I almost never discuss politics here, since this is a place for stories and silliness, observations and friends. A few things recently have inspired my to put fingers to keys and exercise my atrophied debate skills.

I’m finding myself increasingly surrounded by people of a leftward political persuasion. Growing up in a very moderately conservative (very moderately? TF?) town that regularly elected Republicans and produced one president, my childhood circle of influence was homogeneously Dutch Christian Republicans. Independent thinking and free choice were encouraged, however – some friends of mine have grown up Catholic in Brooklyn, and they were required from birth to be Democrats. It was as intrinsic as their church membership, and to vote otherwise would result in disownination. My family never really discussed politics in depth, so I was on my own to figure out what I would support or oppose.

Yesterday I was over at Mojo’s, where he was observating a trend in church signs. And the night before I shared dinner with new friends – one of whom happens to be a blogger and liberal activist-type. It was a delightful time, the food and company were tremendous, and I hope to do it again soon. And, one of my favorite people in the world cheerfully cancels my votes – we largely agree on philosophy, but not necessarily on how to achieve the results we want. It inspired me to break with my norms declare myself, for what it’s worth. My philosophy is and shall ever be this: I vote, and probably differently than you. We can still be friends.

(Political) Things I Believe

Politicians are politicians first, at least at the federal level. It takes a great deal of ambition, carefully crafted image and speech, and a vast network of friends and alignments to run for these offices – not to mention vast piles of cash. Coming off as your advocate is how they cultivate votes. They can’t possibly take universally popular positions, so positions become as flexible and sticky as spider silk. Principled arguments are replaced with calculated and puffed-up speeches, studied laugh lines, and continuous attack/ defend/ restate/ apologize/ call for a ‘higher level of dialogue’ cycles. I don’t trust many of them to have anyone’s best interest in mind above their own. The one I support and the one I oppose share these traits, and no politician will be a savior to the masses. I once wrote to my former senator to give him my opinion on a few issues important to me. His response: “The American People want this, that, and the other thing.” Wait a minute, Senator, I’m one of them, and that’s exactly NOT what I just told you.

It’s not the government’s job to provide everything for everyone. It’s impossible for a government to truly care for, nurture, feed, and support its people – and it shouldn’t be in that business. People can and must support themselves and each other, but on a much smaller and more intimate scale. Personal responsibility is the bottom line – if you will work for food, go work. Stay in touch with family and friends, and generate mutually caring relationships. Join a church or community organization, where help is given and received. Punting everything to a glacier-sized and paced bureaucracy is the antidote to personal responsibility. Charity begins at home, not the IRS.

It is the government’s job to protect its borders, people, and culture. If all they did was this, it would be so much more manageable and free people to pursue their life, liberty, and happiness without being bogged down in so much expensive and meaningless waste.

It’s really all about money. Think of all the arguments there are in the political arena. At least 80% of them (by my highly scientific analysis) come down to who’s gonna pay for it. It seems to me that philosophical convictions and principled positions are expressed solely through the purse strings. Gay marriage? The fight is over getting benefits. Abortion? Since it’s legal, the fight is over whether the government should pay for it. Health care? ALL about money. War? Dollars, once you get past the human cost. Education, food stamps, welfare, social security, farm policy and energy, stem cells and space exploration are all money arguments. Advocates and pork barrelers will always say that throwing more cash at the problem will solve it.

It can be pretty disheartening when I look at these few points.

So what action can I take? Hold signs and march in circles, chanting ‘what do we want? when do we want it?’ Send money (again with the money)? Add more words to the ever-increasing flow of them?

Nah. I’ll stick with what doing what PEOPLE should be doing, and have for too long told the government to do it for them.

Care for my family and neighbor. Feed people. Educate. Learn. Be kind, and encourage kindness. Pursue and encourage excellence. Conserve and protect resources. Defend the defenseless. Be responsible. Vote.

In short, be the change I wish to see in the world.