It is one of the better facets of our nature as human beings to be hopeful. I, for one, enjoy the company of optimists and visionaries, because it calls up the idealism in my soul that is ever trading blows with a certain inbred cynicism.
Until the day I draw my last breath, I want to live in hope.
But there’s a line that we need to be careful not to cross. And I suspect, that as Americans, far too many of us have crossed over into a realm that is simply unrealistic, and actually downright dangerous.
Often, it seems to start innocently enough. We look into the eyes of a precious newborn and fool ourselves into thinking that this child is as pure as the driven snow. However, parents quickly discover that, as delightful and wonderful as their babies are, these little ones are afflicted with the same selfish genes as the rest of us. It should be “game over” as we look around us and find that not a single individual (including the one in the mirror) is truly altruistic, but at best, we’re a mixed bag of good-OK-selfish-horrible, which no amount of willpower can fundamentally change.
Instead, we fan the embers of wishful thinking. Instead of settling for the reality that we must do the hard work of cultivating, managing, controlling, and even dispensing justice, we delude ourselves into thinking that evil will become rational.
Our Founding Fathers did not suffer under this delusion. The system of government they carefully crafted assumed that human beings are flawed and, left unchecked, will pursue all sorts of selfish, destructive, and power-hungry behaviors. That’s why our founding documents are loaded with checks and balances, distributed power and representative government, levers of recourse for the violated and the oppressed – to try to subdue the lower impulses of influencers and leaders, and prevent the accumulation of power that will tyrannize people.
We would be wise to follow in their footsteps.
- Do we REALLY believe that nice-sounding talk and prolonged negotiations will persuade power-mad tyrants and regimes from pursuing the accumulation of more land, power, people, and weapons? Just when, in all of recorded history, have evil people been stopped by well-meaning velvet gloves, instead of the just exercise of greater power?
- Do we REALLY believe that an ever-expanding government can actually deliver goods and services in any way equal to what a creative, motivated, profit-and-efficiency seeking marketplace can? On what historical basis is that belief based? Certainly the empirical evidence is 100% in the other direction.
- Do we REALLY believe that a people can sustain a just and orderly society who buy into the “anything goes” philosophy of right and wrong – where the greatest sin becomes adherence to a fixed moral code which actually defines one thing as good and another as evil?
We, of all people, should have the most realistic view of humanity, freedom, and government. We should take a clear-eyed view of history and put aside childish wishful thinking, believing against all evidence that human nature is something that has transcended itself. Are not the daily headlines enough to disabuse us of this vain dreaming?
We live in a world that will not yield its fallen condition to our well-meaning bromides and attachment to the false hopes of the ’60’s generation. Part of our better nature is taking a realistic view of what surrounds us, and laboring to keep what is good, while striving to make better what lacks. But really – let’s put aside the wishful thinking. It doesn’t becomes us as a people.