Thursday, November 11, 2004

The political spectrum

First off, a pat on the back for moi - a short time after I wrote my last post, Arafat finally kicked the bucket. If it turns out that my worldview is wrong, and there is a "hell", then that's where the murdering bastard is right now, along with all the homicide bombers he inspired.

Now, back to the regularly scheduled feature.

I was thinking about this on my way to the office today. What's the basic difference between people who identify as "liberal" and people who identify as "conservative"? Why do conservatives so thoroughly dominate political discourse in this country, and why, despite that, are they convinced that there's a "left-wing media bias"? As best as I can tell, and without inflaming things further, it's this:

The basic conservative viewpoint is to see the world as a binary place. A position is either right or wrong. Other people are either with you or against you. Religion, with it's "we're the chosen ones" view, is a strong influence.

Liberalism, on the other hand, is inherently less absolute. Nuance is important. The opinion of others is generally considered, even if it doesn't change your final opinion. And liberals are generally accepting and tolerant of those that are different.

Are there doctrinaire, PC liberals? Of course. And there are thoughtful conservatives, too. I'm talking about the basics here, not everyone.

And that helps define me. I personally have a large number of views that are actually quite conservative. I think it's far too easy to get a divorce, for instance. I personally oppose abortion - I think it's a horrible thing. I would have been quite happy to see Afghanistan reduced to a parking lot after 9/11 - screw what the rest of the world thought about that.

But despite that, my worldview is overall a liberal one. Just because I think divorce is too easy and I take marriage seriously, doesn't mean I shun people who've been divorced. And I support gay marriage for the same reason - if a couple wants to take the act of marriage (and I mean civil marriage - religious marriage is between a couple and their church) seriously and get hitched, I'm all in favor of it. I think stable pair-bonds are good for society. And though I am appalled by abortion, I absolutely support the right of others to make a choice that I think is a poor one. I also know that Saddam had nothing at all to do with the attacks on the US, and should never have been taken down. I'm all in favor of cooperation between nations whenever possible, but I also know we have to take our national self-interest first.

My world is filled with subtle hues and shades of gray. Shadows blend gradually with light. Right morphs slowly into wrong. There are few absolutes, short of "don't harm others unless they try to harm you first", and "try to leave the world a better place than you found it".

And the fact that I can see the world this way means two things. One, it means that I'm smarter than the vast majority of the people in this nation. And two, it means that I'm a distinct minority in a chest-thumping, Bible-quoting, black & white, Republican-led nation.

And we're a lot poorer as a nation for it.

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