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OpEdNews Op Eds    H2'ed 3/20/14

America Badly Needs A Massive Infusion Of Idealism

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Message Michael Payne


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:


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