Friday, November 07, 2008

Hope and Politics

It is with mixed emotions that I congratulate Barack Obama on becoming the president of the United States. It is an historic landmark for America to choose a man with brown skin to be our leader. After listening to my wife's grandfather, the grandson of a slave, tell stories of all the discrimination he received as a soldier fighting for his country, I understand why America needed this—and why my African American wife was excited to vote for Obama. Obama really is a great man, and having a president capable of articulating a vision for America will be a welcome change after 8 years of a president who seemed incapable of explaining his ideas or decisions.

As proud as I am to have a president with a similar interracial makeup to my son, I am also dismayed that this president would have wholeheartedly supported us in killing our son 6 months ago if we had decided he was inconvenient—even offering government funds to help terminate him.

My wife says that I am foolish to hope for leaders that always guide us toward what is better. America will never choose a president like Joe Schriner. Politicians (at least the ones capable of being elected) won't or can't save America from itself. Perhaps trying to stop evils committed by our nation through voting is misguided. After all politicians only enable us to do the injustices to our fellow man that we have already decided as a society that we wish to allow.

This election cycle has me discouraged about the willingness of American to vote for any real improvement in this nation. Several state ballot measures to limit abortion lost badly. It seems that the much touted “values voters” are only really energized to ban gays from getting marriage licenses, but aren't willing to stop the murder of unwanted infants (just as most “pro-life” politicians haven't done a thing to limit abortions). The unpopularity of the war in the campaign was only rivaled by Obama, who opposed the war, falling all over himself to assure us that he is very willing to strike other countries. It seems voters don't have the stomach to accept the sacrifices required either for war or sustained peace. American voters seem to expect war to be convenient, easy, and bloodless—things war will never be. Obama had to repeatedly reassure voters that he will not “spread around wealth,” because Americans would not tolerate being required to share their means with the needy. In the end this election was about the economy. The results imply that Americans vote for their money and convenience; right and wrong doesn't factor into most voters decisions at all.

After spending a great deal of time on politics here at the Gridbook Blog I wonder if I have fallen into the pitfall of imagining that real change can be effected through government. This election has been touted as a reemergence of “hope” in the political process. As much as I admire Obama personally and what he symbolizes as an interracial president, I have very low hopes for him. Just as our nation gets beyond the horrors of racism, we only more deeply ingrain our policy of infanticide. Having seen first-hand the devastation of abortion, the fragility of human life, and knowing that Obama supports this atrocity makes me skeptical of all the other good intentions he has.

But perhaps this is the problem of hope in politics—we hope for too much. I had high hopes for Bush 8 years ago too, and he has been a sore disappointment. The problem isn't politicians. It is ourselves. Humans are naturally a violent and selfish species, and no law or government will undo this tendency. It can only be changed from the inside, supernaturally.

So I have learned to vote my conscience, but without as much hopefulness that the political process can cure the ills of our society. Rather than hoping for the law to enforce social justice, non-violence, equality, and treatment of all with dignity, perhaps I must work harder to live out these values in my daily interactions. I may not change the world, but if I change the lives of a few people it will likely be worth more than every vote I ever cast.

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