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.