Monday, January 01, 2007

What I'm Optimistic About

I found an interesting feature over at where a number of scholars, scientists, etc. were asked what they are optimistic about and why. There’s some neat ideas expressed there, and I recommend you check it out here.

While reading the various entries, I started thinking of what I’m optimistic about. The following is my humble response to the same question:

In the last couple of years, I’ve found myself becoming more and more pessimistic about the direction this nation has taken. We’ve had Iraq, a subtle, continuing loss of civil rights, rising national debt, the growing influence of the Religious Right in the government, polarization of America, and so on. However, I have hope that things have finally gotten bad enough to jolt Americans out of their complacency.

With the voter apathy in this country it has been easy for the well-organized Religious Right (and that voter organization was partially achieved through illegal methods) to push their agenda in the federal and state governments. However, Karl Rove’s vaunted vote-getting machine failed in the 2006 elections. Enough Americans finally decided to do something and took Congress away from the Republicans.

Now, Congress will no longer operate as a rubber stamp for President Bush’s policies. It’s fair to hope he won’t get anything significant done in his last two years. He will actually have to interact and compromise with Congress, and not simply let Republican sycophants do his bidding. Perhaps now Bush will come out of the dream world of magic he’s been living in and face reality.

Furthermore, I’m optimistic that 2004 was the high tide of the Religious Right’s power. Despite their obvious failure this last November, other, more subtle signs have appeared. The legal death of Intelligent Design in September 2005 after the Kitzmiller v. Dover School Board ruling meant that creationists had to go back to the drawing board. Now they’re not even offering an alternative. Instead they’re trying to “teach the controversy” that doesn’t exist. It’s only a matter of time until Intelligent Design is just a bad memory. Unfortunately, the Creationist organization Answers in Genesis will open their new Creation Museum outside Cincinnati that supports the young-Earth theory. I'm optimistic it will face nothing but declining visitor numbers until it has to shut down due to lack of funding.

The Religious Right embarrassed itself this past year. Ted Haggard, mega-church pastor and president of the National Association of Evangelicals, turned out to be gay and a drug-user. Another mega-church pastor in Denver admitted to being gay shortly afterwards. Pat Robertson continued to show that he is an intolerant moron with no grasp on reality (he leg-pressed a ton you know. Too bad he didn't even come close to using the right technique).

Finally, people have begun to stand up and do what they can to oppose the Religious Right. Internet groups focused on the subject have grown enormously in just the last year, increasing awareness. The media (except Fox News, of course) and the publishing world have increasingly brought the Religious Right’s unconstitutional and intolerant activities to light. Bush looks increasingly single-minded and foolish, especially when it comes to Iraq and his refusal to accept that he cannot win. American Democracy is beginning to work the way it’s supposed to, because the American people have become concerned and started to participate.

In conclusion, I’m optimistic that America has come back from the brink of becoming a theocracy. Of course, we must remain vigilant and continue to participate. This is a battle that will never go away. However, the future is what we make it, and I think we can make this country the nation we dream of if we simply continue to resist the forces of intolerance and ignorance and do what we can to make this world a better place.

On a related note, PZ Meyers at Pharyngula shared his New Year's Dream with us, and I can say I agree exactly.

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