In Pursuit of What?

I was having a general conversation this evening about politics (I know, real shocker here in DC) and as so often happens, we ran into the wall that is two-party politics. With only two choices, how can the population, or even a single individual for that matter, find their beliefs modeled exactly by either of the options. And just like every other time this barrier pops up, it is just as quickly acknowledged as the inevitable best option among a world of evils.

I’m not advocating reworking legislation or constitutional precedents upon which our entire understanding of government is founded. This issue isn’t about the dirty politicking that inevitably dictates the action of any campaign hoping to accomplish anything.

The phrase “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness” represents the American dream and beliefs binding our nation’s populace. The words don’t, however, exactly model their original phrasing. Where our country has broadened matters to a pursuit of happiness, John Locke was originally speaking of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of property.”

Now there’s no surprise here that Locke’s capitalistically founded philosophy acknowledges propery and possessions as our mandate and ultimate object. The distinction is that America, champion of the free market economy and fair, democratic elections, is founded on the basis not of power, nor with the intent of securing wealth or objects in the name of its citizens. Our founding fathers spoke of a higher calling than these in the form of happiness.

Think for a moment of that playful child, gleaming smile spread across his face as he plays and experiences the world. This fact is universal and independent of all other things. Now look at government and the politics that dictate its movements. When did happiness fall by the wayside? When did we forget the meaning of freedom and the ideals we fight to maintain through diplomacy and military action around the world?

Perhaps the solution is not a challenge of our two-party system. Two opposing ends of the spectrum with their own extreme and moderate factions do have the potential to weigh benefits and costs of each decision and find some appropriate balance in the middle. The nature of our parties, not their existence, is the problem. I admit to party politics, broad generalizations of others I oppose, and a fascination with their downfall, whether by honest or dirty means. Still, I believe that with a change in tone we can make steps foreward rather than steps back.

Compassion. What would life be like with gleaming smiles dictating policy. I’m not suggesting throwing money at the poor or bailing people out to the point that they no longer feel the need to support themselves. What I am saying is that our existence as a respectable nation relies entirely on our respectful treatment of those within and without. People are entitled to different, even wrong opinions. They’re welcome to shout them from the rooftops and they’re welcome to argue them to no end with every individual they encounter. What we need is a dignity and recognition that dissent is okay and part of a decision-making process.

Our two parties exist to offset each other in a cooperative, not destructive manner. The system relies on the continued existence of these two parts. Can we not recognize the inevitability of this truth and take steps towards compassionate progress? Yes we can. But it better be soon because things are falling apart.

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