Wednesday, October 08, 2008


Several really, really great questions came up at the debates last night, but I want to talk about one in particular, in which the questioner reminded Obama that during wartime, presidents during the first half of the last century asked the American people for sacrifices, and what sacrifices might he ask for during these times.

That's something that's been bothering me throughout the Bush administration, and I was glad to hear Obama talk about this.  I was disappointed that he didn't mention that no government in the history of the world has ever LOWERED taxes during wartime, but I guess on a scale of what people want to hear to what they don't, nobody really wants that little tidbit thrown back at them.

But I was glad to hear him say Bush had basically been a moron to respond to crisis by asking people to go out and shop.  It's a resentment I'd been harboring since 2001, and it was good to hear it echoed by someone who actually stands to make a real difference, not just six English teachers around a lunch table.

Then I got to thinking:

While the little voice of rampant teenage idealism in my head tells me that we should all just stop being so materialistic and spending beyond our means, I know that no politician alive can say that because spending beyond our means is what drives our economy (into the ground, it turns out).  But I decided last night that where our generation can make the kind of sacrifices that will make the biggest difference is in our time.  Obama almost got there on this question last night, but I would love to see a widespread, grassroots effort to get people involved in service.  First, I think THE REASON for the world being the fucked-up place that it is is that technological progress has done away with too many human interactions.  Actually, I LIKE drive-through pharmacies and automated phone systems and having all my questions answered by the Internet instead of real people, but by and large, I think we're losing something important by limiting social interactions between strangers.  Second, the more people are involved in helping members of their communities, the less the government is going to have to do to help people.  And who knows better what the people in the community need than, say, other people in that community? While I think the government's prime responsibility is helping people, it usually takes twice as long and uses ten times as much money as the groups who are already doing that work.

So that being said, I am volunteering with the Pumpkin Triathlon in Boulder City next weekend, and offering extra credit to students who come and help.


Elaine said...

I share your resentment, and probably many more when it comes to Bush. Some sort of service work is the key to having a better community, society, and even being a worthwhile person. It's simply too easy to get all hooked up in oneself for all the reasons you just outlined and ending up a negative, egocentric, numskull. Helping out at least once in while takes some the edge off a bit.

Tammy said...

Elaine and I had a similar conversation about service work the last time I was in Austin. Mostly, she vented her frustrations at how many elite "Austin liberals" refuse -- FLAT OUT REFUSE -- to volunteer, or help out, or participate in anything that even resembles service work in any way. Their argument? That they do more than their fair share by paying taxes. Why should they get their hands dirty?

You know who DOES get their hands dirty? Churches and synagogues and other faith-based organizations who, by and large, captain the ship when it comes to feeding the hungry, sheltering the homeless, etc., etc., etc. where government assistance leaves off in this country.

Which, of course, wins many hearts and minds.

And which is something that the majority of us agnostics, athiests, scientists, "realists", and whatever other breeds of "superior thinkers" that we tout ourselves to be, would be wise to remember.

If we are bothered that the majority of good deeds in the world are supposedly performed "in the service of God", then we should get off our asses and start performing some good deeds of our own "in the service of MAN".

Elaine said...

There are many scientists that have belief in a god of some sort. Being a scientist and having a faith are not mutually exclusive. However, the most inspired I have ever been is by what I call "conscientious atheists." They are the kindest, sincerest, and gentlest people I have ever met. I began encountering them at about the age of 15 at church camp. They were ministers, yes ordained ministers, and not quiet about the doubts and questions. I currently have couple of friends in this category. They definitely practice what they preach. People of faith, any faith, could learn a thing or two from the conscientious atheists I have encountered over the years. As a category of people, they are simply amazing.