Some personal reflections

I just realized that yesterday marked my 35th post, and the site reached 3,765 views yesterday as well. In light of these milestones (ha!), I decided to write a post of somewhat more inward reflection with a nice corny twist to it. I usually don’t express much deep, personal emotion/reflcetion on this site, so I am slightly nervous and good deal embarrassed…. So try to be nice with your comments this time around  ;-)

 

Most of us have probably heard the old saying: “If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart. If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” I have been pondering this idea for quite a while. My mom used to tell me this every once in a while during my young teen years, and it enraged me. I used to think “Ugh! What a horrible thing to think! It is way better to be a Democrat.” Now that I am 20 and have a little more life experience under my belt, I am able to look at this saying a little more rationally, but not necessarily with less questions.

I feel I hit my peak Democratic, liberalist attitude at 18. To call myself a “bleeding heart liberal” would certainly be an understatement. Every ounce of suffering I saw cut me deeply and I constantly questioned why our government wasn’t stepping in to feed this family or save that fain forest. Compassion and empathy have always been two of my most profound characteristics (hence why I took “Veronica” as my Confirmation name in 8th grade [For you non-Christians, she is the one who approached Jesus and used her cloth to wipe the blood and sweat from His face while He carried the cross]), but some inward reflection has made me realize that these qualities have kind of… shifted.

While I would still love to see a hungry family eat or a rain forest thrive, I cannot say that I still believe it is only the duty of our government to remedy such problems. I’ll have to turn to my guy, Thomas Paine for some insight here: “Government is best which governs least.” We certainly need a central government for national defense/international relations, to regulate currency, and oversee interstate commerce, but why has the national it seeped into issues of abortion, gun control, and drug laws?

Looking across the country, many may argue(my uncle included, as we just had a huge debate about this the other day) that citizens have become uneducated, ignorant, and that people are naturally inclined toward selfishness. They state that the Supreme Court and federal government must act to protect us, that they must remedy the problems the we have created through our own shortcomings.

I cannot agree.

While I look across this country and see ignorance, hate, stupidity, and overall apathy, I simply do not believe this is human nature. We have allowed ourselves to become dependent on government, to let it make decisions for us, to let it do all the work. What happened to Plato and Aristotle’s ideal citizen?  What happened to the Ben Franklins of this country (for those who don’t know, he was one of twenty children, and his father was a candle maker/soap boiler)- the every day citizen who rises up to take the challenge and exhibit the qualities on which this country was founded?

More people could tell you the names of Britney Spears’ children than could name their state representatives. More people voted on the first season of American Idol than voted in the 2000 election. Yet we cry out to the courts to right the wrongs. We yell at government for not taking care of more of its citizens.

The privilege of living in a democracy comes with the responsibility and challenges of upholding it, and it seems like people are becoming more and more accustomed to sitting back and letting the big guys do all the work. I would not necessarily blame this on citizens though. A lot of times, people in power seek to make the Average Joe believe that he cannot take action and that he can have no impact. They aim to keep themselves in power.

Whether you are for or against abortion (I won’t be arguing that at this time), we should not run to the court system to establish this or that abortion law as correct. This is a job for our legislators, and this is where rights such as the First Amendment come into play. As a democratic republic, we have the right to voice our policy opinions to our representatives and get them made into law. The court’s only role is to determine whether that law has any CLEAR violation of the Constitution.

Today, we just find it all too easy to have a group of 9 people, completely insulated from public wants and opinoins make the law for us.

“If you’re not a Democrat by the time you’re 17, you have no heart.” This is true. We have to develop a very broad and general conception of compassion and care for others in order for society to function properly.

“If you’re not a Republican by the time you’re 35, you have no brain.” This too is true. Once our care for others has matured in a way that we can discipline ourselves to work through difficult solutions, we have developed a brain. We need to be intelligent and independent from government in our actions to help others.

We need to have a heart to love humanity while at the same time have the brain to do carry out our duties and responsibilities as American citizens and ultimately reach our goal of helping others. “If you give a man a fish, he will eat for a day. If you teach a man to fish, he will eat for a lifetime.” I believe that adage too applies to my argument. If we teach our children and teach ourselves to be educated citizens, we can help the destitute in any situation; we can develop laws that work the best for the greatest number of people.

I am certain that it is possible to have both a heart and a brain. While especially at this point in time, it may not really be especially conceivable to be both a Republican and a Democrat, I believe that by strenthening our hearts, we provide fuel for our brains, and while educating our minds we only increase our capacity to love.

I am accepting the challenge to become an American citizen, heart and mind.

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4 Responses to “Some personal reflections”

  1. compassion international Says:

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  2. mrmc Says:

    If you try to teach a starving man to fish, you’ll fail. Feed him first, bring him back to health, then teach.

    Our country has too many starving people–literally and figuratively. We need to redirect government business so that it effectively takes care of the starvation.

    (Don’t get me started on basic health care. The present situation is a travesty and an embarrassment to this country.)

    We need to get away from government helping out the fat cats–the super rich– and put the upper class nose to the grindstone. It’s time for the top 1% of wage earners in this country to start pulling their weight and paying their fair share of taxes and military duty (!).

    What percentage of our government spending goes to the concerns of the wealthy and of big business? What percentage of the middle and lower class end up suffering as a result?

    Let me put it this way: how many top wage earners are fighting in Iraq? Aren’t top wage earners trying to do LESS for this country when they look for loopholes in the tax code and then lobby to reduce their tax responsibility? And then try to profit from the war?

    The Republican cry of “less government” just means “less responsibility” for moneyed individuals and businesses. And the justification? The “great-unwashed”, who you insinuate have just appeared on the scene in the last decade or so (by the way, JAK, the country is more educated now than ever before in its history–what percentage of the population do you suppose was attending college in 1930?), are sucking good money out of the system. And the weird argument that somehow they don’t deserve it always simmers below the rhetoric of those post-35-Republican brains.

    History will show that unregulated capitalism is not sustainable and not good for the general public.

    JAK, if you are trying to equate right-wing Republicans with braininess, I’m confused and shocked.

  3. 06jk Says:

    Mr. M., our founders strove to make sure government was not some gigantic force in our lives. Granted, some problems are too big for the individual citizen to handle, but does that mean we sacrifice independence and lean on government to fix our boo boos? If citizens today are far more educated, wouldn’t it make sense that we would be able to solve more problems for ourselves than our founders would have been able to? And still, they pushed for little government intrusion in our lives.

    We need our top wage earners, plain and simple. However, we need them to choose to be ethical top wage earners. We need smart, ambitious people to be the next Thomas Edisons, to reinvent the wheel, to come out with the newest type of alternative fuel or communication device. Without the promise of some sort of “special prize” at the top (a salary better than that of the guy who chooses to lay around on his butt and not do anything), how can we expect people to be determined and driven? We want to see results for our hard work, and we need our hard workers to stick around. Competition is what fuels the market and fuels the economy, and a good economy is a great foundation for improving things like health care.

    It is a shame that middle and lower classes must suffer, but seeing as there are about a billion more of us than there are of Mr. J. Crew, why aren’t we all getting together and getting our legislators to make some changes?

    I believe in the capability of citizens to make good choices. A great example is the ratification of the 14th Amendment. I believe it is Section V which says that states may ban blacks from voting, but a consequence would be that the state would receive that much less representation in the House of Representatives. This clearly indicated that the North was not ready to let blacks vote (they had a far small black population and thus would lose far fewer reps than the South would.) Less than one year later the 15th Amendment was passed, allowing blacks to vote. Popular opinion shifted; THE PEOPLE made the ethical and just choice.

    I know what it is like to be poor. I went through a large span of time where my mom lost two jobs, and shortly after my dad had to get surgery forcing him to be off of work for about two months. Less than three months prior to this our house was robbed. My family had virtually no income. I am not trying to tell a sob story, and I know that many others face lives that are far worse, but we made it through. I grew up in this and I made it alright. I continue to struggle to pay the $35,000 per year at Marquette, but I am doing it. It is not impossible to climb that wonderfully cliche “social ladder”.

    (However, you know as well as anyone that I believe in the importance of education as a crucial component to this ladder-climging)

    I did not try to equate right-wing Republicans with braininess, nor did I try to equate left-wing Democrats with lovey-dovey sentiments. My point was to show that the labels are irrelevant and that citizens shouldn’t look to one party for brains and another for a heart; the two qualities go hand-in-hand.

    This was a long and horribly disorganized reply.
    Have fun detangling it.

  4. amberfireinus Says:

    Jak,

    God, you are so brilliant honey…. I look to you as one who gives me hope for our young people to take leadership and help shape our future.

    I so enjoy reading your thoughts, and wish you would post more.
    :)

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