Now that it’s over: Four notes on the election

1. To all who shared political views:

If, in all that you shared, you replaced “Obama” and “Romney” with the names of religions, you can see how wearisome and unwelcome your comments might have been.

2. It doesn’t matter who the president is.

The President is no more responsible for your finances or your health or your opportunities than he is for what outfit you wear today. Americans will use or waste money regardless of who is President and what party he is affiliated with. Americans will have healthy or unhealthy habits. They will grow or plateau; take initiative or follow.

It is no more “Obama’s America” (a phrase I heard repeatedly after the election) than it would have been “Romney’s America”. Indeed, such language and thinking are the reasons people left England in the 1600’s and braved the seas and disease and loss and arrest and death to create this country.

The President is not a super-person. Within the country, there are people with more advanced educations than the President (regardless who is the current President), people who have been leading longer; people with more impressive leadership success; people who have initiated more powerful, useful action than the President has; people with better ideas; people who are better at connecting other people.

It is not a stretch to say that the President is a figurehead. And not a messiah. Or the Antichrist—a popular, nonsensical ad-hominem attack (Here are some folks who were/are accused of being the Antichrist: Barack Obama, Pope Benedict XVI, George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Mikhail Gorbachev, Ronald Reagan, Pope John Paul II). The President is an idea that citizens worship or revile. Indeed, people say things like, “I hate (one candidate) so much.” Or “I’ll kill myself if (other candidate) gets elected.” And people say much worse. People dance or weep publically.

But the reality is that who is president doesn’t change my life. Who the president was has never changed my life.

One function of government is to give us something to talk about. Like sports. Another function is to maintain the way things are. No politician seeks to shake things up (sadly) or make dramatic changes. For example, no politician will ever make abortion illegal. They may talk about it. They may make it a primary plank in their platform. They may stir crowds into a frenzy about it, but they will never change the law. No president will ever request such a bill. The Senate would shoot it down. The Supreme court would overrule. The citizens would vote against the change.

3. It does matter what message the president preaches.

Rarely has America been so divided. (This is the tenth closest popular vote in history. Only 2.7% separated the candidates.) One issue that Americans are divided on is government assistance. For some reason, the defining message of this election has been: The government needs to care for people more. People who championed Barack Obama strongly believed in this idea. People who supported Mitt Romney strongly believed in the opposite.

The problem is: As nice as it is up care for those with less, never has allowing something reduced that thing. Not once. Ever. For example, raising the speed limit has never made people drive slower.

Giving more government handouts—as pure as the intention may be—has never, will never, produce a greater sense of self-reliance among the citizens.

Allowing greater dependency on government produces even greater dependency on government. Which, not only is a strain on the economy, is terrible for the citizens. It is imprisoning, debilitating. It creates victim-thinking. When we promise government help, we disempower people—the opposite of what we want for citizens and what we hope to foster. The sum is that we force dependency on people.

Said another way: by promising a man fish forever, you keep him from learning how to fish forever. It is this idea that around half the country is concerned with. It is not a matter of being stingy with help. Nor is it a selfish plea for fairness: “I worked hard to get where I am, so everyone should have to work hard.” It is simply a practical matter.

Insisting and promising that the government will take care of you makes no sense outside of forced arguments of kindness or duty.

Increasing dependency increases dependency. It is that basic. There is no way around it. It is counter to the purposeful principles upon which the country was founded, it fosters dependency, it is impractical, and it usurps helping from the people.

There is no doubt that giving and serving are incredibly rewarding in myriad ways. But to hope or insist that the government look out for all people removes the impetus and opportunity to help from those who should have it: the citizens. Those Americans who give, do a fantastic job giving.

Rather than increase the size and role of government, America would be much better served if the government encouraged (through various methods) the citizens to serve.

On the other hand, dependency might be inevitable. Promoting the idea of more government assistance speeds up the inevitable cycle of civilization. (I’d say America is currently between “apathy” and “dependency”.)

The Cycle of Civilization
Man begins his existence in bondage, and rises:
from bondage through spiritual faith,
from spiritual faith to courage,
from courage to liberty,
from liberty to abundance,
from abundance to selfishness,
from selfishness to complacency,
from complacency to apathy,
from apathy to dependency,
from dependency back into bondage.
-Clarence Manion, dean of Nortre Dame law school (1941-1952) as quoted in “In whom do you trust?”, R.B. Thieme, Jr.

4. Here are three quotes that swallow the divisive, frenzied noise of the past year as suddenly and surely as space swallows sound.

“It is a sign of great inner insecurity to be hostile to the unfamiliar… When we totally accept a pattern not made by us, not truly our own, we wither and die.” – Anais Nin


“We are an everything or nothing culture.

We think that it (no matter what it actually is) is either something that is awesome or something that sucks. Our willingness to give into this mode of thinking is almost universal. Even the most eloquent opinion can come off as extreme, and sometimes there’s no way to wrap a neat intellectual bow on it. We say it’s either awesome or it sucks. That person is either a savior or a devil. As an obvious result, we all tend to argue about movies and politics quite a bit. The complete nature of nuance is lost in our enthusiasm or in our spite, both of which give rise to an inherent defensiveness. Rarely is the conversation productive and even more rarely are we actually educating anyone in the manner we would wish. Instead, we are talking at each other. And the quick + casual structure of the internet only seems to make things worse.” – (adapted from) Film Crit Hulk


“To most men the past is never yesterday, or five minutes ago, but distant, misty epochs some of which are glorious and others abominable, Each one reconstructs the past according to his temperament and experience. We read history to corroborate our own views, not to learn what scholars think to be true. About the future there is as little agreement as about the past, I’ve noticed. We stand in relation to the past very much like the cow in the meadow — endlessly chewing the cud. It is not something finished and done with, as we sometimes fondly imagine, but something alive, constantly changing.” – Henry Miller

Conclusion: Thank you very much for your time. I hope these thoughts are useful and ignite further thought. Peace.


One comment

  1. Beautifully, written… and I’m sure the words will ignite further thought. I especially liked the paragraph:

    Allowing greater dependency on government produces even greater dependency on government. Which, not only is a strain on the economy, is terrible for the citizens. It is imprisoning, debilitating. It creates victim-thinking. When we promise government help, we disempower people—the opposite of what we want for citizens and what we hope to foster. The sum is that we force dependency on people.

    Hear, hear.

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