The following began as a response to something I read and grew into a set of observations related to a citizen’s understanding of government and elections, especially for one who is a Christian, but intended to challenge those who are not. I think when candidate begin to sound like preachers or messianic figures, it’s time to evaluate just what does and doesn’t fall within the scope of government and elected officials’s power and duty.
1) Voting is a method for choosing representatives. A President cannot possibly represent 300,000,000 people, which is why the constitution gives him limited powers, powers which most citizens totally misunderstand. He doesn’t make laws, determine how money will be spent, or control the economy. Those powers rest in the Congress which does, to some better degree, represent us…or at least they are supposed to represent us.
2) The idea of progress is based on an evolutionary idea that things should get better with the passing of time. For many, progress is getting more stuff, having to work less, saving the planet, and the like; for others of us, progress is working toward a goal. You cannot achieve an unknown goal. If there is no clear and stated goal, then the idea of progress is meaningless.
3) The genius of the Founders’ was to create a place where the diversity of people with a multitude of ideas would be largely free to pursue them without interference by the government. The idea that 300,000,000 people can elect anyone to create a government to do that for them assures that the majority of those 300,000,000 people will not be free to pursue their own personal goals; instead the government will restrict, regulate, appropriate, and hinder for an undetermined “common good” that is rarely good for any but the few who run the show (Given how poorly the government has succeeded in meeting such expectations in the past, it amazes me that people still put their hopes in anybody promising such things, especially those who’ve made them in the past and didn’t deliver).
4) The majority of those who hope the government will fulfill their dreams for them will be disappointed. Very few people, if any, will work hard for other people. The value system that most authentic Christians follow is to love one’s neighbor AS oneself, and that generally means working hard to provide for oneself and ones’ family, first. Then, as Christians still do, as well as if not better than, anyone else, they generously work to care for their neighbors. Historically, that meant creating hospitals, orphanages, charities, and schools, colleges, and universities. No government has ever demonstrated itself to be able to come even remotely close to that degree of help for others.
5) Governments, via politicians, give lip service to helping people. They rarely mean it; they really want votes and power. Gullible people give it to them and then experience disappointment. Governments create expensive and cumbersome bureaucracies that become self-existent ends in themselves, filled with waste and corruption. In this regard, despite even good intentions, big is never better. Centralizing and consolidating never improves anything but the ability of those in charge to control. Some try to control the waste and corruption, but as bureaucracies grow not even good men can control them. It boggles my mind that anyone put much trust in either Presidential candidate after they supported “bailing out” Wall Street with the biggest price tag in history!
6) In a truly free country, which ours is no longer, people pursue their varied objectives, and the diversity in freedom becomes a laboratory of creativity. This is what built America, historically, and we have been living off that success. A standard is what many choose to follow, and have so chosen in the past, and they proved that hard work, moral values, and love for God was a viable and successful formula. Out of such successes, people vote to preserve their liberty and overall security, led by honest men and women who earn their trust. As we have given up absolutes, we have forsaken the central ideas of honesty, integrity, and openness. In that environment, candidates make outrageous promises, hide their true intentions, and hope no one discovers the truth before they demonstrate their untrustworthiness.
7) Another standard many still accept is universal sin…philosophers call it “Man’s inhumanity to Man.” It is the source of abuse, cruelty, oppression, and war, and evolution offers no believable explanation. Some try to blame “society,” but anyone who has tended a baby knows that selfishness comes early, long before it can be learned. Likewise, it isn’t hard to find children doing mean things to animals and other children, again unlearned. Then there is the “black sheep of the family” who is bad when all siblings are not. One necessary task of government is to provide protection from such evil. It is the reason for a “rule of law.” When government spends too much time trying to create progress and dispense good things to as many people as possible, the rule of law and the opposition of evil tend to be neglected. In fact, the evil creeps into the government itself. Whatever one thinks of American government, there is plenty of evidence since corrupt governments are far more the norm that good ones.
8) Equality is a much abused idea. People are not equal; we are different in nearly limitless ways. Our skills, abilities, talents, and intelligences are not equal. Our goals, desires, wishes, and needs, except for a few basics, are not equal. Again, the genius of the Founders was to recognize a common humanity that issued, not from governments, but from nature, which they perceived as created by God. Today, equality is used to mean equality of outcome. To achieve that, we all must become the same, but we’re not the same. Such an effort by government stifles individuality, curbs inventiveness, and destroys liberty. I know what that kind of liberty will look like and it isn’t pretty!
9) Most people prefer NOT to change, but change is a necessity of life. Rhetorical change is meaningless without clear definition. I find it hard to believe people of so many different perspectives and backgrounds bought into the promise of change. In my rather substantial experience, people object to change far more than enjoying it. What people were voting for, I suspect, is “something better.” Personally, I would like a bit more control over that “something” than to trust someone I do not know or have any reason to trust. If someone came to my door with such a line, I’d laugh in his face…most people would. Yet, enough people “hoping against hope” buy lottery tickets and keep Nigerian scam artists spamming our email. In that sense, I understand why people in difficult situations what a change for the better. The question is how to get it, and I have the least confidence in government as the solution.
10) Hope, on the other hand, is a Christian idea or, in my opinion, the Bible’s concept of hope is the best. It is the fulfillment of divine promises, despite not seeing them being fulfilled at the moment, proven by the experience of many who have gone before, proven by the remarkable accuracy of the Bible itself, and proven in the lives changed from hopelessness to fruitfulness. It is a hope that is supported by the lives of people I know and have known, people who love and sacrifice and work to care for each other. It is a hope that I see in my friend Matt, and that is the reason Matt and I are friends despite many differences (I could say the same about many friends past and present and undoubtedly in the future, but Matt is the most recent). It is the same love that I have discovered in meeting strangers I learned were Christians, and many others I have known throughout my lifetime and that I’m still meeting. That hope will carry me through whatever the future proves to be.
Last night, I began to write before I knew the outcome of the election. I didn’t want to watch the second-guessing and state by state analysis. I waited to find out when the counting was finished. I wanted to think about how we do elections and what we think and feel when our candidate (s) win or lose. I may post some of those thoughts later, but one overriding thought concerned division. Despite the rhetoric to the contrary, we are becoming an ever more divided people, contrary to “E pluribus unum” (one out of many). The tone, encouraged by ideologues of several kinds, the media, and the candidates themselves, is far to ugly, angry, and hateful. Some accuse people like me of hatred for holding certain opinions, but those who know me know that there isn’t an ounce of hate. I tutor refugees; I work with people from countries all over the world.
The kind of divisiveness and ugly tone of politics scares me, a little. The idea that a group of disappointed voters might respond violently if their candidate lost appalls me, especially since it already happens sometimes when an sports team loses! A good future for our country will never come from such anger and disrespect. Anyone who truly cares about the future must make a commitment not only to work away from such negativity but also work to lead others away from it as well. A “Balkanized” country of hyphenated Americans will eventually succumb to the same doom as the Balkans, endless hatred and violence. I don’t want to see that here, do you?