I used to be more scientifically-minded than I am. As a child, I played with chemistry sets and the like, checking out books on aviation and electronics from the library. I even entered in one or two science fairs. Somewhere along the line, that changed. I was very proud of making it all the way through my undergraduate education without taking a single hard science or math course. Now, I’m struggling to remember all of the things that I learned as a child. We had four labs this week, and for this semester, that’s going to be the rule rather than the exception. Needless to say, it was kind of intense. The refreshing thing about science is that once you get past the jargon and the various units and formulas, it’s quite intuitive. When you’re finished with a lab, your conclusion shouldn’t just be a dry interpretation of data. It should make sense. Most things do.
What is fascinating to me about many of my courses is the political agenda that lies beneath the surface. My professors aren’t preachers; they don’t hammer us over the head with their message and clearly want us to learn to think for ourselves. But it’s fairly difficult to be as passionate as they are about helping others understand the way that the natural world works and not want to tear out one’s hair over the obstinacy of much of the public. People don’t want facts. They ignore the ones that don’t suit them and distort what remains to conform to what they want to believe. It is an unsustainable way of living, and come November, I hope people will vote for the politicians that they believe in rather than just the ones who make them feel good. I have said before that I am not very fond of moderates. I prefer conservatives, who stand for something, even if it isn’t what I believe. My point is that I honestly believe it is better to believe in something that is evil than to believe in nothing at all. Evil can be converted. Indifference…not so much.
There are many who have a defeatist attitude about the American political system. They say that elections are all a sham, that there is no difference between the two parties and the only thing that we have the power to choose is how exactly we want to get ass-fucked. I call shenanigans. I don’t want to choose between the lesser of two evils. I want to live in a world where every now and then, the good guys win and the bad guys are duly punished. I don’t want to believe that the only reason any of us gets up in the morning and does what we do is because it beats stagnation. Defeatism is stagnation. It is not only counterproductive, but counterfactual. Look around at the world you live in. Does this look to you like a world in which nothing good ever comes of hard work and strong morals? If the answer is yes, look again. You’ll see it, unless you’re trying hard not to.
I think some of the older generation have forgotten what it was like to be young. George Carlin, as much as I love him, delivered an infuriating routine late in his career about the death of the American Dream. Carlin, as you may know, came from humble beginnings to become one of the most beloved comics and comedic actors of the 20th century. Who is he to tell anyone that the Dream is dead? Even in death, he is proof that it’s not gone just yet. Have we really changed that much in the last 70-plus years that there is no room in our culture for people who do what Carlin did, to talk truth to power and make people laugh about the contradictions and insecurities that keep us from realizing our full potential? I got into an argument about a month ago with a blogger who was reacting cynically to Joe Biden’s endorsement of gay marriage, saying that even if it was a step forward, the efforts of so many Washington insiders to walk it back reeked of cowardice. I didn’t check back to see what he thought about Barack Obama’s endorsement a few days later. By that point, I’d had enough. I’m not going to waste my time with people who can’t give our elected officials credit when they actually get something right, who can’t see that when it comes to issues like healthcare reform and the repeal of DADT, it’s less important that they happen at the time and in the manner that we want than that they happen at all. I’m pragmatic that way.
I have no patience for people who try to shape the world to fit their own view of it rather than the other way around. I don’t live with a filter. Whenever I try to put one up, something nasty gets through and forces me to deal with it. Perhaps some people are better at walling themselves off from what they don’t want to experience than I am. All I know is that when I look back at the last few years, I think that we, as a nation, have grown stronger. I’ve grown stronger as well.