As a nation, as America, we should value practicality more. There are times when people allow their personal feelings to shroud the practicality of their actions and politics, because they refuse to acknowledge that where they’re coming from is, in fact, a personal place that not everyone shares, and this is a detriment to societal health. That isn’t to say to have personal feelings or differences are without value; sometimes they are essential to our survival. For Example, in A List of Cages*, most high schoolers find their age group too old to enjoy certain literature, in contrast to Julian’s love for Elian Mariner books, which allows him to escape from his constant psychological unrest. For Julian to read Elian Mariner books out of this interest is not a shameful shrouding of practicality, but Kristin’s vandalization of his property, fueled by dislike for Elian Mariner books and those who read them, is, as it damages Julian’s health unnecessarily, thereby damaging societal health.
In essence, impracticality is defined by whether or not the action can be applied on a large scale, and what level of hypocrisy is involved. If Kristin would find herself upset by vandalization of her property with a measly reason of “I don’t like that you read certain books,” then it is impractical for her to apply that reason to another person, or to expect this reasoning to be applied on a large scale. Julian is not intending to express a stance on what literature people should and shouldn’t read, but his actions convey that he believes people should be allowed to read Elian Mariner books, which is a practical stance because it can be enforced on a large scale, and no injustice via hypocrisy is felt.
In addition to Kristin, there are other such people who apply personal concepts on too large of a scale. David Sedaris, for example, says in “A Modest Proposal”, “I wanted gay people [in America] to get the right to marry, and then I wanted none of us to act on it. I wanted it to be ours to spit on. Instead, much to my disappointment, we seem to be all over it.” Here, he actually expresses the want for this to be applied on a large scale, even though it’s impractical to do so. He also goes against his own principle in the matter when he decides to get engaged to Hugh Hamrick, after learning about how married couples save money when inheriting property. Even after changing his personal actions in regards to not getting married, there is no indication of a change in his general opinion. To elaborate on why his principle of gay people not getting married is impractical, by the way, it is because during the AIDs crisis in America, many widowers found themselves homeless, and unable to manage or attend their partners’ funerals, because they had no legal bindings to their partners, and therefore were not allowed to partake in the legal matters of their death. It would not be practical to assume all people who went through those experiences would be on board with Sedaris’s idea of refusal to get legal recognition of marriage, for the sake of a political statement that he personally values.
Another person to consider is Donald Trump, as a person with a leading position in American politics. It is safe to say that what is expected of this sort of person is practicality, i.e., the consideration of American values across the board, so that he may make informed decisions on what the optimal courses of action are. “Transformation of The American Dream” highlights two different American values, one focused on ideals, and one focused on material wealth; and Donald Trump’s relation to those values. Trump personally values business (and therefore material wealth), and he allows that personal value to dominate his politics to the point of disregard for other potential values. Shiller provides these quotes from a speech Trump gave in January, “The American Dream is back…We are going to create an environment for small business like we haven’t seen in many many decades.” This speech exemplifies Trump’s personal prioritizing of business, as he is a business owner, to the point of calling it an American Dream that he hopes all Americans can relate to. However, it is impractical to assume the differences among Americans will not interfere with this. Not everyone wants or can be an entrepreneur, some people would rather be employed by those entrepreneurs instead of pursuing their own business, and entrepreneurs need those people to benefit from that preference. To sum it up, Trump is being impractical when he expresses that business success is “The American Dream.”
It is important to discuss how personal feelings and values can impact practicality, because we must ensure that the ideas that do end up being enforced in our country are practical, and we as Americans must balance our actions’ motivations of personal feelings and practicality in order to do so.
*Note: A List of Cages is fictional. I thought it served as an important example to help clarify my use of the word practical in this essay, as it was easier to understand what the characters’ motivations were, unlike in reality, wherein other people’s thoughts can often be shrouded in mystery.
Roe, Robin. A List of Cages. 1st ed., Hyperion, 2017, pp. 8-9.
Roe, Robin. A List of Cages. 1st ed., Hyperion, 2017, pp. 18.
Sedaris, David. “A Modest Proposal.” The New Yorker, September 28, 2015, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2015/09/28/a-modest-proposal
Shiller, Robert. “The Transformation of The American Dream.” The New York Times, August 4, 2017, https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/04/upshot/the-transformation-of-the-american-dream.html
Laug, Naph. “Use Your Words Not Your Mouth Naph! & Other Concerns in Practical Lighting.” August 24, 2013, https://picturethismyway.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/use-your-words-not-your-mouth-naph-other-concerns-in-practical-lighting/Tags: okemos high school
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