Thursday, August 31, 2017

Conservative or Liberal: You Don't Need to Be One or the Other


My beliefs and politics usually lean heavily towards the left. If I was told that I had to choose between labelling myself conservative or liberal, then liberal it would be. The problem that I have with outright calling myself liberal on the Internet in 2017, is there is a significant portion of people who would then make assumptions about my beliefs or demand that I hold to certain ideas and values. There is a misguided belief that conservatives have to believe one exact way and liberals have to believe another exact way. Both sides see politics and social issues as things that are black and white (in more ways than one). But they aren't. If anything, I would say my "liberalism" comes from my belief that life and politics and social issues are largely shades of grey and there are very few universal truths. 

My time on the Internet has made it clear that many people are very uncomfortable with accepting shades of grey and many want to declare that there is one almighty correct answer for every issue and question in life. It is why often when someone makes the mistake of trying to debate on the Internet that it almost always devolves into somebody pulling out an unrelated incident and using it as evidence that the other person is wrong -- like if a person dares to think cops are right in defending themselves in one specific incident then they must be okay with the time they shot an unarmed man or if you speak out against police brutality then it means you must be sympathetic to every non-white criminal of the past decade. In both cases, that is absurd and ridiculous and false.

Being liberal means I promote progress and diversity, but it doesn't mean I am ashamed of every aspect of my country's past.

I may be liberal, but I did not vote for either the provincial or federal Liberal parties that are in power.

I think black lives matter and there is proof of institutionalized racism, but I do not support everything about Black Lives Matters.

I despise Nazis and the modern rise of white supremacy, but I also disprove many actions by Antifa too.

I think Donald Trump is xenophobic, racist, misogynistic, petty, and unfit to be president, but also do not think his every decision has moved us to the apocalypse.

Hearing people say the word "fake news" drives me crazy, because I think it is a harmful stance that undermines free press. I also think there is both good and bad reporting from liberal and conservative media, and it is important to fact check all news you agree and disagree with.

Political podcasts are a million dollar business, but all have become pandering to politics of their listeners. It is exhausting to hear the verbal gymnastics taken to defend the very hateful and racist alt-right (aka Nazis and white supremacists) but it is just as tiresome to listen to shows that label someone alt-right the moment they are pro-Republican or Conservative policy.

There is a middle ground. Or even, someone has the right to agree sometimes with conservative beliefs but also champion for progress and diversity. The most unfortunate thing to be sprouted out from social media and the most recent American election, is the myth that believing in progress and diversity means you then have to believe in every far left group that has been birthed. On the other end, many wrongfully deride all who vote Republican and Conservative as being opposed to diversity and progress.

We have entered into a phase where some people can be over sensitive. I've often seen people Twitter who are quick to sharpen the pitch forks and scream racism or sexism the moment the right breathes. Not every piece of art or joke or comment was designed to be dissected with the lens of gender or race. Not everything has an agenda or is meant to be an attack. But I also will confess that I am a heterosexual white male, and despite my regular battles with depression and anxiety will concede being those things allows for an easier life than many. One thing 2017 has been pretty clear about and spending 10 minutes on the Internet will prove, sexism and racism is still strong and there is a backlash against progress. Things need to change, even if those pushing for that change could use a sense humour and some more open mindedness too.

My point is that it is complicated. We have pressed a little too hard on the politically correct button, but we also need progress even more. The problem is there are too many people obsessed with being right rather than being willing to understand the other side. It has turned into yelling and frothing and punching rather than trying to figure out why there is this gigantic rift between those who consider themselves conservative and those that consider themselves liberal. To the point that I now consider both pretty irritating and those words to be damaged.

It is why 2017 is the year where writing about politics on here scares me. I largely just ignore Facebook, because 99.9% of what is posted on there causes me to go into fits. It is the first time in my adulthood where I have started to think that as a society we are actively regressing, and there are moments that I am terrified what kind of world I am leaving my children. 

Of course, then I decide to stop thinking about the world as strictly political and take some time to play dress up with my beautiful son and daughter, and I actually get filled with hope and joy and love again. They don't see the world as liberal or conservative, and they don't have a stance on Donald Trump. Yet they somehow have found a way to love and embrace life.

I'm not preaching ignorance here. I do think it is important to be aware of the world. But I think, it is also important to realize this world is complicated and messy and beautiful and exciting and scary and most definitely, hard to define and categorize. The people that live in it are also all those things, and it is okay to not be one or the other. It is okay to not always be right or to at least, confess you don't know about a few things here or there. We are more than how we vote or worship or joke or watch or paint or eat or skip or believe. 

People don't like messy or complicated. This is why we seem to be in a state where you're either liberal or conservative. Republican or Democrat. At least in Canada, we have more than two major parties, even if usually only Liberal or Conservative get voted in (but we have the illusion of more choice). 

You spend 10 minutes on Twitter, and you are to believe you are either politically correct or politically incorrect; pro-choice or pro-life; atheist or religious; think the police are heroes or abusers of power; feminist or misogynist; capitalist or socialist; cat or dog. Guess what. It isn't true. It has never been true. If we can just take five minutes to realize the purpose of debate isn't to be right, but rather to explore different ideas, then maybe we can accept that there isn't just two sides but rather a bountiful field of beliefs and ideas and values. When you start to listen then you start to realize that two people can both believe a women has a right to choose what to do with their body but still think about the issue in very different and complicated ways.

In anything that matters or has real value, you cannot describe your position with one word or label. I realize that makes things a bit more difficult and what it means is that person who disagrees with you or even that person who you think agrees with you, you are going to need to actually talk to them. You have to listen to them. In the end, you probably will not agree with them, because we as human are stubborn and insecure. Maybe, just maybe, you will start seeing them as something far more than just a word and label.

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