When it comes to politics, most of us have strong opinions. This is both good and bad. The courage of our convictions is certainly something to be praised. We hold on to our ideologies so strongly because those ideologies in large part form who we are and how we perceive the world around us. Indeed, those ideologies often tell others more about who we are than any other aspect of our lives. However, holding on to one’s ideology too strongly may put up barriers too high to see the merit of the other side’s beliefs. The unwavering belief that one’s ideology is the “right” way to perceive reality is dangerous. Take, for example, certain Christians who believe that the earth is only about 6,000 years old. Despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary, these people put their faith in a book that has been translated dozens of times. The first law of translation is that the art of translating is first and foremost interpretation. Those who believe that the earth is 6,000 years old find solace and meaning in their faith. Yet, because of that belief they fail to acknowledge the scientific evidence right before their eyes.
I’ve heard lots of talk from all kinds of people that believe that our country has never been as divided as it is today, with the possible exception of the American Civil War (1861-1865). Certainly, it’s hard to argue that those in political power seem to hold on tightly to ideology in obsessive and even fundamentalist ways. The Republican Party’s current state of crisis brought about by the fundamentalist strain calling itself the Tea Party has certainly presented that party with a challenging and possibly game changing future for Republicans. To put matters into simple language, the Republican base has moved increasingly to the right to such degrees that the party barely resembles what it was only a decade ago. Meanwhile, the Democratic Party is still fighting against the tax and spend ideology placed upon it by its opponents, however true that ideology might be. Moreover, liberal ideology is still thought of as anti-American (which really means anti-white!) by large populations across the United States. In the meantime, nothing seems to be getting done in Washington. The conservatives I listened to opined that Obama has no intention of reaching across the isle in order to work together. Perhaps this is true, but I will also add that Republicans have, from day one of Obama’s presidency, fought him and blocked everything he tried to accomplish. Not even Bill Clinton had as rough a time with conservatives as Obama has had.
I recently had the opportunity to listen to some people discuss their discontent concerning the state of the country today. The lament I heard most often was that the country was on the wrong path and that we may have reached the point of no return. Of course, President Obama is to blame according to those I heard. The buck does stop with the President after all. Never once did I hear that Republicans were to blame for the state we now find ourselves in. Furthermore, that “state” was never defined. In fact, what I heard mostly was that Obama was leading us toward socialism in a way that was now nearly impossible to stop. I find this thinking deeply flawed. For one, socialism does not promote the tenets of capitalism that includes freedom of speech and the concept of private property, both of which are hallmarks of our historic and contemporary ideology. Despite having worked on the Obama’s campaign for a second term, I am also deeply disappointed with Obama, but for reasons far different than reasons held by conservatives. For me, Obama is not nearly left enough. Like Bill Clinton, he is what I have heard called a “Wall Street Democrat,” meaning that the priority is to protect capitalism at all costs. I suspect that for the majority of Americans capitalism is synonymous with democracy. But nothing could be further from the truth. Capitalism has become so ingrained in our ideology of democracy and freedom that for most of us considering the two concepts as separate entities is unthinkable. The economic collapse in 2008 is proof of what a delicate and perilous system we have placed our future in. Privatization is not the answer, but then, neither is more government control.
So who’s to blame for our current state of discontent? For me the answer resides in politics itself. Both parties are tributaries of the same river: capitalism. The deluge has already submerged any classical idea of liberty and freedom, and as long as each side of the political isle remains firmly tied to its own ideology, the country will continue to suffer. There is no real difference between Democrats and Republicans. Each ideology will not (and perhaps cannot) divorce itself from the ideology that capitalism is the system that makes us the “greatest country on earth” because it (capitalism) creates the conditions for everyone to have the same opportunities to succeed. Well, I don’t believe in this fairy tale and neither should you.