Sunday, January 17, 2010

Late Night Musings

Growing older has brought me unexpected blessings. Despite our inevitable end, aging doesn't have to be an experience filled with fear and desperation.

One of the things I have learned is that when it comes to politics, religion, and so on, I am likely fated to have an assortment of views that fails to conform with any one "side". When I turn on the news, I don't see some political party striving for loftier goals and fighting the proverbial good fight against The Forces of Darkness. What I see and hear is cultural and racial intolerance, rage, and arrogance on both sides, manifested in different forms. Both sides belittle each other, pull dirty tricks on each other, manipulate the public en masse, and fleece the existing social structure while trumpeting themselves as agents of change restoring hope to the nation. I will choose my own side in these endless conflicts and work on a personal level to improve my connections with the world. The personal is political and when we work at qualities like tolerance, acceptance, and forgiveness, our efforts influence others and when we leave this life, we perhaps accomplish much more than a single vote, tallied among millions, leaves upon the body politic.

If someone says to you that they've got the right answers to the important issues of the day, beware that person. I fear those who, by the power of their convictions alone, believe that insight and intellect have ordained them as being justified to bend the will of men and nations to their direction. I have my personal beliefs and I will stand for them, but I certainly do not assume that those beliefs and opinions provide an infallible blueprint for life and justice.

I believe that every man and woman, regardless of circumstance, deserve the same opportunities at personal happiness and professional success to do with as they see fit. I believe that every man and woman are entitled to pursue any belief system that they wish provided that they do not attempt to impose their beliefs on my life. I believe in the right of opposition, the struggle against the darker elements of human experience. However, I will never give myself over to a struggle which, in its singular arrogance, is every bit as rigid and dogmatic as the oppression it seeks to derail. If someone says to you that they know what's right for all of us, run away. Fast.

I am a liberal who values tradition while scorning the prejudices long institutionalized in our culture. I am a natural skeptic with tremendous, inchoate religious feeling stirring inside of me. I will no longer identify myself with any one political party. I do not believe that poverty can be eradicated from our society and feel that too many confuse unattainable, but noble, goals with benchmarks that humanity can actually reach. There is no Utopia. There is no end to racial, economic and cultural prejudice. So long as there are three people on earth, there will be a pecking order. What matters is the struggle to make our world better, not some sentimental, unreachable idea of a perfect day. I find that struggle immensely rewarding and not at all demoralizing.

I don't want to be part of the same obsessiveness, vehemence and outright rage that burdens every attempt to discuss politics, religion, and other social issues. Our national dialogue is wrecked and we verbally assault each other from opposite sides of vast oceans of misunderstanding. We nurse our ancient pains as fuel for diatribes against institutions that failed us in our childhood. We scream and cry out that the cruel world should change, we elect demagogue father-figures in the hope that they will fix it all, and we refuse to change the most basic of things - our hearts and minds.

I hope mankind, in all its guises, one day rises above the crass.

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