Until our current presidency, I never really thought about politics. I knew when elections were, and I knew that my parents and friends and coworkers voted, but I never knew who they voted for. To be sure, this was partially due to my general apathy on the subject, but there is no question that it was also because at that time, political affiliation was a more private, less polarizing, relatively minor facet of somebody’s character. Now, it seems that whichever direction you lean politically inevitably provokes judgment from friends, relatives, and even strangers.
If you express a liberal point of view, you are immediately labeled a retarded communist fairy snowflake by more conservative peers. If you espouse any conservative biases, accusations that you are a retarded greedy heartless Nazi fascist are sure to follow.
Here’s the thing, I know a lot of liberals, and I know a lot of conservatives, but I don’t actually know any retarded communist fairy snowflakes, or any greedy heartless Nazi fascists. The people I know, on both sides of the political spectrum, are just that – people. People who are, for the most part, good, and kind, and generous, and so very intelligent. I miss the days when learning somebody’s political affiliation wasn’t an immediate call to battle, because we could all remember that we were not actually enemies.
We’re actually all teammates, working toward the common goals of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and yeah, sometimes we have different ideas on how to reach those goals, but as mature, responsible, fully-functioning adults we should always be able to extend a little empathy and compassion, and continue working together to achieve those shared goals, even if it requires a little bipartisan compromise.
So where did this disturbing level of vitriol and lack of mutual respect come from? The internet mostly. Never before have we been directly connected to so many other people. Never before have we been able to indulge so easily in masturbatory, self-congratulating echo-chambers of agreeing viewpoints, while drowning out any divergent opinions. Never before have we ever had immediate access to so much information, all conveniently collected, organized, and distilled into understandable chunks and placed right at our fingertips.
I mean, really, the entire breadth of human knowledge is at most one or two mouse clicks away, more information than we could possibly absorb even if we lived for a thousand thousand years, but what do we actually use the internet for? Porn mostly, and sharing political memes that are ALWAYS biased, and almost always promote information that is misinterpreted, incorrect, or outright lies. And I think, for the most part, we know it too, but we share anyway, because all of those likes and shares and affirmations we receive on our posts from like-minded individuals are addictive, and feeding that addiction is more important than fact-checking or engaging in a fair and honest dialogue.
So, what are we going to do about it? Since it is beyond my abilities to bookmark Snopes.com on the favorites tab of everybody’s web browser to help them determine if the preposterous meme factoids or viral stories they’re sharing are in any way true, and since I don’t have the resources to teach everybody even the basics of media-literacy, statistical analysis, or the rudiments of the scientific method (Correlation doesn’t equal Causation guys), I’m stuck with this – Let’s have that fair and honest dialogue. I need to believe that most of the fear and discomfort and disrespect currently simmering between liberals and conservatives is due to simple ignorance.
Conservatives don’t get liberals, not necessarily because they don’t agree with the liberal viewpoint, but because they literally don’t even know what that viewpoint is. The same goes for why Liberals don’t get Conservatives. So let’s try to change that. Let’s actually have a discourse, and explain our viewpoints. I have a sneaking suspicion we might find that we have more in common than we think.
I’ll go first. Warning, this is MY viewpoint, so you might very well disagree with it in whole or in parts. That’s OK. That’s fine, really! If you feel differently, I’d LOVE to hear why. That’s the whole point!
I am a white, heterosexual, upper-middle-class American male. I love this country, and consider myself a true patriot. I like crass jokes, red meat, fast cars, and big titties. I’ve lifted every truck I’ve ever owned. I like guns and hunting. I think the government are a bunch of corrupt incompetent fucks, and I prefer that they leave me alone. I approve of the death penalty. I want nothing more than to work hard, become rich and successful, and protect and support my family.
In a surprising twist worth of M. Night Shyamalan at his prime however, I am a liberal.
Let me explain. Since I am a real, complex human being, I do not agree with the entire liberal agenda. I also do not disagree with the entire conservative agenda. I am allowed to decide what is important to me, and to hold my own unique opinions, just like everybody else. Very few people I know fit neatly into either camp without overlap.
I am a white, heterosexual, upper-middle-class American male. I have A LOT to be thankful for. I receive almost universal respect, and am honestly treated quite well, both by fellow American citizens, and the system itself, based solely on my skin-color, sexual orientation, and financial security, all of which are circumstances of my birth completely outside of my control. I LIKE the way I am treated. I enjoy being respected. I like how the system works for me. BUT, I am aware that the way I am treated and the way the system works for me, does not work similarly for everyone. I believe that our country’s issues with racism and bigotry and small-mindedness are a SYSTEMIC problem, if not created by, then certainly perpetuated by the government, and are only able to be completely changed at the federal level. I am aware that non-white, non-straight, non-financially secure, and non-male American citizens do not have equal access to the same American dream that I do. I don’t think that is fair, I think that everyone deserves to receive the same advantages I have received my entire life.
Even if you have brown skin, or weird clothes, or a funny accent, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.
Even if you like mushing your genitals somewhere I would prefer not to mush my genitals, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.
Even if you worship different gods, or the same god differently, or no god at all, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as me.
Even if you happen to get sick, or lose your job, or fall on tough times, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness as me.
Even if your family looks different than my family, you are still entitled to the same Life, Liberty and Pursuit of happiness as me.
It is NOT the government’s role to enforce traditional values. It is the government’s role to protect everyone equally under the law.
That is why I am a liberal.
I am pro-choice. Based on my understanding of the science, I don’t think a fertilized egg is a person, nor should it be granted the same rights as a fully formed human being, and I don’t think life starts right at conception, but a little further down the pipeline, but that opinion shouldn’t even matter. I am pro-choice because I support the bodily autonomy of women. I am an organ donor. That means when I die, if I have any ripe juicy usable organs left in my squishy meat sack body, they can be harvested and used to save another person’s life. That is my choice. If I decided NOT to be an organ donor, upon death, even if my organs were perfect and could save 20 lives, they wouldn’t be touched. Because it’s my body, and my choice. Not being pro-choice on abortions, but accepting as a matter of common sense that a person can choose to not be an organ donor upon death to me means you are giving a DECAYING CORPSE more rights than a living, breathing, thinking, feeling, human woman regarding what can be allowed to stay in or taken out of her body.
That is why I am a liberal.
I’m no commie bastard. I like money. I like the free-market in so much as I like earning and spending money, and I don’t like anything that causes me to earn less money, or infringes upon my ability to spend said money once earned. BUT, I think that we need government regulation to protect us little folk from the greed of big businesses. I think businesses are very short-sighted, they do what they do to maximize short-term profits for their owners, and board, and stock-holders at the cost of the welfare of the environment, their employees, and their consumers. Businesses aren’t moral. Businesses aren’t kind. Businesses are unthinking, unfeeling systems designed to do one thing, and one thing only. Make money. I don’t think a federally mandated minimum wage that you can actually survive on, or higher taxes levied against the richest of the rich, who will feel the pain of those taxes the least, are unreasonable. I am not worried that since I am a “Have”, by helping the “Have Nots” I will be come a “Have less” or a “Have Not” myself. It’s not a closed system. We haven’t achieved peak Having. I truly believe I can still “Have” while everyone else “Haves” as well.
That is why I am a liberal.
I consider myself a patriot, not because I think this country is perfect, but because I love this country, but I admit that it is flawed, and I want to work on fixing those flaws. What is more patriotic? Being proud of your country no matter what? Or actively working to make your country something worth being proud of?
If you love your house, but the roof was leaking, what makes more sense? Telling people if they don’t like the roof leak they can leave, because your house is perfect and anybody who says otherwise is a traitor? Or admitting that the roof is leaking, and working hard to fix it, so your house can be the best damn house ever?
The United States has problems. Ignoring them won’t make them go away.
Our prison system is obscenely over-crowded, a huge amount of the inmates are doing time for non-violent drug crimes, and the rate of people of color incarcerated is disproportionately high. This is not because poor black men are more likely to do drugs. It is because poor black men are much more likely to be convicted for doing drugs, while a rich white boy named chad who’s father is a lawyer who plays golf with the judge on Sundays can do all the drugs he damn well pleases with no consequences except maybe spending a few weeks at a Malibu beach resort rehab center. Do you know what is happens prison? Free labor. So, slavery. If you think there wasn’t a conscious decision somewhere to convict as many black and brown men as possible of bullshit crimes to put them back to work as literal modern day slaves, you’re a more optimistic person than I am.
Our public education system is in shambles, and should be invested in. An intelligent, mature, well-adjusted, well-educated future work force is necessary to our continued survival and success. We shouldn’t cheap out to save a few tax dollars now, we need to invest in our nation’s future with well funded primary schools and affordable graduate programs. We can’t blame the youth of America of being dumb stupid idiots if we’re the ones who voted to defund their education.
Our environment and our natural resources are our greatest wealth. We should be focusing on ways to husband and protect and extend their long term value, not strip-mining and polluting and ruining everything for extra profits now at the expense of future generations. Why not invest in solar, wind, water and other renewable energy sources? Why not protect our wildlife, and keep our water clean? So what if we magically don’t run out of coal and oil and natural gas some day, and never need clean renewable energy? What is the down side to having invested money into making the world greener, cleaner, healthier, and happier?
Our healthcare is overpriced. Our health insurance is expensive, and is a for profit system. That’s fine. There is nothing wrong with making money. If people want to purchase health insurance, they should be able to purchase health insurance. BUT health insurance should be UNNECESSARY. Just like we pay taxes to the government to maintain usable roads and infrastructure, and to have a huge big dick swinging military that is better funded then the next 12 biggest militaries combined, we should also be able to pay a modest amount and receive top-notch, cutting edge, inexpensive nationalized healthcare. It’s not a hopeless pipe-dream. Other countries have nationalized healthcare, and some of their systems work. If we adopted a nationalized healthcare system, people could go to the doctor if they get sick or injured, and receive the care they need without going bankrupt, losing their house, starving their family, and annoying their friends with GoFundMe accounts. If other countries can figure this system out, we should be able to as well. Maybe we can use some of that crazy military money.
At the end of the day, I’m a liberal because I’m not afraid. I’m not afraid of people who are different than me. I’m not afraid that giving everybody the same advantages I’ve always had will in some way harm me. I imagine that conservatives likely view the liberal mindset as unrealistic or overly optimistic. I imagine they think trusting the government, corrupt and incompetent as it is, with any extra control beyond the bare minimum is a foolish idea.
My question is, can you really trust individual people instead? Can you trust individuals to act for the good of everyone? Or is it more likely that they’ll act in their own rational self interest to make sure that they and their families have what they need, and the rest of us, especially those of us who are different, can burn in hell?
That is why I am a liberal. What are you, and why?