Sunday, July 04, 2010

Happy Independence Day

I was going to write something, but, as usual, Newscoma says it better.  I want you to go over there and read what she has written; it gives us hope at a time when many people think it no longer exists.


callmeishmael said...

OK, I'll try not to rain on your parade of possibility. Idealism has served Americans well; it has also led to significant either blindspots or stubborn unwillingness to face its shortcomings. You know of what I write, so I'll not remind you of the list again.
I am, as you well know, a former idealist who tried--sometimes moreso than others--to actually implement some of the notions that newscoma suggested. I attempted those notions within the places of my former profession. Few listened and fewer cared; after so many years, I realized that small wins are what we can hope to achieve without some form of zeitgeist or just plum luck. JFK's moon mission, after all, wasn't just raising America to new heights of achievement. It was Cold War politics of beating the Soviet Union to the moon. FDR's New Deal was the same mixture of helping people, but also with the calculation of making them reliant upon the central government and, incidentally, the Democratic Party. Mr. Lincoln's emancipation efforts had that same type mixture of moral suasion side by side with political calculation. If we're going to work for "overreaching," I think we had best be prepared for the consequences that in all likelihood will follow. After all, David Maraniss labelled Brother Bill's--God bless him--health care efforts in 1993 and 1994 as an "overreach." You could say Brother Bill's--God bless him--first term as Governor in Arkansas was a series of overreaching efforts as well. In fact, I've heard you say as much without using that specific word. The consequences of those two overreaches into idealism without appropriate view of the politics of the moment were, as you recall, not very pleasant for Democrats.

Steve Steffens said...

I think that, for someone who had been so much politically, Bill Clinton was not prepared for the fierceness of the opposition that he faced, and was not disciplined enough to respond properly/

Hubris did him in, in short.

To lose idealism is to lose hope, to lose hope is to lose the country and descend into the nihilism that the Tea Baggers promote.

Hell no, I ain't forgettin!


callmeishmael said...

There is, I think, a basic difference between idealism (or optimism) and "hope" as you put it. Idealism, as newscoma and you argue, is believing that, as it were, beneficial change is possible in an of itself. Once people realize what is right, as I read and have listened to your thinking, they will respond accordingly since nothing internally hinders them from doing so. That sort of reasoning, while I used to believe it in large terms, is the type of thinking that I used my earlier post to critique.
Hope, conversely, expresses a willingness to advocate--again--positive and beneficial change while knowing that the end result (fill in the blank here: justice, equality, peace, the Great or even Better Society) will never be fully achieved. Hope, in that sense, recognizes limits based upon internal factors such as the anxiety of mortality or, in my good ole Recovering Baptist lingo, sin without being defeated by them. At its best--and that means people doing what is right even when, under many conditions, it entails you and I risking "our lives, fortunes and sacred honor"--hope's awareness of limits provides the paradoxical power to push against those perceived limits. Hope, as I am defining it, does not pretend pain and suffering and unfairness and indecency will somehow disappear once external circumstances have been changed in ways that are advocated. It insists rather that in spite of the evidence we see, recognize and affirm as real (the Killing Fields actually happened; Stalinism was not a success, but a monstrosity; Kim Jung Il is just a plain loon), we can strive for something better while recognizing that justice, equality, peace and the Great or Good "Society will come, but not in the ways we expect and probably not do so in our lifetime. With that distinction, I remain neither idealistic nor nihilistic, but hopeful.