Optimism in America

I sometimes hate how this blog sounds whiny, and never quite captures how I interact with people in real life. It only seems to capture the awkwardness of things said that are so convoluted I leave them be to see if sense can be made of them later.

Nonetheless, in a few recent discussions about politics, I’ve heard the name “Reagan” bandied about considerably, but with none of the optimism Reagan himself actually seemed to have. In its place are a heck of a lot of worries about the US becoming (in one gentleman’s rather loud word) “totalitarian.” And it isn’t just conservatives: listening to Democrats talk, you’d think they didn’t have complete control of Congress and the Presidency. If there’s one person in America who has doubts about the current President’s agenda, that means there’s no hope for the future. I get “hope” and “change” now among the media and the spin experts: there’s only hope and change if you vote one way.

The point is proved: ideological unity is not grounds for optimism, unless the Truth has been fully revealed to you and everyone else and you and everyone else can act on it flawlessly. E Pluribus Unum – out of many, one. The only serious ground for optimism in America is diversity, the product of freedom. The trick to staying sane when things aren’t going your way is to bring more voices to the table, and not just your own. I honestly need to practice what I preach, and link out to others more.

Of course, given the way I’ve characterized things, there’s a conflict with some other things said. I am concerned about our unity as Americans: faction is a problem, the violence of faction has destroyed all republics previous (and nearly destroyed this one less than a hundred years after its Founding). I’m not going to pretend unity isn’t a serious problem. Other countries have more than traditions: their conventions work to shape their citizens a certain way. While all laws work that way – including our own – the thought that underlies Constitutionalism doesn’t make such a shaping easy. If anything, it encourages people to take the law, make it a “right,” and yell at everyone else about how their “right” isn’t being respected.

So yeah. Unity is a problem. It’s not the end of the world, not even close, and it’s still something we can aim at. If there’s a generational divide in politics, it’s probably this: many of our parents worked to establish, for the most part, their place in their community. That was an awesome accomplishment, and I’m not unhappy about it: I can’t complain about how I grew up. But some of the tendencies involved can be a bit isolating, and notice that this crosses political divides. The upside is that the divides are there, and real unity can be worked for, and not merely imposed.


  1. When I was a kid We were all Americans… Now we are Hyphenated and there is class war going on. We are Not proud of our Common Heritage. Too Bad.

  2. @ David: Agreed entirely. The argument for diversity is not one for identity politics.

    And you’re right – we have enough of a heritage in common that it can be appealed to. Right now it is being distorted so badly I don’t know what to say.

  3. I had a very wise professor who, despite sensing for lack of a better term what could be called a decline, say that he has always been an optimist: either men are capable of self-government, or they are not.

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