Ideology October 1, 2013

The government has come screeching to a halt because Speaker Boehner, under pressure from the Tea Party Republicans, will not allow the House to simply vote up or down on a continuing resolution to fund the government. (Since having an actual budget has bizarrely gone the way of the politically impossible.) Unless the Democrats agree to undo the Affordable Care Act, which has passed the House and Senate, and been affirmed as constitutional by the Supreme Court, not to mention the American people who re-elected Obama by a significant margin knowing that the ACA was an important part of his platform—unless they undo what has already been done and throw in a random selection of Stuff Republicans Want, then they will not vote to fund the government.

It boggles my mind, and only becomes explainable when you recognize that these folks are not only playing for political gain (Look! I’m important! I talked for the better part of a day about things like “Green Eggs and Ham”!), they are operating out of an ideology that declares that by definition, less government is better. If less government is better, then no government must be great. Especially since they get to keep their paychecks for no governing. At the center of their ideology is the conviction that each of us is in this life for ourselves, and that the best thing our neighbors can do is get out of our way.

Now, the temptation is always there to declare those with whom you disagree to be ideologues, while you, yourself, are free from prejudice. But the fact is that each of us is operating out of our own ideology. Just in case you were wondering, here’s a bit of mine:

  1. We are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. Not one of us can get through this life entirely on our own power, and we shouldn’t even try. Life is better when we care for one another, when we pool our resources so that we can accomplish things that no one of us could do alone, when those who have much carry a sense of obligation toward those who have little.
  2. Facts are not negotiable. People can, and should, have a wide and creative variety of ideas about how we should address any given fact, but they are not entitled to just make stuff up. Life works better if you make choices based on reality, rather than what you think reality should be. This means that putting significant effort into gathering the facts about any given situation is almost certainly worth it. This applies to climate change, abuse of Medicare, the effects of immigration, everything. Science is a methodology for finding things out. It produces knowledge. It is not optional.
  3. No one person, group, religion or nation is really that exceptional. We all matter. We all have different gifts and challenges. And if you think that you or your group or your religion or your nation is uniquely wonderful you are likely to miss out on the great things that others have figured out. Really, why not look around and see who has the most effective, cost-efficient health care system and try to create something like that? Why not look and see where education is working the best in the world and see what we might learn from them? Sure, be proud of who you are, but not to the exclusion of learning from others who have just as much reason to be proud of themselves, and maybe more.
  4. We are all connected. That is a theological statement. It is also a fact. Every choice you make affects someone else. We share one planet, we breathe one atmosphere. There is no such thing as an individual outside the context of that person’s life, and we forget this at our peril.


OK, call me prejudiced, but I’m pretty well convinced that a government with a commitment to my own personal ideology would be off to a pretty good start. But I’d be more than happy to hear what kind of ideology you’d like as the basis for our government. Plenty of room in the comments section below.

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