We hear the phrase all the time: “In a perfect world …”
Most of the time, it is intended as a disclaimer, with a pinch of pessimism added. When we say “Of course, in a perfect world … ” it is really an admission that the world as it currently stands is far from perfect.
So why even say it, especially when virtually everyone’s view of a “perfect world” will be different? Perhaps because if we never imagine a perfect world, we will have nothing to work toward. Moreover, comparing these dreams of the future will give us some idea of what we need to resolve as a society.
As I write this, the presidential election is still dragging on. No matter how it turns out, however, my idea of a perfect world will remain unchanged. Here it is, for what it’s worth.
The terms “liberal” and “conservative” would be retired. Based on my personal experience, most Americans fall somewhere in between. The terms really mean nothing — or, rather, they mean whatever you want them to mean — and by encouraging us to choose sides, they make it more and more difficult to resolve any of our differences. On the governmental level, they encourage laundry lists of issues, as in “If you believe this, then you must naturally believe that, because you are a liberal/conservative.”
Removing these terms would force our politicians to actually discuss their philosophies and plans for governing, rather than hiding behind a “blue” or “red” shield.
Political campaigning would become less strident and more constructive. If I ran a TV station (highly unlikely, perfect world or not), I would allow free ad spots for viable candidates in every national, state and local election. The only requirement would be that these candidates could say nothing about their opponents, focusing on about their own platform.
We would grow more viable political parties. Right now, a lot of Republicans are uncomfortable with some of the core beliefs of their party leaders; Democrats, the same. Giving a few more parties a legitimate seat at the table would not only allow everyone to find a philosophical home, but it would help to break up our current political gridlock once these new parties began electing their representatives to state legislatures and Congress. Compromises would need to be made, like it or not.
Ranked choice would become a universal feature of our ballots, along with “none of the above.” We would have term limits across the board, including for Supreme Court justices. Politicians always talk about this. but in the end they seem to see it as a threat. This is not a cure-all, but it might help to remove the corrupting influence of money in government.
Violence in the name of politics or philosophy would not be tolerated. Because this is a democracy that encourages free speech, there is no law against being a white supremacist, or an anti-Semite, or a black nationalist, or a Communist. Nor should there be. But in this perfect world, violence would be looked at apart from whatever it is that provokes it and treated for what it is — a crime. In this sense, looting and burning on ‘behalf” of George Floyd would be as intolerable as bullying behavior inspired by right wing zealots.
The representatives of law enforcement would actually “serve and protect.” Efforts would be made to break down the “us versus them” mentality so endemic in police departments today, as well as encourage respect for law among the citizenry.
As a society, we would realize that many of the disagreements that tarnish our civic interactions are only a mirage. Immigrants do not, as a general rule, “take away the jobs” of any American who already has them; instead, they fill employment vacuums. There is no logical reason to hate or fear someone because of their skin color — those impulses are lodged in our turbulent history, and in a perfect world we will have moved on from that. If we don’t strive for equality on all levels, our stated goal as a nation is a lie.
We would stop taking the “inner city” for granted. Instead of simply writing off those who grow up in what are often deplorable conditions, every governmental effort should be made to improve housing and educational opportunities in the poorer sections of every city.
The average citizen would become more engaged. At this point, too many of us depend upon politicians and the media to tell us not only what we should believe, but what issues should concern us.
Moreover, the laws and regulations that most affect us are not directly conceived handed down by our president — or even Congress — but by anonymous bureaucrats who are lodged further down in the system. If enough of us complain to our representatives about regulations we consider unfair, at least there’s a chance that something will be done about it. If we simply complain among ourselves, there is no chance.
The Electoral College would be a relic of history. For two reasons in nothing else: First, if you’re a “blue” voter in a “red” state, or vice versa, you might as well not even bother voting in a presidential election; second, what difference should it make where you live?
And, yeah, in a perfect world everyone would be happy and safe and well fed and we would all get along. I’m not holding my breath there.
Darrell Laurant is a veteran journalist who previously worked at the News & Advance (Lynchburg). He published over 7,000 pieces in three decades. Darrell has covered papal visits, the Olympics, American sports, and political issues in Virginia. He has also written a variety of books, including "Inspiration Street: Two City Blocks that Helped Change America."