I grew up in a family of Democrats. Liberal, suburban, Jewish Democrats. My father was a high school educated, self-made millionaire. He was a social Democrat although on fiscal matters he was very much a conservative Republican (he would have railed against such a description and denied it vehemently had anyone dared tell him that). So it was natural, and probably expected, that as a youth and young woman I, too, was a registered Democrat. In fact, I worked on the political campaign of William J. Green who went on to be elected the Democratic Mayor of Philadelphia and at the outset of his Administration, was appointed to the Department of Revenue’s Delinquent Tax Section to process bankruptcies for the city.
I remember many a dinner table conversation where I was the most liberal voice in the room. I was young, and the combination of youthful idealism and my family’s political affiliation had me espousing a lot of theory that sounded great but for which I had, or knew of, no practical application. Youth is like that. And, like most Democrats then and now, I bought into the prevailing belief that if you had a heart, cared about the poor, wanted a just society…well then…the Democrat Party was the only party.
It was a few decades in the real world of employment and social practicalities that I slowly, but surely, became more and more conservative. Libertarian, actually. I don’t think it had to do with age as much as with a growing awareness of the distinction between what looks good on paper, sounds good in conversation, but actually is good in real life.
I have come to believe that most of the social problems we now face, and the cultural chaos rampant in this country, are the result of 100 years of teaching several generations what to think rather than how to think; not practical knowledge but theoretical knowledge. Combine that with a generation raised on as much virtual reality as reality, and you have a cultural mindset that is ill equipped to use reason, logic, common sense and conscience to think its way out of a box.
In law school, I experienced the height of this impractical approach. Any law student will tell you that law school has nothing to do with the practice of law. What they mean by that is in law school you learn all the theory. Then you graduate, seek a job with a firm (or worse go out on your own as I did) and you know NOTHING about the actual practice of law. I remember my first case and first day walking into a Child Support hearing with my client. I still remember the terror I felt when I realized I didn’t know which counsel table I was supposed to sit at! While it’s a simplistic and almost meaningless example, you get my drift. We teach theory not practicality.
How much more tragic is it that we educate in theory only for 12 years of primary school, 4 years of college, in some cases 2-6 years more for various professionals and produce people who 1) have little to no practical skills and 2) don’t know how to critically, or creatively, think!
Liberalism is the mother ship of theoretical ideas that have little practical application in everyday life and, when applied politically, shows up as pure Socialism. This is the reason for the Bernie Sanders rise within the Democrat primary field. He is the epitome of wishful thinking in a world desperately in need of practical solutions but unable to make the distinction. His avowed Socialism, which he wears like a badge of honor, has never worked. Anywhere. Not that it hasn’t been tried. Its latest incarnation is Progressivism. It’s just that every time it is tried there is a baseless belief that “this time” it will work. It hasn’t and it won’t. But it’s eternally appealing to those who want something for nothing.
Where are the great leaders? Where are the minds that inspire us? Where are the heroes? Where are the truth-tellers? Questions such as these are not answerable in theory. They demand the presence of flesh and blood, front and center, ready to do the heavy lifting. It’s what is so appealing, and so potentially dangerous, about Donald Trump. He’s a doer. A larger than life persona who knows how to navigate the world of practicality.
In our quest for open-mindedness we have produced mindlessness. In our determination to treat every student equally we have produced systemic mediocrity. In our haste to develop technologically we have abandoned our spirituality. In theory, an individual could come along who will right all that is wrong. In practicality, it’s more likely that it won’t be one person but rather each of us awakening to the realization that we’ve been misled by a century’s worth of Progressivism in our schools, our culture, our government and, most insidiously, in our thinking.
We can continue to live as children, believing The Lie that diminishes and enslaves: that wishing makes it so, and if not, an added dose of violence will. Or we can, as individuals and as a Nation, accept the fact that it’s time for us to grow up, push back that theoretical chair from the dinner table conversation and get on with the heavy lifting of life.