Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Honesty Of Intention

It may not really matter to you, but I want to say that I have always been someone whom others have been perfectly comfortable projecting their own ideologies on to, their own belief systems. So-called Conservatives have considered me to be either ‘one of them’, or ‘one of those liberals’, depending on what they’ve needed me to be to validate their own position.

And So-called Liberals have done the same, only in reverse on the issues. Truth is, I am neither of those. It’s not good to view people in those terms. I sometimes do, but I try not to. Like you, sometimes I get caught up in the anger, or the immediacy, of an issue, but I don’t subscribe to anybody else’s idea of what’s right, and what’s wrong. I know what’s right, and I know what’s wrong. And so do you. I don’t need an ideology to instruct me. Just because life is not black and white does not mean that right and wrong straddles the middle of the gray scale. It usually resides closer to one end of the spectrum or the other. It always leaves room for us to rationalize our position, however. And we do. Actually, we seem to take full advantage of the opportunities. Adherents of political ideology like to dress every issue in the rightness, or wrongness of it. But not only do I not view political issues as right or wrong, I don’t even subscribe to the idea that a point of view is either liberal or conservative. It all depends on what you match the perspective up against.

For example, take the issue of gun ownership, one of the most hot-button issues in our culture today. Most people line up pretty strongly on one side or the other. And I do too. But, for me it is not a matter of conservative vs. liberal. And it is not a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of pragmatism vs. idealism, and each has validity to the holder of the perspective. The sides are even interchangeable. But to paint them with a conservative vs. liberal brush is just wrong.
Here’s what I mean.

If I live in a community of gun owners, who could, because of that action alone, be widely considered to be conservatives, and I happen to not own a gun, (perceived as a liberal point of view), doesn’t my not owning a gun actually make me a conservative to the liberal ownership of guns? And on the other hand, if I live in a community that strongly frowns on the ownership of guns, (perceived as a liberal point of view), and yet I happen to own a gun, doesn’t that make me liberal to the conservative community standard of not owning one?
Do you see what I mean?

I believe that one’s actual socio/political leanings can only be determined by one’s willingness to honestly consider the merits of the other side, and to embrace those positions which are authentic, and more importantly, which make sense. Notice I did not say “embrace those positions which FEEL authentic, but which ARE authentic.” Rather than aligning with an ideology, one must align themselves with reason, even though reason may contradict one’s own preconceptions, or those of one’s friends. However, you must already know that when one can effectively do that it will leave those who are left embracing a particular ideology very uncomfortable. When it comes right down to it, the refusal to be labeled effectively eliminates division within one’s self because, in truth, most of us hold elastic principles, stretching the gamut of belief.
For instance, you might believe that somebody caught possessing hard drugs should go to jail. But if your nineteen-year-old daughter is caught with those same drugs, all of a sudden maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe you believe she should be offered some help.

In any event, I think ideology has become the bane of our existence. And I think that many young people, in particular, have got it right in eschewing such division. Sure, they got it wrong in believing that Obama represented that ideal (many adults got it wrong as well), but their idealism does not yet allow for them to effectively differentiate between what is honest, and what is a politically calculated manipulation of their good intentions. Deceit, if you will. Although I disagree with Obama on many of his policies, I have disagreed with George Bush on many of his as well.

I believe that as hard as many people try to bridge the divide, politicians, and others, work even harder to enlarge it. It works for them.
For me, personally, It is not so much about an ideological divide
as it is about the honesty of intention.

Young people may not have life figured out yet, but they know what divides their country, their state, their communities, and their families. And they want no part of the charade. Hopefully, the ageing process will help to merge their youthful idealism with an informed and seasoned pragmatism.

My guess is that it wouldn’t hurt the rest of us either.