Thursday, January 01, 2004

An Idealist’s Guide to Survival in the “Real World” of Politics

Can you imagine that perfect election where ideas are presented and vigorously defended without personal attacks and denigrations? How about new legislation that is fairly administered and produces no unintended consequences? Or better yet, a world where a homicidal dictator actually complies with a UN resolution to disarm? All of these things fall into the realm of possibility for those of us who are idealists. And yet, we must admit that none of these things have ever actually happened. So what’s an idealist to do when the “real world” keeps interfering with what could and should be? Too many idealists give in to resignation or despair.

Year after year when things never work out the way we idealists envision, it is easy for us to fall into the habit of despair and discontentment. The world is judged against our ideal and always found wanting. No leader is perfect enough. No organization pure enough. No victory complete enough.

Or perhaps we idealists resign ourselves to the uninspiring philosophy of “it is what it is.” The temptation is strong to give up our hopes and dreams in exchange for the cold truth lying in front of us. Sometimes it is simply too painful and exhausting for us to continue to strive for solutions that always seem impossible to achieve.

Well if you’re a true idealist you are thinking to yourself that no, there has to be a better, brighter way. And of course there is!

The key to survival as an idealist is to develop the ability to see and appreciate the small progresses of today and to celebrate the victories of the past. See the future possibilities when a group of teens is interested in discussing the concept of a just war. Appreciate that fact that the President supports school choice even though a behemoth bill expanding the role of the government in education gets passed. Celebrate the ban on partial birth abortion as a step toward the day when society will abandon its contempt for the weak and defenseless. And even when a disgusting immoral president avoids impeachment take heart in the fact his despicable deeds underwent public scrutiny. And best of all, take heart in the glorious example of those idealists who fought the long fights against slavery, fascism and communism.

Political reality is not the death of idealism. It is actually fuel for the next dream, incentive for the next campaign. We idealists need to fight our many small fights being inspired by the ultimate victory we are trying to achieve. We need to continue to dream our dreams - but with our eyes wide open!