This I Believe

Robert - Parkville, Maryland
Entered on August 22, 2006

I believe that idealism can triumph over ideology.

When I moved to the Washington D.C. area, I knew almost nothing about the competing precepts that our government seems moored in today. I had studied the political process in college, along with theorists like Hobbes, Locke and DeTocqueville, but if you’d asked me flatly how partisanship influenced my vote, I’m not sure how I would have responded. Contemporary political platforms were not something I had given much thought to, and even though I had devoted a significant amount of time studying American political systems; I hadn’t ever really considered in great detail which party was “mine,” and for what reasons.

That changed in 2002. I’m not sure what prompted it to be honest, but I know I started reading a very different type of political text. I tore through book after book, each more vitriolic than the next; each written by a considerably more partisan hack than the last; each with his own version of how the opposition party was destroying America. And I wasn’t strictly limiting myself to written hyperbole, either. On weekends, I would take pleasure in cheering for the champions of my ideals on the weekly debate programs. When I watched these shows, I can recall literally jeering at the opposition’s viewpoints. But then again, that’s the idea, right?

Recently, I started mentally taking a tally of the problems we face as a nation within my lifetime: global terrorism, the war in Iraq, nuclear proliferation, climate change and globalization, just to name a few. And while I’ve been making faces at pundits on TV, most of these problems seem to be moving in the wrong direction. Surprisingly, I don’t fault our political parties for this, or the president, or congress; I fault myself and millions Americans like me, for lacking the concentration to see through the lies and the hollow slogans, and for allowing politicians to pitch quick, easy solutions, rather then challenging me to assist in some sustainable way. Mostly, I think I have been guilty of the lack of political imagination that seems to be growing endemic within our polity.

I no longer want to shift towards the left or the right of the spectrum, but away from partisanship altogether and towards people with vision, energy and grander ideals. President John F. Kennedy once said, “In the final analysis, our most basic common link is that we all inhabit this small planet. We all breathe the same air. We all cherish our children’s future. And we are all mortal.” Because of his idealism we were challenged, and because of his challenge, we proved how great our nation is.

I believe I may have lost my way, in a maze of sound-bytes and highly paid operative authors, but I also believe that it’s not too late to change course and find my way back to a time when I saw government as meaningful in the life of my family and my country. I believe in the power of idealism to challenge me, not only to leave ideologies behind, but also to find ways that I can make a difference in my life and in the lives of others.