Note to the reader: I'm writing this because I feel compelled to, but also because on this Saturday--largely for this blog--I'll be attending a surely hilarious event that is unavoidably political. I wanted to let you know my prejudices and predilections in advance. If you wish not to mix your stupidly smart pop culture and sports commentary with politics, feel free to skip this column and scroll down to the footnote.*
Last week I mentioned in a post that I might vote for John McCain out of contrarianism, and that was meant to be as flippant a comment as it sounded. I don't consider myself a political person, but it's not because I don't care. I have trouble following its developments day-to-day and feel out-of-the-loop a lot of the time. Like most disciplines, politics only interest me in the grand, broad, archetypal strokes of its ideologies. It is because of those strokes that I've been a Republican my whole life.
Apparently, this is weird for a young person. Every day on Facebook some friend of mine links to an "OMG Look What Sarah Palin Did! Soooo stupid! Moving to Canada! LOLZ!" article. On every corner of my neighborhood, people my age in Obama shirts are trying to register as many (often uninformed) voters as possible. Furthermore, I'm a teacher, and the profession is so traditionally left-wing that my superiors at a faculty meeting tried to schedule us for Obama volunteer hours, assuming that we all shared the same beliefs.
So okay, I'm a Republican, a political conservative. Whether or not John McCain actually represents those Republican ideals is not what I'm arguing. I'm hoping that this can be more of a personal justification for what I believe. If you want me to go down the line--strict reading of the second amendment, pro-life, so on--I can do that. But I feel a deeper connection to what political conservatism is supposed to mean. Hang with me, because it takes a while to explain.
In Text & Traditions II, second semester of college, I was charged with reading both The Bible and The Koran, and I then chose to write an essay on Christianity and Islam's ideas of the afterlife. One attractive aspect of being a Muslim is that you can achieve a certain moral perfection. If you uphold the basic principles of the faith, you can be certain of your place in what ends up being a very literal version of heaven, with perfect weather, a full cup of wine, and hot virgins at your disposal. Your peace with God is a goal that you can actually reach, and there's something comforting about that. Meanwhile, in the Judeo-Christian tradition, all one can do is strive to live a moral life according to biblical principles, to pursue a personal relationship with God, and then if he forgives us for sins we can never outrun, we will be rewarded. Heaven is not a place in this case. It is a sometimes hopeless race against our own nature for something we can never be sure of. There are no guarantees, and it's not supposed to be easy to get where you want to be.
With that information, it's tempting to say, "Fuck it. I'm taking the sure bet." If I can be sure of reaching heaven, why wouldn't I choose that path over the less secure, distancing aspects of Christian salvation? My answer to that was that Christianity's idea of heaven is worth the sacrifice. It is beyond this life, beyond any state of mind to which we can relate, and thus more beautiful than we can imagine. That is worth taking up the mantle of a Christian life.
I kind of feel the same way about the Republican Party. The ideals of the Republican Party--upholding the Constitution at any cost, valuing our national defense and military force, limiting the scope of government's reach--are so ambitious that they are often unattainable to any realistic observer. But, like Christianity, I prefer that ambition to compromise. I believe that the idea of America the Republican Party hopes for and works toward is one worth fighting for, even if it can never be achieved. Because of the values they uphold, Republicans are often looked upon as hypocrites because we can't always live out the image we revere. That makes sense. But I would rather revere that image than assume that man is corrupt, than make allowances for the way you suspect people to react. I would rather believe that all men are trustworthy than assume that's not true.
Do you really want your president to be the guy who wears Asics to the court? I've seen him play, and the guy has no right hand.
At a certain point, the entire rift between the Republican and the Democratic parties can be seen as the question of freedom versus equality. Republicans believe in freedom for all, even if that impinges upon the equality of some. I'll paraphrase Barack Obama's point about a hunter in rural Ohio's idea of the second amendment being different from someone on the streets of Cleveland. While it may be unfortunate that one person is in a more dangerous situation than another, we have to side with the freedom of all. Conversely, the Democrats believe in equality over freedom, as seen in their social programs that try to bridge gaps in class and race, often at the expense of those who have earned their separation of wealth. Neither party is "right," but it becomes a personal choice. I see the Republican view as one that is potentially more perfect, and the pursuit of that perfection is very seductive.
I don't have to tell you what a modern Republican is supposed to be. Chances are you've already made up your mind about these things or, more realistically, do not side with one party over the other. (Hey, kids, that's an option too!) But I'm committed to the limiting of government and the personal freedom of the individual. Republicans have historically trusted citizens to pull themselves up, to find their own power and voice in confusing times instead of waiting for their government to save them. To me, that's where the hope for a better America comes from. No matter what Barack Obama might say about progress and change, Republicans are the true idealists because we're smart enough to know that if you want change, you go and get it.
"Big" Ben Roethlisberger=
Max Cady from Cape Fear