I've been kicking this one around in my head for a long time now. The political climate in the United States - and really, the world - is starting to grate on my nerves.
On September 11, 2001, we all know what happened - preposterous and plausible paranoid conspiracy theories aside - so there's no need to go into any detail. September 12, 13, and 14, 2001 the country came together. Nobody was Republican or Democrat, nobody was liberal or conservative. Most Americans were stunned, sad, and angry and wanted justice. America showed resolve and unity, unity that had been destroyed by the sex scandal-laden late Clinton years and the first bitter and tumultuous Bush months. As hokey as it sounds, after the tragedy, it was wonderful to see all members of Congress put aside political differences and hold hands in prayer and song.
That unity is gone again. In a transformation that not many could have predicted in those first raw days after 9/11, the country is more divided than ever. Liberals - who by and large tend to be Democrats - are raving about Bush, about the Iraq War, "blood for oil!", and secret surveillance programs. Conservatives - who by and large tend to be Republican - are ranting about the liberals and calling them anti-America, ranting about extreme Muslims, and trying to stop homosexuals from getting married. Both sides are slinging mud at the other and there seems to be no end to it.
I reside in the middle, what you might call moderate, with a slight lean to the left. However I don't consider myself liberal, and I certainly don't consider myself conservative. My conservative friends have accused me of being too liberal and my liberal friends have accused me of being too conservative. I voted for Bob Dole, Al Gore, and John Kerry. Yeah, I know how to pick the winners, don't I? But I like it here. I like listening to and shaking my head at both sides. I like to come to each issue with an open mind and I have a mind that can be changed if you present me with a convincing and reasonable argument. There are very few issues that I will never change my stance on. There are some I will never come down hard on one side or the other. Some call that a lack of passion or conviction. I call it reason.
Yeah, it's getting pretty GTKY in here, I know, but this isn't really about myself. My reasons for not being firmly on either side I feel (I hope) a lot of you can relate to. I listen to a lot of talk radio, conservative and liberal, and watch a lot of news, and I've read a lot of politically slanted nodes here, and I'm going to bring up some points I have not seen yet, or at least not put as succinctly as I'd like to put them now. And - I realize this is highly unlikely - if I can show liberals and conservatives how ridiculous they can be, maybe I've done a tiny amount of good here.
Why I'm Not Conservative:
First of all, conservatism often conflicts with the few things I am passionate about, the things that put me leaning to the left. Conservatives tend to be for censorship and I am against unreasonable censorship. No, there is no place for fellatio on Sesame Street but the FCC fining a radio station hundreds of thousands of dollars for talking too much about sex or saying the word "asshole" is preposterous. Conservatism is essentially conserving things, keeping things the way they are, which logically is a philosophy that is against social progress, something I am all for. Say what you want about what issues concern conservatives today, right now, how just and reasonable their concerns may or may not be, but let's look at the past.
It was conservatives - particularly religious conservatives - who burned sixteenth century Italian monk Giordano Bruno at the stake - upside down and naked - for publicly suggesting that an infinite universe was filled with planets that harbor life. There were other such incidents in that time period. It is religious conservatives today who are against teaching evolution in schools and for teaching Creationism and its bastard cousin Intelligent Design - something an insult to science and religion. It was by and large conservatives who were against abolishing slavery in the United States in the 1800s. And to think...Abraham Lincoln - who signed the bill into law freeing them - was a Republican!
In the mid-20th century it was Conservatives who were doing what they could to keep blacks from voting. Seen the movie or read the book Mississippi Burning? It was conservatives who were all for segregation and in November 1960 tried to prevent six-year-old Ruby Bridges Hall from entering an all-white school in New Orleans, Louisiana. She had to be escorted through angry segregationist mobs just to get there. The list of indictments can go on and on. My main point is this: most Conservatives of this day and age look back on all that stuff today and realize how ridiculous it was. But are the Conservatives of today like those angry segregationist mobs in 1960 when they go out and protest gay marriage? Thirty or forty years from now - when hopefully people have long stopped trying to illegalize it - will they look back on the 1990's and early 2000's and realize how bigoted they were now? Will we look back in the history books of photos of angry mobs of conservatives protesting gay marriage outside courthouses the same way we look back on the photographs of angry, jeering mobs of angry white conservatives protesting Ruby's enrollment in the white school in 1960?
I'm going to go out on a limb here and answer "yes" to both of those questions. Yes of course there are positive things to being conservative, I realize that, yes, but I cannot and will not align myself politically with people, the majority of whom throughout history, always seem to be bigoted against something. And always embarrassed by it decades later.
I am hesitant to say that Conservatives are anti-environment. The scene in an episode of The Simpsons with a secret meeting of Republicans where the southern-talking character quips about how they got rid of the environment in Texas years ago is funny but surely hyperbolic. But Republican (who as we know are by and large Conservatives) policies seem to put environmental concerns at a lower priority than other things like, oh, let's say... oil drilling. And as long as it can keep people out of the unemployment line and paper in our printers they don't mind endangering an entire species of owl. Somebody who is more well-read on the whole issue would probably come up with over 200 more examples like this but my point is that I do put the environment at a high priority and am all for doing everything we can to conserve it if at all possible.
My wife, who actually is mostly conservative - more than I - is a biologist. She doesn't like the oil drilling in Alaska idea at all. Sure the oil drillers and Republicans might look at the proposed area and say "it's a barren frozen wasteland" but she understands that life is everywhere, and sometimes is very tiny, a good portion of it too small for us to see with the naked eye. For over ten years she's been looking for a repressor that turns off a certain gene that can allow an organism to thrive in an anaerobic environment - and her boss has been looking longer than that - and if she succeeds it could revolutionize the entire agricultural industry. She knows how the tiniest thing can affect the world on a grand scale. Why not drill in that place in Alaska that looks barren? For the reasons we cannot presently think of but have a huge potential to come back and bite us in the ass later.
Why I'm Not Liberal:
I may actually be liberal in the classic sense. If I had grown up during the 1960's I might have been one of those hippies protesting the Vietnam War and living in a commune. But I don't want the label of "liberal" today for several reasons. The #1 reason is the hypocrisy I see on the Left these days.
For those of you reading this who do not belong to E2 we use a "catbox" to chat with one another. A good majority of this place is liberal which is not surprising given that most creators are artists tend to be liberal (another reason I lean to the left) because the very nature of a creative person is to be progressive - to put something there that wasn't there before. The issue of free speech is a very passionate one amongst the creative community. Most, like me, don't like unreasonable censorship (or sometimes censorship period). However, if you ever say anything that sounds remotely conservative in the catbox they jump down your throat! It's as if liberals cherish free speech unless you're saying something they don't agree with. Yes, OK, sure, they have the freedom to retort to anything they don't agree with, but the objections are often very vociferous as if they had a magic button that would shut up the conservative-talking person for good they'd use it.
Now don't get me wrong. I'm not saying that there's no hypocrisy on the Right, it's just that this is one of the main reasons I don't want to be identified as "liberal" in the strictest sense of what the word means today. The above example is just a microcosm of this hypocrisy that I don't care for. In general, liberals are always fighting for the right to say and do what they want as long as they aren't hurting anybody, yet their bowels are in an uproar whenever they hear a conservative pontificate about the benefits of whatever war the United States is currently fighting or complain about homosexuals or whatever other subject they're taking issue with on any given day. For example, a good majority of conservatives have some kind of issue with the gay community.
Michael Savage is a venom-filled ultra-conservative radio talk show host and he is always bitching and whining about something. He's been known to complain about gays which causes groups of liberal protesters to picket at his station. He had a television show at one point. You might have missed it because it didn't exist for very long. On the air a liberal caller (who may not have actually been a homosexual) pushed Savage's buttons and goaded him into calling the caller a "sodomite" during an angry tirade. He was promptly fired and his show cancelled. Granted, the word is offensive to anybody gay or anybody straight who supports the gay community, like me. However, he had every right to say it, to express his true feelings. Sometimes saying such things is regarded by the left to be hate speech. No, hate speech, speech that is dangerous and illegal, would be something like "KILL ALL THE FAGS!" or anything advocating any kind of violence towards somebody. Getting a talk show host fired for saying something offensive but not necessarily dangerous sounds exactly like the kind of censorship that liberals like sexually-explicit talk show host Howard Stern are always fighting against. Why is it that liberals can be so passionate about standing up for the rights of the painter or sculpturist who puts something in a gallery that's extremely sexually explicit or is in some similar way an affront to what conservatives consider "family values" but they're all up in arms when a conservative says something derogatory about any kind of minority? Why should liberals get to say what they please but often convict somebody who says something counter to their beliefs a "hatemongerer?" It's the same thing! Can't they see that Michael Savage and Howard Stern are basically the same guy but just at opposite ends of the political spectrum?? They're two sides of the same coin! Both are shock jocks, it's that simple. And both have the right to express themselves however they please as long as what they do or say doesn't directly lead to anybody coming to any kind of harm.
It has been suggested to me that I need a more substantial subject that I disagree with liberals on. One of the major issues I disagree with liberals on is the death penalty. Yes, I am all for capital punishment if it is warranted. Cold-blooded murderers should die for their crimes and I'll never waiver on that stance. Some would say that with the advent of DNA testing technology and the fact that a lot of prisoners (some on death row) have been freed because DNA evidence has cleared them is a good reason to do away with the death penalty. I think the opposite. Now we can be more sure than ever with better forensics that the killers did indeed do the crime. Now that we can more conclusively prove a person's guilt in those horrible crimes with DNA evidence in conjunction with other kinds of evidence (like, for instance, video evidence). But there should be less appeals and it should be done quicker otherwise it's not a very good deterent.
Why I'm not either
To put it simply, excepting people like me who like to reside in the middle and just lean a little to one side or the other, both sides are absolutely convinced that they are right and the other side is wrong. Does this sound familiar? In the writeup reality-based community haze makes a lot of good points and arguments about how bloggers, particularly liberal bloggers, are forming an online community based in reality and being a counter to major news outlets (for example Fox News which is often portrayed by the Left as being extremely conservatively biased). The writeup unfortunately derails, though, twice. The first time is when the tired old "the Iraq War is all about oil" argument is dragged out. Come on. Haven't we heard that enough? That's an example of a major bone of contention between the far left and far right. The far left is convinced it's all about oil and George W. Bush only cares about oil and Big Oil is his butt-buddy and the far right decries "no, it's not about oil at all, Saddam is/was a threat!" The fact is, oil was certainly a factor, maybe sweetened the deal, but taking Iraq out and transforming it into a Democratic country was mostly about strategy. I personally wasn't afraid of Saddam Hussein . Invading Iraq was easy; they weren't much of a threat, it fell like a house of cards. They were the weakest link, the easiest Middle East country to take over. Of course, restoring order is another story. My point is both sides are wrong in some ways and both sides are right in some ways. haze’s writeup also derails at the very end when he declares that in his opinion the War on Terror is all about oppression. Oh those poor murderous psycho suicide bombers who'd like to blow your children up and cut your head off, we need to stop oppressing them. Please!!
I may have missed haze's point completely. Maybe he wasn't talking about terrorists. Maybe the claim was that the United States is attempting to oppress Arabs or Muslims the world over - a claim almost as ridiculous anyway. But far too many people would read that and think exactly the same thing I thought. It was a great writeup without those two controversial opinions that put haze on the far, far left. And it also contradicted one of the main claims of the writeup that the liberals are more in pursuit of the truth whereas the conservatives tout ideals. And there are a lot of good arguments to that point, but let's not forget that a conservative could just as easily turn that completely around and say it's the liberals who are wallowing in ideals and living in a fantasy world. "What? A world with no war? Make love not war? If that isn't idealism, I don't know what is!" The writeup tries to tell you that it's the liberals that are right and the conservatives who are wrong and liberals are more educated and that's why most college professors are liberal and that's that. Hmmmm. I don't know. Are there any educated, intelligent conservatives out there? Are they just a bunch of dumb hicks?
I don't mean to pick on that writeup too much. I did generally like it and I did upvote, but it was too perfect of an example to pass up to further the point I'm trying to make about how each side convinced they are right and the other is wrong. Rush Limbaugh is a perfect example on the other side of the coin. According to his talk shows and books he knows how things ought to be! This bloviating blowhard thinks he knows everything! And even though he doesn't, he is actually pretty intelligent and well-spoken and if you listen to him long enough he might actually convince you that he does have all the answers. And he is so arrogant that he will sit there and flat out tell you that he's always right and you must be an idiot to think otherwise. Rush sure was wrong when he thought he understood drug users, wasn't he? "I know every expert in the world will disagree with me, but I don't buy into the disease part of drug abuse. The first time you reach for a substance you are making a choice. Every time you go back, you're making a personal choice. I feel very strongly about that." he'd said. I bet he has a different opinion about that now. In October of 2003 he admitted being addicted to prescription pain medication: OxyContin and hydrocodone. And he was just busted recently for having Viagra not prescribed to him (well, he may not have been addicted to it, but maybe his wife was). This certainly proves that Mr. Limbaugh doesn't know everything doesn’t it?
I know that part of that whole attitude, the same attitude shared by many conservative talk show hosts and some liberal ones, is for ratings. But how could they be so convincing if they didn't believe it themselves, at least most of it? Sure having all the answers and being rude to and hanging up on callers that have views counter to their core audience keeps their radio shows knee deep in sponsors but the droves of callers who ring in to agree aren't concerned with that. It proves that there are people out there just like them who have no respect whatsoever for the other side and the sign in front of the window to their brains is perpetually flipped to the "CLOSED" side.
Bill O'Reilly - as he claims to be a moderate - would be one of my favorite commentators. He's the only one that I know of that doesn't claim to be liberal or conservative. Too bad he's such an ass sometimes.
Wake up people. The "Us" and "Them" attitude has got to stop or humanity cannot move forward. You've got to keep your minds open and (I know how cliché it sounds) keep reminding yourselves that we're all in this together. This attitude is detrimental in politics, in religion (definitely in religion!!), and every other aspect of life. There are probably aliens from an advanced civilization hovering over us right now in orbit laughing at us. Or shaking their heads at us and saying to one another "Sheesh, remember when we were like that, Zogdor?"
You don't know shit, and neither do I, and neither does that person over there, or that person over there. Rush Limbaugh is clueless and so is Al Franken. But keep looking for the truth. You may never find it, but the longer you look, the closer you'll get so never stop looking. Maybe the journey is the point.
I will probably never find the truth either, like Fox Mulder, but I'm certainly not going to look for it on the conservative side or the liberal side. I believe that if I ever do, the middle is where I'm going to find it.