I’m idealistic. That’s just how I roll. I’m a frequent source of annoyance to my friends and family with all of these causes I’ve attached myself to.
On the days when I’m least inconvenienced by my own ideals, I figure their annoyance is nothing compared to the suffering of others.
But on the days I’m backed into a corner and can’t realistically act on my own ideals, I understand what’s so obnoxious about me.
We don’t all have the luxury of remaining ideologically pure at all times.
Somehow, at almost 40, I’m still considered “young and idealistic,” as if I just haven’t had enough life experience yet to shake out this idealism. Once I get out into the real world, I’ll understand how things work.
I’ve got more life experience in my little toe than most of the Boomers who treat me that way.
I do live in the real world, and I’ve been all over this real world everyone talks about.
I’ve owned a home, held a healthy savings account, and contributed to my 401k.
I’ve been down to my last $50, surviving on SNAP benefits, and unsure how I was going to pay to pay the electric bill.
I’ve lived in cities. I’ve lived in the middle of nowhere. I’ve worked for small businesses and Fortune 500 companies. I’ve stayed home with my kids.
I’ve wrangled with our healthcare system while dealing with major or chronic health issues with and without insurance.
I haven’t lived in one bubble or the other.
I believe our society can be improved, and I know that often takes sacrifice. I also know those sacrifices have a higher cost for some than for others.
There was a store I used to boycott back when I made over $65,000 a year. Their labor practices are horrible. They refuse to give most of their employees full-time hours while also not providing set schedules so those employees can look for another part-time job. This means these employees with jobs that almost amount to 40 hours a week are forced to subsidize their paychecks with welfare benefits. This isn’t the fault of the employees. This is how the employer intentionally manipulates the system to produce more benefit for its stockholders at the expense of its employees.
I still have a righteous hatred for how this company operates, but I totally shop there now.
Why? Because I’m poor and rural. Poor people, especially in rural areas, don’t have the luxury of boycotting the cheapest store in their area. I have to drive an hour just to get to the store I’m mad at.
We don’t all have the luxury of options.
I would love it if I could make all my purchasing decisions based on the benefit each retailer provided to our society instead of their stockholders, but that isn’t realistic. My family would starve and we’d never have toilet paper again.
Does that make me a hypocrite? Honestly, when it’s about survival, I don’t care.
Several months ago, someone who doesn’t know me jumped on my case during an online discussion about an author. Apparently, I was supposed to denounce this author based on some flimsy evidence they weren’t ideologically pure on one important point, even though this evidence wasn’t what I would consider evidence and wasn’t consistent with the author’s public statements about similar issues. Still, I was supposed to discard this person completely.
There are so many conversations I refuse to engage in online because both sides demand ideological purity at all cost. It’s like nuance has no place here, which really means reality and the complicated ways everything is interconnected has no place in the conversation.
The reality is we can’t have everything we want right when we want it. We can’t have perfection. There will always be a reason to denounce some person or some business.
There are a few things I believe are non-negotiable. There are some sacrifices I’m willing to make to take a stand for those few causes. More often than not, there are many compromises I’m willing to make as we nudge forward.
This is an important thing to consider as we start thinking about primary season in the U.S. We want our candidate to be ideologically pure in our eyes, but that’s not possible. There aren’t any candidates who tick all the boxes for me, but there are some who come close and at least share most of my goals, even if their plan for getting there isn’t what I’d love best.
I don’t demand ideological purity from my friends and family members. I don’t demand it from every business I patronize. I won’t demand it from my presidential candidate. I won’t let one or two issues get in the way of me voting for someone who could do so much good across the board.
It’s easy to insist on ideological purity when I’m not the person who has to pay the cost for it. It’s easy to boycott a store when I have better options. It’s easy to judge people for their beliefs and actions when I have better options.
There are so many issues that are important to me, but right now it’s time for me to focus on what we can realistically accomplish for now. For now, I can support the candidate that I believe will help us with our most pressing issues.
Because I know all of these issues are interconnected. I know that access to healthcare and a living wage will start fixing other issues people have been singularly focused on. I know that respecting life means respecting immigrant lives.
This isn’t a competition where we each battle to prove how pure we are. While we’re busy doing that, we’re losing any chance we have of improving our country.
When we can’t go in the through the front door, we slide in through the back window. There are many ways of fixing the issues we’re facing, but if we’re so caught up on acting out our purity for everyone around us, we’ll just be stuck standing on the front porch. If we aren’t willing to creatively work on the root causes of these issues, we won’t get anywhere.
I am idealistic. I really do believe we can be better than we’ve been. I’m also a realist, and I know some forward movement is better than none.