Monday, October 01, 2007

"They prefer progress with messy compromise, over defeat with pristine principles"

Wow, what a grand slogan for the consummate pragmatist. In addressing what "the people" want from their politicians, Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger said, "They prefer progress with messy compromise, over defeat with pristine principles" in a broadcast to British Conservatives last week. According to Arnold, we are to abandon values, principles and ideals for the sake of "getting along." What a sad state of sociological affairs we find ourselves in.

Don't get me wrong here. I've been hitched for just over 2 years and I understand that compromise is a necessary part of a good marriage. But as a society, should we be taught to aim for the status quo and accept positions that may be wrong simply for the sake of avoiding an argument?

What if the Founding Fathers accepted a compromise? Surely, if we were to live in the same alternate universe that Schwarzenegger does, Patrick Henry's inspiring phrase "Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death" would have gone something like, "Liberty would be super, but I'll submit to the King if we could just end this whole 'revolutionary' war thing, now." And I suppose Arnold thinks that slavery might have been best ended through compromise, rather than war?

I understand Arnold's desire to see government move along at a faster pace. After all, fighting for a cause and sticking to ideology can drag a democratic system to a crawl. But where would be be as a nation - or indeed, as a species - if we had allowed those who would do us harm a seat at the bargaining table? Where would we be if we had taught George Washington to believe in compromise over principle? Winston Churchill? Ghandi? Ronald Reagan?

While I don't enjoy war or bloodshed, I understand that in the course of human events, sometimes there are ideals worth fighting for. If we teach our children that standing their ground when defending their beliefs is wrong, we will have finally put out the driving fire of human spirit that tyrants have sought to extinguish for millennia. It is the human desire to change ourselves in the face of all opposition that has brought out the best and worst of mankind. And while we may gain some short-term peace by practicing ritual compromise, we will have given up and lost far, far more.

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