Keep it real. Great advice. There’s no simpler, nor wiser, philosophy of life. Or of voting. Life is short. Life is precious. It’s crazy to fritter it away on illusion. Which is what the Republicans offer.
I’m an Independent. I often look at the D’s and R’s and say, “A pox on both your parties.” But my love for reality keeps bringing me back to the progressive side of the political spectrum, because that’s where truth is much more likely to be found.
Yesterday Laurel and I were interviewed by Colleen and Eric, who are collaborating on separate efforts to publicize the negative effects of Oregon’s Measure 37.
We sat on a picnic table next to our neighborhood’s Spring Lake and talked about both specifics (how the spring-fed creek that feeds the lake is threatened by a nearby Measure 37 claim’s waiver of land use laws) and generalities (why it’s wrong to create a privileged class of property owners who aren’t subject to the same rules everyone else is).
Laurel had thought out what she wanted to say ahead of time. I winged it. My thoughts meandered now and then, but overall I made pretty good sense. For example, something like this came out of my mouth in response to a question about what bothered us about Measure 37.
It isn’t based on reality. Nature doesn’t recognize abstractions like property line boundaries. Those are human fabrications. In the real world water flows freely between legal lot demarcations. So does air. And wildlife. And photons.
Our vision isn’t blocked by a line on the county assessor’s map. What my neighbor builds is apparent to me, as what I build is apparent to him. The world is interconnected. It’s a seamless web, a community of shared resources and interests.
Oregonians in Action and like-minded property rights activists have got it all wrong. They believe that what a person does with his or her land isn’t anyone else’s business. But it is, because causes and effects don’t respect property lines.
Too many wells dug here cause other wells or a creek to go dry there. Pollution emitted here causes health problems there. An eyesore built here causes someone standing there to suffer the sight of ugliness.
Thinking later in the day about what I said, it struck me that on almost every issue—local, state, national, international—the progressive perspective tends to be in tune with reality, while the conservative position isn’t.
Interrelatedness. Sense of community. Systemic thinking. Compassion. Benevolence. Sustainability. There are lots of words we can try to use to describe the attributes of reality-based public policy.
But for me it comes down to a simple concept: connection. If we keep in mind, and in heart, that we’re part of a whole that is greater than our individual selves, that’s tuning into reality. For this is how the world is: connected.
Science tells us so. As does religion. Each of the great wisdom traditions—Christianity, Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism—teaches that life is best lived with a profound sense of connection. To God, to other living beings, to nature, to the cosmos.
Misery is living merely for me. Happiness is melding harmoniously with others.
Yesterday the Portland Oregonian editorialized about Measure 41, a proposal to cut Oregon taxes by enlarging deductions. The title of the editorial was “It’s your money, but it’s also your state.” An astounding concept for hard-core conservatives: our concerns can extend beyond the narrow confines of our own self. I read:
Measure 41 is an invitation to help yourself. Cut your taxes, keep more of your money, and don’t worry about the schools, universities, senior services, health care and pubic safety programs that make up 90 percent of the state’s budget.
If my taxes are cut, less money will be available to help other people. That’s reality. It’s also a reality that I might very well get more satisfaction, more happiness, more pleasure, by helping others than by spending that money on myself.
Just as property owners might prosper (in ways beyond financial) by considering how their development will affect their neighbors.
Just as heterosexual voters might flourish by allowing gay couples the satisfaction of enjoying the same benefits from marriage that they do.
Just as members of Congress might profit by constructing policies for interrogating and trying suspected terrorists that view them as fellow human beings—no matter how dark their actions—rather than completely alien evil-doers.
Just as each of us might enjoy a Green glow of ecological beatitude if we subsumed some of our me-me-me propensities in favor of concrete actions to slow the nasty effects of global warming (we own two hybrid cars, so have put our car payments where our environmental mouth is).
In each of these examples, the reality-based outlook turns out to be the progressive perspective. And the compassionate one.
It turns out, just as the Buddha taught, that when we harden our hearts against the needs of others we hurt ourselves most of all. This is the great sadness of conservatism. It explains why, when I listen to right-wing talk radio or watch Fox News, so much anger, bitterness, and divisiveness is evident.
These conservatives seem to be, by and large, unhappy people. They live within an individualistic and nationalistic worldview that stifles genuine connection beyond narrow confines.
If you subscribe to their inward-looking political, religious, and moral dictates, then you are part of the in-crowd. If you don’t—and most of the six billion people on Earth are in this category—then you are Other, worthy of disdain.
And so the conservative illusion continues, immune to being dissolved because it so effectively shuts off connections with the real world. However, reality always finds a way of popping up. It can’t be ignored forever. Light is more powerful than shadow.
Come November, vote Democratic. Take a stand for reality.