Thursday, October 9, 2008

hope I can believe in

During the Presidential primary season, I was inspired by Obama’s appeals to hope. I don’t really remember now what Obama meant by hope, nor why I was so inspired. Maybe it had something to do with Obama seeming less authoritarian than Rudy Giuliani or Hillary Clinton and less fake than Mitt Romney. I think at one point he was talking about uniting the country and getting past partisan divisions. What ever happened to that idea? Oh yeah - I guess it doesn’t really fit in when you’re trying to blame all the world’s woes on Republicans.
So what does Obama mean by “hope”? ( I had been meaning to read his books to answer this question, but ever since his campaign started launching ads en Espanol calling all Republicans racist, I’ve been too busy clinging to my proverbial guns and religion.) From what I’ve been able to gather, Obama’s “hope” involves (a) organizing people into collective action to change the government to make our lives better, and (b) making a black man President of the USA. If Obama is elected, America will have achieved (b), and that in itself will be a positive and historic achievement, a spark of inspiration to many living now with too much despair. On the other hand, as to definition of hope (a), I’m not sure that government action is the cure for much of our current troubles, and I’m even less confident that Obama knows precisely what action government should take. Obama talks like a moderate but votes like a garden-variety leftist with solutions that, while intending to empower the oppressed, only create more dependency on government - and thus, more despair.
Obama, for all his idealistic talk, is basically a materialist - not in the crude, amoral sense but in the high-minded anthropological sense. He shares with other modern liberals and socialists the hierarchy of psychologist Abraham Maslow - that material conditions must be met before a person can reach his or her ultimate goal of “self-actualizion” ( i.e., food before freedom). But what if Obama’s tax-and-mandate policies end up costing us ever more jobs and make our health care crisis worse rather than better? If progressivist policies fail to deliver, has hope itself failed?
Viktor Frankl emphasized that life cannot survive without meaning. Harsh brutally of the sort experienced by Frankl in the Holocaust and John McCain as a POW highlight the importance of values that extend beyond material well-being or even social harmony. Without the courage of real transcendant hope, our spirits surrender in the face of the insurmountable. We face challenges as a nation that no amount of new government programs can cure. Perhaps Obama’s empathic, elegant rheoric will be inspiration enough for us to be steadfast and hopeful. For myself, I find more inspiration in a leader whose hope lies not in the power of government to make our circumstances better but in the dignity of life and the honor of virtue regardless of our circumstances; a leader whose hope was forged in accepting the challenge of living through hell rather than surrender on its terms.
So what I don't know is what the unexpected will be. . . . I know what it's like in dark times. I know what it's like to have to fight to keep one's hope going through difficult times. I know what it's like to rely on others for support and courage and love in tough times. I know what it's like to have your comrades reach out to you and your neighbors and your fellow citizens and pick you up and put you back in the fight. - John McCain, Oct 7

No comments: