presidency. I am a millennial. That word used to describe the generation born between 1982 and 2000, and sometimes used as an epithet by our elders.

I am socially progressive by default, but read Ayn Rand in college and thought Ron Paul had some good ideas. I was ideologically mixed for most of my teenage years and early adulthood, abhorring war, craving liberty, fearing climate change, and struggling daily to pay student loans and make my way in an economy that lacks human purpose.

I am a millennial in early adulthood, hoping the world outlives me, and trying to make it a place I want to live if it does.  I grew up under Reagan, the Bushes, Clinton and Obama, but this election cycle is defining who I am and wish to be. In stark relief I see two political parties I once thought not different enough to matter, battling for the soul of our country. I see a Republican party that denies science, reason, and human dignity, and worships at the alter of money; and a Democratic party that is not perfect, but is willing to face reality on climate change, respects human dignity and human rights, and wishes to restore human purpose to an economy that reduces us to human chattel.

The Republicans terrify me, and the Democrats have convinced me they are worth my time, money, and vote. I am one voice amongst many, but my story is not uncommon. The Republicans have lost my generation, but the Democrats are earning our respect.

A Fearful Journey

What follows is an account of my fearful journey, which in patchwork fashion can be found in the posts of this blog. For better or worse I am a political creature. I feel compelled to play a part, no matter how small, in the conversations and policies that shape our world. So I read avidly, share and post excessively on social media, and participate as much as I can in party politics and campaigns.

I have always been socially progressive, and registered as a Democrat when I turned 18 due to my disgust with the Bush administration and the wars – but I didn’t have any strong convictions about economic policy. While in college I found myself drawn to philosophical materialism, which lead me to a rather libertarian, survival of the fittest, economic philosophy. But I remained somewhat muddled through law school, still a Democrat because I believed in science, reason, and human rights – but increasingly seduced by the libertarian Republican movement lead by Ron and Rand Paul.

Fast forward to graduation, and my first job out of law school was representing the business of a former RNC chairmen. He made it clear when I accepted the job that I needed to be involved in Republican politics. I needed a job and was economically conservative, so I registered and became active in the party. Not long after that I had a rather abrupt spiritual awakening that is documented in this blog, which lead me to a panpsychic/pantheist view of the world, and ultimately to Buddhism. Since that time my economic libertarian leanings have been under constant assault. First transforming into a more moderate position, and ultimately to my current full flown progressive/democratic socialist philosophy. Economic libertarianism is incompatible with a moral philosophy that cultivates empathy and postulates that harm to others is harm to self.

Throughout these spiritual, moral, and philosophical transformations I remained active in the Republican party, in part because of professional/career pressures, but also because I naively or arrogantly thought I might serve as a voice of reason. Then this election cycle started and the procession of clowns running for President took stage and a tea party darling won the Republican bid for Governor. At that point I knew I was not a voice of reason, I was a whisper in a caucus of fools, and had become complicit in their hateful, ignorant, and misguided ideology.

So I went back to the Democratic party, knowing the futility of third party movements, now a fully formed progressive in every sense. As I become active in the party I see some of the things I disliked about the Republicans. I see some conservatives, some cynics and careerists, but I also see the burning light of people truly dedicated to progressive values and a better world. For me that is enough reason to stand and fight with them.

So I continue my journey, perhaps a bit less fearful than before, still striving to live a life of fearless reason.

Dually Damned

Every election cycle our respective political parties wage holy war on one another, and do their very best to convince the electorate that the other party’s victory would be a calamity of doom’s day proportions. This dualistic version of the two party system has caused our political discourse to devolve into the broadest and most fundamental ideological propositions possible, with each party painting the choices as an all or nothing proposition.

As the race for the White House heats up, the political discourse is entering the familiar contour of a basic choice between justice or liberty. The just, it is said, will vote Democratic, while the free will vote Republican. Therefore, depending on your perspective, a vote for one or the other will lead to tyranny and/or injustice.

Perhaps the most distressing aspect of this false and dualistic picture of American politics is that the candidates and parties both seem to encourage this farce. Every election is portrayed as a mortal struggle of good versus evil, and each time, the parties and candidates ask us to chose or forever be damned, between right and wrong, and freedom or justice.

There was a time in our political history, when the welfare of our country and people was the paramount concern of politicians and parties alike. Politics still had the element of duality seen today, but there seemed to be an understanding that once the election was over, the farce would be put aside, and everyone would undertake the nuanced task of governing. While elections may be portrayed as referendums on good versus evil, governing is compromise, nuance and consensus building. Our leaders seem to have forgotten the most fundamental rule observed by conmen and hucksters alike – and that is, never believe your own lie.

Political duality is no longer just the rhetoric of the politician trying to mobilize his base, it is the political reality of our dysfunctional and gridlocked political system. Regardless of who takes the White House, don’t expect anything to change. Obama and Romney have each defined themselves and this race in terms of duality – of good versus evil, and wrong versus right. Yet what few seem to acknowledge is that what may be virtue to one man is vice to another, and that calamity of voices and opinions is expressed in the body of our congress and senate. One party will never capture all three branches of power, nor should they. This dream of total control, which has become the obsession of both parties, has no place in this Republic.

We are a nation of different interests, opinions and values – each with a voice in deciding how we should be governed. We are a nation of many, all with different values and idiosyncrasies that cannot be expressed in a black and white picture. Our choices are limited, but we as a people are not. The electorate must reject the childish and false dichotomy in which our political choices have been painted, and instead, demand nuance, variety and compromise.

We the People, in order to form a more perfect Union, must remember that we are both a just and free nation.

A New Paradigm

American politics has become a shouting match between the competing political ideologies. In the last twenty years we have witnessed a progressive radicalization of American politics that has reached its apex in the “Occupy” and “Tea Party” movements. Both groups have legitimate concerns and grievances that most reasonable people can can identify with. However, both groups typically react to these legitimate grievances in  radical and unreasonable ways. What follows is a reasonable man’s critique of popular absurdity.

The Tea Party invokes some of the oldest and most enduring American paradigms. They appeal to the rugged libertarian frontiersman, who survives by self reliance, hard work, and perseverance. This American Pioneer has little tolerance for government intrusion, and is generally opposed to taxes and invasive regulations. More importantly, the Pioneer is uncompromising and implacable. But these latter traits are better suited for the frontier than to the messy business of governing.

Democracy is compromise. Governance is achieved by building coalitions of different peoples with different ideas. Ideological purity quickly becomes ideological dogma, at which point ideas become more important than the issues.

As Issac Newton observed, for every action there is an opposite and equal reaction. Politics is no exception.

The Occupy movement has become the left’s response to the Tea Party, embodying another, newer aspect of American culture. This movement consists of the progressive and liberal impulses found in F.D.R.’s New Deal. Occupy is greatly concerned with what it considers the many injustices in our society. Its chief enemies being suffering and inequality. Though the movement has not proposed any concrete solutions to these problems, generally the Occupy movement seems to believe that the government can and should fix society’s woes.

At its best Occupy has brought awareness to many of the problems facing the country. At its worse, the movement has been an unruly mob, demanding change, but unable to identify solutions. If the Tea Party knows what it wants, and is uncompromising in how it seeks to achieve it, Occupy knows what it wants, but is clueless as to making its desires a reality.

If this country is to solve its problems the silent majority must find its voice. Most Americans identify as moderates, and care more about addressing the issues than ideological purity. The average American is pragmatic,  because daily life requires compromise. But reasonable people are hesitant to take to the streets. We do not march on capitals and wave signs. Because reasonable people believe life should be a dialogue, not a shouting match.

However, we must not allow our reasonableness to allow us to become irrelevant. The country’s problems will not be solved by shouting, but with serious dialogue and compromise. The silent majority must speak. We must find our voice, and make it heard.

So long as both sides define themselves in opposition to one another, there can be no compromise. So long as both sides believe that the other is incapable of good ideas, there can be no discussions.