The following was written in response to a question posed in a Political Science class at College of the Siskiyous, Weed, CA.
Q: According to Wilson and DiIulio, “almost all Americans share some elements of a common political culture. Why, then, is there so much culture conflict in American politics?” How would you explain this apparent contradiction? Be sure to address this in the context of American political culture as outlined in the chapter.
A: Political Culture as defined by Wilison and DiIulio is a distinctive and patterned way of thinking about how political and economic life ought to be carried out (page 76). It seems the reason that there is so much conflict is because the political system, within the political culture, is admired in theory, but ignored in reality.
Let’s look at Liberty; it says that people of America believe everyone should be free to do pretty much as they please, as long as they don’t hurt other people (page 78). Yet, that is not true in daily life. The war on drugs is a good example, in most cases there is no one getting hurt. Why then is there a war? If liberty were a true system to live under, then one would not be concerned what another is doing to their self. Drugs are a great example where society creates laws that are from fear of the unknown. Most drugs are considered by the masses as one drug, yet each drug does completely different things, still the law imposes penalties on anyone that uses any kind of illegal drug.
An example would be the law where a psychedelic is categorized and penalized in the same category as methamphetamine. Obviously, the law was not created by someone who had tried either of these substances, before making the law. One prime example is having methamphetamine as a class II schedule drug and MDMA as a class I, the government is saying that MDMA is more dangerous than methamphetamine, but if one were to really to look into these two drugs they would come to know of completely different they are. MDMA has been used for decades in the treatment of PTSD especially in soldiers returning from war (http://www.maps.org/media/view/u.k._doctors_to_study_benefits_of_ecstasy/) and yet the government that sends them there has blocked the treatment that could help them to re-enter society. Yes, both substances have been abused but it is obvious, that those that make these laws are not in touch with the reality with which the law creates. It scares people that could be helped from the substance and gives to those that are not afraid of the consequences of using (i.e. addicts).
Maybe a new requirement on the laws on drugs is that one be required to have tried the substance before making the law. But even that won’t work because we are a fear-based ignorant people much of the time. How alcohol is legal and marijuana is not, is a shining example of our ignorance. That we approve a drug that destroys our bodies and pollutes our minds and then arrest and imprison people for using a plant that grows from the earth and has so many amazing qualities besides the drug effects, simply doesn’t make sense, unless you can see how afraid people actually are. They would rather numb the mind than expand it. Such is the way of most humans.
If one were to use the argument in opposition to drugs by saying, “well they are hurting themselves.” Says who? Wouldn’t you have to be in that person to know if that person is hurting? And even if they are, under Liberty, what business is it of anyone else’s. One might say, well their families are hurt by drugs. One could turn it around and say it is not the drugs that hurt the family, but that the drug is what is turned to from the hurting.
Drugs have been made to be something so “wrong” by those that do not partake, that it becomes a cycle of hurt, not in actuality, but in psychology. Is it not hurtful to take a child away from their family to incarcerate the parent? This is just one of many diversions from Liberty that the American people have taken.
Then there is Equality, where Americans are said to believe that everyone should have an equal vote as well as an equal chance to participate and succeed (page 78). This is hard to believe when America is still set up in class structure’s, if one is born in a middle class family, is there not more advantage to that child than to one born in poverty or a ghetto. Skin color has only just begun to fade in our civilization, and it took thousands of years for that to begin. Racism seems as prevalent today; it is just not as openly discussed or revealed. So again, just two examples of how Equality is in theory what Americans say they want, but in reality it is not apparent.
Next is Democracy, where Americans are said to believe that government officials should be accountable to the people (page 78). If this were true then the promises that are made during election time, would be accomplished after the person is elected. But that is not how it is, and it doesn’t seem that it is expected or we would have accountability. The way the system is set up it doesn’t even allow for the President to run the country the way he believes he can before getting in office. The reason it seems that there is not personal accountability is because people don’t require it of themselves. If they did, they would require it of another and it wouldn’t require laws, it would be a way of life.
Civic duty is also listed as one of the five elements of a political system and appears to be itself an infringement on Liberty, no wonder there is conflict. How can you have liberty and then tell someone what that Liberty should look like. This is like telling someone what religion they should be.
And last but not least is Individual Responsibility (page 78), which is said to be the American view that unless you are disabled, you are responsible for your own actions and well-being. Isn’t this Liberty, this is again another simplicity being dragged out to complexity. If there is Liberty then what need is there for Individual Responsibility, it is already stated within Liberty. If people really believed in Individual Responsibility, then they wouldn’t be concerned with others, they would only be concerned with themselves and in this there is no need to state the obvious. However, it is in the people to project not reflect, and until this slight of the mirror shifts, things will not change. It actually is not even about changing the person, it is seeing what the world appears in, that changes everything, naturally.
The reason that there is so much conflict is because Americans like complexity, they like to change everyone else, not be the change they wish to see. If everyone were to begin to face themselves, take responsibility for how they see the world, not how the world is, but how they see it, then political cultures and political systems would reflect that. Know yourself first. Then come from what is revealed.
This is how I would explain this apparent contradiction. People say that they want independence and then gather in herds to be provided for. No one is willing to stand on their own for individual Liberty, if they did they wouldn’t be considered “the masses.” Until such time that the masses stop and take a look at what they have been running to each other from (fear), there will be huge contradiction. Liberty comes from standing on one’s own, in spite of the masses. For those that have ears to Hear it, it will be Heard. To Thine own self be true. (Shakespearian Quote.)