Monday, March 22, 2010

Calming Down...

The past few days have been stressful for me as I've watched this whole health care debate unfold and reach its climax. I feel like I'm sort of reliving the days when Obama won the election back in 2008. That was what got me blogging in the first place; I guess it's fitting that I've been driven to blog so much lately.

I blog because I'd like to think that at the very least, I can put my ideas out there, rather than just keep them in my head all the time. Sure, it's fun to just talk politics over lunch with friends, but we live in an age where getting ideas out into the public arena is not nearly as difficult as it used to be. I feel a responsibility as a thinking individual to be part of a much bigger conversation.

Ideas matter. They determine our relationship with the world around us. They shape our government policies, which in turn shape all of our lives. The fate of our democracy depends on us being able to critically evaluate those ideas that affect all of our lives. We cast the votes that endorse one idea over another; we need to take responsibility for understanding those ideas.

Ideals, as opposed to ideas, just don't cut it. Ideally, we could simply wish everyone to have health care coverage, and it would happen. But the problem is, that can't happen. Intentions are not enough. The world does not run on our good intentions. It runs on our ideas, not our ideals.

In my opinion, that's where health care reform falls short. It's full of good ideals, but not good ideas. What is needed is a clearer picture of what's actually causing inefficiencies in the current health care system. It doesn't do any good to repeatedly point out that there is a problem, which is one of the most frustrating tendency I've found in liberals on this issue. As if conservatives don't know there's a problem! But unfortunately, it is possible to do worse than nothing. I fear the bill we just passed is in fact worse than if we had just done nothing.

Which leads me to blame conservatives for not tackling this issue when they had the chance. What we need in the government are smart conservatives. Not "compassionate conservatives" the way George W. Bush thought. Compassion is a good thing; but compassion is useless if you don't know what you're doing. Far more important is for conservatism to be smart.

But smart conservatives also need to be pro-active. I'm tired of seeming to have only two choices: one choice is to have Democrats in power taking the country further left, the other choice is to have Republicans in power focusing on the war on terror and not implementing any conservative solutions to domestic issues. Where was the health care reform back during the Bush era, when Republicans could have at least passed significant tort reform? What were the Republicans thinking when they passed No Child Left Behind, another inefficient big government program that fails to see the fundamental problems with education?

Since I've been truly alert to politics, I can't think of one thing that Republicans have successfully argued for on the domestic front other than lower taxes. As if lowering taxes solves all economic problems! And it makes me so sad, because I read all the incredibly bright conservative thinkers out there with great ideas about how to bring real reform on huge issues like education and health care. Who's going to put those ideas in place? We need a smart conservative, one who can make the case to the public convincingly, and then actually get it done, the way Obama and Pelosi hammered their agenda through.

Whatever else I have to say about Obama, he's a pretty impressive politician. If I agreed with his ideas, I'd probably be ecstatic. Unfortunately, it never feels good when the star player is on the other team.

And with that, I think I can wind down, count my blessings, and remember that frustration will not accomplish anything. I'm thankful that in this country I have the freedom to express my criticisms, my doubts, and even my frustrations. But with that privilege, I think, comes a responsibility to figure out the best way to use it. I can certainly do better than just complain.

Ideas matter, and I'll continue to defend ideas that are counter to Obama's. But they don't really matter as much as love. And no matter what this health care bill does, I can still choose to love my neighbor. Will it cause me to have to pay more to the government? I can still be generous with what I have left. Will it actually, as Obama says, end up saving us money? Well, then I'll have the blessing of being proved wrong.

Will it end up promoting abortions? That is still a tricky issue. But even then, the way we show love does not change. We go and we stand and pray and show that we love all people, no matter what. We give our own money to pregnancy centers, and show that there is an alternative to abortion. We change hearts and minds. There really is no shortcut past this. Our political stances are only as good as the love we show to other people.

It's good for my soul to have written this out for myself, and also for all of you who happen to think I have anything to say worth reading. In the land of political commentary on the Internet you don't get a lot of calming influences. If nothing else, at least I'll sleep better at night.

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