Commentary

The Politics of Romance

There is a parallel to be drawn between Valentine’s Day and the 2008 presidential election, a paradox that encompasses matters both passionate and presidential. Are we romantics? Do we give ourselves to red construction paper poetry and Disney’s notion of love? Or are we realists, skeptical of fairy tale endings and acutely aware of the truth? In both romance and politics, do we settle for the best option right now or hold out for the best choice altogether? The 2008 election will be a clear-cut battle between the two groups that have silently clashed throughout history. Not the Republicans and the Democrats, the conservatives and the liberals; these groups are contrived, intentional, and beneath it all they stand for the same philosophies, merely with different slogan causes. The true war wages between the involuntary ideologies which are instilled in us from the beginning, planted in our minds by Snow White or the Discovery Channel, by the Velveteen Rabbit or the Little Prince. Think about your childhood…the fairy tales you read and how they assured you happy endings forever after. Or think about your parents’ or your friends’ parents’ divorce, how early on you saw the underbelly of marriage and marked it as the reality of love. The books we read, the movies we watch and the experiences we live through swiftly guide us into a certain mind set. We are the believers or the disillusioned. From the start, we subconsciously decide which we will pledge: the faith of idealists, romantics, and dreamers or the science of realists, skeptics, numbers and figures. Yesterday, on Valentine’s Day, we saw the lines drawn more clearly than usual. We saw the romantics, snuggled up with hands stuck together by glitter glue, or alone but hopeful, with a chocolate box of aphrodisiacs and an armful of Kate Hudson films. And we saw the skeptics, rolling their eyes and declaring Hallmark holiday status. We will see these groups defined again when the political parties decide their candidates, when ballots will be cast in the name of idealism (Ron Paul, Barack Obama) or realism (John McCain, Hillary Clinton). The dreamers will vote for candidates like Obama and Paul. These men stand for the reforms that cry to be made but are ignored by those weary of upset and change. They stand for the ideals of progress, liberty and above all: hope. But there are serious concerns of practicality, and the other candidates are more than willing to provide these romantics with a bitter reality check. Clinton and McCain pride themselves on their experience, wisdom and strength. They stand for the tried and true structure of rationality. Perhaps these are the aspiring presidents we should pledge our allegiance to. Perhaps these are the candidates who have the clear minds to actually make some of the changes we are vying for, rather than overloading us with the magic of charisma reminiscent of Prince Charming and the seduction of possibility simplified to a three-word phrase: happily ever after. Whichever candidate you choose to support, for whatever reasons attract you, there is an x-factor in your decision making that gives you a bit of insight into your own mind. Are you the romantic, believing in lofty dreams and holding out for the best? Or are you the skeptic, trusting only those who have proven themselves? Returning to the present, Valentine’s Day, are your glasses rose-tinted or hyper-magnifying? If we can acknowledge our pre-determined outlook on romance, we can also see into the more political side of our minds. Me? I’m an idealist, a Ron Paul supporter, a somewhat hopeless romantic. I would rather be alone than with the second best. I would rather vote for the inelectable than support a cause I don’t whole-heartedly believe in. In admitting this, I can see that my stubborn idealism may not be a wise or effective path… it’s certainly not rational or level-headed. Maybe the dreamers are just too inexperienced, in both politics and love. There are the Hillary Clinton and John McCain fans, the realists, sensible and skeptical. This Valentine’s Day, they settled for the second best if it means feeling less incomplete. They would rather have voted for experience than vision. Perhaps this isn’t the way to go about politics and romance either…Maybe these are just the idealists who were scorned by their dreams, returned to reality. The questions remain: How will the Barack Obamas of the world prove themselves tried and true if they never have the chance to try? How will the Ron Pauls show how real their dreams can be if they don’t have the power to make real change? How will the Hillary Clintons achieve great things if they will settle for the safety of mediocrity? How will the John McCains move forward if they rely on the past? This Valentine’s Day we wonder: Will we be alone forever if we hold out for “the one?” Will we be stuck without strong leadership if we vote only for that which we truly believe in? It seems that in this world spun by skeptics, the odds are against the dreamers. But in the end, who’s been fooled: the ones who tenaciously held their ideals above all else, or those who compromised theirs for the sake of convenience? It seems that in this game, we are all the Joker of hearts. We all play the fool –the idealists, fooled into submission by the illusion of a cold reality; the realists, fooled by skepticism on the path to progress. Our visions cannot become reality in a world that will not dare to dream. So this Valentine’s Day, here’s a toast to those “in love.” Congratulations on finding the balance between dreams and reality. You’ve accomplished something our nation has still yet to achieve.