The Pervasive Idealism

Of all the labels others have tried to stick to me in my life, there seems to be one that keeps coming around, no matter what face I may choose to wear or what path I am travelling: Idealist. It seems to be the place where my discussions with those who hold fundamentally different belief systems come unravelled, the convenient expiration date on their patience. Whether the topic at hand is war, abortion, religion, or love, apparently a discussion of theory behind our decision making process is enough to be categorized as an idealist, and thereby dismissed.

The Free Dictionary defines “idealism” as follows:

1. The act or practice of envisioning things in an ideal form.
2. Pursuit of one’s ideals.
3. Idealized treatment of a subject in literature or art.
4. Philosophy The theory that the object of external perception, in itself or as perceived, consists of ideas.

It seems that the first definition is the one people most commonly like to toss about with the personal epithet. Think about that. The notion that envisioning “a standard or model of perfection or excellence”, or “An honorable or worthy principle or aim” could be considered a bad thing. If we have no idea where we want to go, how can we possibly expect to get there? Of course, we must also be able to see clearly what ground we currently stand upon, and be able to conceive of a path from our current situation to our ideal. What is worth noting, however, is that by this definition of the term, we are all idealists. The only differences between us lie in how we envision our ideals. Continue reading

The New Battleground: Freedom of Speech

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

—First Amendment of the Constitution

Once upon a time, our civil liberties as enumerated in the Bill of Rights were like the plumbing under the house: necessary underpinnings of our existance, but not really something to which we gave a lot of thought. If something seemed broken, we called in the “experts” and trusted them to deal with the problem appropriately, without the necessity of ever getting our own hands dirty. Then our circumstances changed. The rapid growth of the Internet, combined with the repercussions of a terrorist attack on our soil, threw many of us into a tangible awareness of our rights and the realization that if we didn’t learn a little about how to protect and maintain them ourselves we were going to wind up, well, knee deep in sewage. For the last six years, there has been increasing awareness and involvement, and looking around the web and at our own government it is clear that lines which were once nearly invisible are being etched deeply into the sand. On some level, we all know that the next battle to be fought on our soil will not be one of “us” fighting “the terrorists”. It will be us fighting for which version of ourselves we want to become. Continue reading