There is a difference between believing in an ideal and forcing others to act as if they do, too.
I believe that it would be a good thing if everyone in the world were healthy, well-educated, free from oppression, free in general, and had the means to live a comfortable life. I do not believe in wrenching money from the hands of other people in the name of those ideals. Once I begin to believe that such actions are acceptable, I condone every thief, every despot, every rapist, and every murderer throughout history who ever began their foul actions with the excuse that, “I’m doing it for their own good.” or “They’re being selfish, keeping that all to themselves.” or “They don’t know that this is really the best way to do things.”
I invite you to read interviews and journals and personal accounts for various people throughout history who are widely labeled as evil. Some bad guys know that they are doing bad and revel in it, that’s true. But there are many who were firm in their convictions that they were acting in the service of good. At least at the beginning.
The inherent problem with that approach to life is that one solid means of identifying good action is by spotting its support for human free will. I am proud every day to be a citizen of one of the few nations in existence whose birth may be directly attributed in part to the pursuit of freedom. Many nations were borne in blood and fury and violation and conquest, and the United States certainly had its share of all those dark characteristics. But the world of two centuries ago was not the world of today. In the world of the past, the fact that Freedom from Tyranny and Freedom from Oppression of Beliefs were anywhere on the list of reasons for starting a nation was remarkable. It’s remarkable today, though few seem inclined to remark upon it.
When your actions cry out for freedom for all individuals, then you are doing good. When your actions cry out for freedom of one individual by suppressing another’s, then you are doing evil. You may not understand why someone else views your action as suppressing another individual’s freedom. That may be because that other person is irrational, or it may be because you are so blinded by the fervor of fighting for one type of person that you lose sight of others. I applaud those people who check themselves.
If you fight for the right of all women to be able to have abortions, then I hope you checked yourself to make sure you really believe that the human individual only begins at birth. (I realize that there are less extreme viewpoints, but that is a real one.) If you fight for the exclusion of the right to marriage from same-sex couples, I hope you checked yourself to make sure (well, first is it something in which the government should be involved? Is marriage even a right? …but also) that same-sex couples involve individuals who shouldn’t share everyone else’s rights. If you have not examined all sides of whatever stance you claim to take, then I hope that you suffer the oppression of your rights someday by someone else who also has examined only a single side of an issue. That seems fair to me.
I suspect most calm, thoughtful readers would have read the last two paragraphs and agreed with my general gist. What they may not do is realize that supporting many taxes merely follows these ideas to their ultimate ends. Should a child not receive medical care because they cannot afford it? The question is ridiculous. The structure of the question is “should a purchaser not receive their purchasable item because they cannot afford to purchase it?” Of course not, in a capitalist society. The right question to ask is “What can people do if they are concerned that children do not receive medical care in our society because they and their parents cannot afford to pay for it?” The answer is obvious that any concerned individuals should fight against every aspect of the situation: people should be advised not to have children if they cannot afford them, people should be taught about birth control and the implications of getting pregnant, one should support charities to whom money can be donated to support low-income families, one should fight against the restriction of lower cost medical treatments that are being opposed for no health reasons, a community should be freed from needless restrictions so that more job opportunities can be made available to a parent who needs money, etc. The wrong thing to do is to condone the situation. If you think that a family consisting of children should be able to afford medical care for those children, don’t support the environment that gave rise to such a family situation in the first place. By refusing to fight the circumstances that gave rise to that situation and instead taking money after the fact in the form of taxes from people who had nothing to do with creating the unfortunate circumstance, you are perpetuating the likelihood that others will not strive to avoid a low-income family situation (because it happened to people they know and they got along just fine), and committing theft in the process.
By the way, I’ve been a victim of muggings twice. After both situations, I instinctively reacted by grasping my possessions even closer to my breast so that I would not lose any more. I suggest that excessively taxed people would correspondingly contribute less to charity. I know that when I have a safe amount of money in my bank account, I’m more willing to contribute to the charities that cross my path. And I do, by the way. When I fear the cost of groceries, however, I will NOT pay any charities until I do feel that I’ll be able to survive until my next paycheck.
There is an excitement that is running through much of the citizenry of the United States of America right now, and I’m uplifted to see the passion and concerns that have moved so many people to get involved in the democratic process. I write this blog not to lessen that euphoria but to caution people that euphoria makes for poor judgement. It’s easy to get swept up in the excitement of victory and think, “Yeah, we won, nothing can stop us now!” That’s a great feeling and can be used to make a better nation. But that same feeling can also lead to looting and pillaging and worse atrocities.
Please don’t allow your feelings of strength to make you stomp on those who are now weaker than you. More than ever, your strength gives you the ability to protect those who need protecting. And that’s everyone. Not just the people who campaigned for your side–your opposition needs your protection, too. If a politician tells you a great story, check to see if the villains in that story are really bad people or just other people. If a bully tells you how fun it is to beat up the dorks, please check to see if the dorks really deserve a beating.
I am not fleeing to Canada or anywhere else now that the election is over. I like my country and I like much of what it has done and much of what it can do. I like Superman’s decidedly patriotic ideals of “Truth, Justice, and the American Way”. Superman has been rewritten in numerous resurrections, but I never recall a single one where he made a good President. I recall a few where he was a horrible one. The moral was always the same: when you have that much power and you use it so willingly, bad things happen. I am looking forward to our adventure over the next several years. I hope to see US citizens using their power for good.
That would be Super.