You Are the Solution You’ve Been Waiting For
By Matt McDonald | December 23, 2016, 16:46 EST
What’s the most important campaign promise Donald Trump made?
Cutting taxes? Building the wall? Getting rid of Common Core? Picking constitutionalists for the federal Supreme Court?
No. It’s getting us all to say “Merry Christmas” again.
Sound crazy? Years ago, I would have agreed with you.
But let’s review.
In the days of Ronaldus Magnus, conservatives would sometimes say things like, “If only we had both houses of Congress.”
(This formulation assumes “we” = Republicans. I see the distinction, but just play along)
Well, it happened. In the 1994 election. And what was the biggest achievement that followed?
Getting rid of the federal 55-mile-an-hour speed limit.
(Don’t laugh; it was a big deal. But don’t hurt your head too much trying to think of another major accomplishment of that era.)
Then conservatives would sometimes say things like, “If only we had the president and both houses of Congress at the same time.”
(Again, play along with the “we” thing.)
Well, that happened. In the 2000 election.
What happened next?
A trip down the W memory lane will bring us to tributaries too long to follow at the moment. But what’s your impression: Has the country moved right since then? Or left?
Let’s take same-sex marriage as an example. Leave aside the merits of it. Leave aside the nondemocratic ways it has been achieved in this country. (By judges, as opposed to voters.)
Let’s just analyze it, without taking sides.
As an example of rapid and fundamental social change upending long-established social norms, same-sex marriage is obviously a left-wing idea.
And it has undeniably come a long way. From a topic nobody talked about 20 years ago, it now has official status and rising support.
How does that happen?
By having support for it repeated over and over in public.
Repeat anything over and over — the truth, a lie, a mindless advertising jingle — and sooner or later it will seep into the public consciousness as a creditable thought. Whether it is or not.
Many people don’t get into the details of individual issues. They don’t think deeply about first principles and then spend a lot of time developing logical extensions of their assumptions.
Instead, they take a quick survey and arrive at a snap judgment. Opinions they hear a lot make an impression.
What has happened over the last 30 years?
Conservatives have (occasionally) won elections. Liberals have won the culture.
Television shows primarily. It’s amazing what you can learn is normal if you watch TV.
Movies are also a factor. They don’t just reflect society; they shape it.
Education is huge. What children hear first they often take for granted.
News media, obviously. Keep framing the debate a certain way and many people will assume that’s the only way of framing it.
Personnel offices. (You can fill in the more modern term for that if you want.) Tell people they can’t do and say certain things, and eventually many will obey.
None of these things is expressly political … but they all have an effect on how we live. In short, the things these people tell us have become part of the culture, and by becoming part of the culture they seem plausible. Whether they’re true or not.
And eventually, we surrender to them.
You don’t believe me?
When’s the last time you stumbled over saying something in public because you were having trouble coming up with a gender-neutral way of saying it?
Do you ever see something you find not only offensive but repulsive — but refrain from saying something because you are afraid what someone else will think?
Have you ever hidden your religion from someone?
In the week before December 25 do you ever use the term “Happy Holidays”?
Whoever did these things years ago? And why does anyone do them now?
A friend of mine told me a story once about a guy he knew of in college who walked into a weight room full of football linemen.
The linemen were huge. They were trying to bench press a massive amount of weight. Most of them were struggling with it.
The guy was of ordinary build and didn’t look very strong. But he had a habit: He did 100 pushups every day. The pushups didn’t do anything to build the outward bulge of his pectoral muscles. But they built a powerful base of muscle underneath that was hard to discern from the outside.
This ordinary-looking fellow lay down on the bench and pushed up the massive amount of weight with no problem.
The football linemen were amazed. How’d he do that?
Culture is like that. You build it by practicing it.
This practicing takes place in small ways. You refuse to go along with things you don’t believe in, and you insist on following through with things you do believe in.
One little step at a time. No matter what anybody else says or does. You don’t budge.
Think you’re too small to matter? You’re wrong. That little step may have a ripple effect that radiates out a long way. But whether it does or not, it will surely have an effect on you.
If you want to make a difference, try something today. Anticipate some situation you’re likely to be in soon, and decide now that whatever it is you believe is important or true, you’re going to stand up for it — even if you think there’s a high likelihood someone else is going to give you flak for it. Do it with love, do it with charity, do it with cheerfulness. But do it.
In short, create your own test case and then follow through.
Be not afraid.