Some 238 years ago this was a country in which courage combined with idealism enabled the Founding Fathers to rise up and defeat the British imperialists, a seemingly impossible task. That kind of idealism is what is missing in America today and we must find the ways to recover it for the benefit of future generations.
Idealism is a theory that describes the attitude of an individual or an entity that believes that it is possible to live according to very high standards of behavior and principles; that the pursuit of excellence is an attainable goal; we might say that idealists view the world as it might or should be, as opposed to pragmatists who doggedly focus on the world as it presently is.
Which of these beliefs do we think prevails in this country and society at this time; idealism or pragmatism? Well, it's certainly not idealism because in the America of today idealism is largely on life support. For many Americans and, without question, the majority of those in our government, it's something requires far too much effort. And when is the last time when any of us may have heard serious discussions or debates relative to how this nation should be guided by the pursuit of high standards and principled decision-making?
There is little to no room for idealism in a country that is now governed by pragmatists who have no real vision of the future but are mired down in the belief that the conditions we currently find ourselves in, and the mounting problems we have, are here to stay and we should just accept and condone this as reality. We are now living in a society and culture where average and good enough are perfectly acceptable and the quest for excellence is rapidly fading away.
We should be better than this but we're not; we're too satisfied with the status quo and doing business as usual, unwilling to reach higher and achieve more. We are caught up in this state of pragmatism and have no burning desire to free ourselves; that takes too much effort. To be pragmatic and roll with the punches is very easy while being idealistic is very difficult.
The spirit of idealism of which I speak was last seen in America when, in the words of Lewis Lapham, "the unarmed rebellions led to the enactment in the mid-1960s of the Economic Opportunity Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and eventually to the shutting down of the war in Vietnam." And, as that brief era of enlightenment ended shortly thereafter, that form of idealism has never returned to this country.
But just think what might happen if we lived in a nation in which this government and society were committed to high standards and the quest for excellence? it would look far different than it does today. It might look something like this:
We might once again be witness to a Congress that functioned effectively; one that had the ability and resolve to use logic and rational thinking to create legislation that would not only address, but solve, our many festering problems. The tactics of obstruction would come to an end. And, we'd see a Congress that would free itself from the control of corporate money, power and influence.
America wouldn't have 47 million people, the unemployed, the disabled, the elderly and children, all living below the poverty line, forced to survive on food stamps. The notion that "the poor will always be with us" would become irrelevant. Instead of vilifying and condemning those Americans who find themselves in this condition, members of Congress would be motivated to pinpoint the root causes of this nation's massive inequality of wealth and income and come up with the ways to make life better for all Americans.
The opportunity would present itself to restore America's declining manufacturing industry, its decimated workforce and a rapidly eroding middle class. The leaders of our government could come to the realization that if the manufacturing sector was allowed to collapse the economy would eventually follow suit. So the obvious thing to do would be to take steps to put the brakes on Corporate America's march toward unrestrained globalization.
Perhaps we'd see a president who, when he said "Yes we can" and "Change is on the way", actually meant it and did everything within the powers of the presidency to insure that it happened; a president whose inspiring words would serve to motivate the people to join in the effort to bring dramatic changes to America by reaching for and meeting seemingly unattainable goals.
We would be watching as this president proved to be a champion of the U.S. Constitution rather than engaging in policies and actions that involve ways and means by which to circumvent it. NSA spying would be non-existent.
We in America would not be caught up in a pragmatic state that says that, "there will always be wars and rumors of wars" meaning that this is just the way things are and we should accept them. We would have found the way to rise above our obsession with military might, completely rejecting the neocon pragmatists that tell us that this can never be done and we must not even try.
We'd have a Supreme Court that would follow the Constitution in the manner that the Founders had intended, one that would not succumb to the dictates of special interests. This country's election process would no longer be polluted by corporate money and we could very likely see the emergence of high-minded individuals in our government who would put the interests of this country and its people above all else.
The U.S. Justice Dept. could well become a symbol of fair and equitable treatment of all individuals under the law; one that would not turn a blind eye to serious abuses and manipulative schemes of the Wall Street Robber Barons and would conduct investigations to prosecute the perpetrators. There might be in-depth investigations of the torture programs under the Bush administration instead of the massive cover-up that has taken place.