Thursday, March 03, 2011

You Might Be an Ideologue If...

A couple days ago, I received an email from a group I have no idea how they got my info. I'm certain that one of my conservative friends probably entered my email address to have these emails sent to me. The organizatioin is called Townhall. The subject line screamed: "Silence a Liberal!" The opening paragraph said:

"Are liberals annoying the heck out of you? Well now you can fight back—every single day—with James Delingpole's handy new guide of jokes, facts, arguments, and even outrageous rumors to spread that will have your liberal acquaintances recoiling in horror—and maybe even just possibly reconsidering their opinions.

"Need something to brighten your day and darken a liberal's? Look no further. This is the book for you! Order Townhall Magazine today and you'll receive
365 Ways to Drive a Liberal Crazy absolutely FREE! Order now while supplies lasts."

Honestly, I find this kind of drivel pointless. Yes, I am a liberal and proudly so. I make no apologies for my spiritual and political views being liberal. However, on a personal level, I'm actually conservative. Go figure! And if that weren't enough to short circuit the social scientists who think everyone is one thing or the other, in Democratic primary elections, I have consistently voted for the more moderate / centrist candidate over the liberal firebrand whose views are more like my own. This probably baffles a lot of people. The reason why I vote the way I do is because I am not an IDEOLOGUE, nor do I support ideologues. I believe in moderation. After all, the Buddha experienced extremes in life before he realized that "the middle way" was the only way to travel.

That email is obnoxious because Townhall is encouraging ideologues not to seek workable solutions, but to do whatever they can to "annoy" liberals. Even more amazing, the advertisement for the expensive toilet paper they call a book promises "outrageous rumours" that conservatives can spread about liberals to have people rethink their opinions! Seriously?!? When you can't win on facts, you resort to childish rumours to "annoy liberals"? The line that this book will brighten a conservative's day and darken a liberal's is truly moronic. If there were such books offered to liberals readers, I wouldn't waste my money. The point about political debate is not to annoy the other person, but to give a different perspective. When I have intense discussions with conservatives, I don't want to annoy them, but to give a different way to look at the issue. The problem with debate in this country is that everything has become so moralized and polarized. If President Obama is for something, the teabaggers and the Republicans will automatically be against it, even if Obama is incorporating their viewpoints or policy ideas into his goals. This shows how immature the conservatives in this country have become.

The truth about our politics is that most of what goes on in the U.S. Capitol building are not either / or moral issues. The decisions are simply allocations of attention or funding. Ever since Gingrich's Republican Revolution of 1994, practically every issue has become a hyper-partisan war between conservatives and liberals. Much of it is actually boring stuff that teabaggers would scratch their heads wondering where the morality fits in. But that's the problem with ideologues: everything is a battle. Give no inch. Never surrender! Compromise is evil and immoral!

I recently had a disagreement with a liberal friend of mine over Chicago's newly elected mayor Rahm Emanuel. I don't like Rahm at all. He's the closest equivalent to being a liberal Karl Rove. He's a dirty politician, not to mention crude and petty. All around, not a nice guy by any stretch of the imagination. My friend did not like my opinions about the Rahmster on her Facebook wall, so she deleted them. Yikes! A liberal who censors?!? She also called me "creepy" just because I read her positive review of Rahm on my Facebook wall that she had left for another friend of hers. I was shocked. I thought she and I were good enough friends to be able to have disagreements on politics. After all, when we had interned in Washington, D.C. eleven years ago, I was the only Democrat on the program who was a staunch Gore supporter (and not just because I happened to be one of Gore's interns that semester). The Republican interns on the Washington Seminar program did not like Gore, but neither did the five other Democrats on the program. They were Nader supporters! We had fun debating, but I never got upset or defensive because the Democrats didn't like Gore. I can tolerate differences of opinion quite well, without feeling threatened.

The whole disagreement between this fellow liberal and myself over Rahm just baffled me because I was stunned that my friend did not seem to care about how Rahm treats other people. All that mattered was that he was on our side! He can be as mean and nasty to anyone he wants to, just so long as he is OUR mean and nasty bastard. I've known quite a few liberals who have questioned my "allegiance" to liberalism or the Democratic party all because I don't automatically support a liberal or a Democratic politician. From 1996 through 2002, I voted against my representative in Congress, Cynthia McKinney, who was a firebrand liberal Democrat in Georgia's fourth district. I agreed with a lot of her views but I hated her slash-and-burn politics. I couldn't in good conscience vote for her, so I voted for her opponents in the primary and then for her Republican opponent in the fall. A lot of liberals love Ralph Nader and Dennis Kucinich, thinking them to be saints. I can't stand either of them and think they are phony. Even though Nader has done some good for the progressive movement and even though I agree witih a lot of Kucinich's ideas, I would never vote for those two because I don't like who they are at their core.

By contrast, I would vote for a Republican like Senator Scott Brown, even if I don't agree with a lot of his positions or views. For me, its a personal touch, a likability factor, and most important: being a moderate, not an extremist ideologue. I like Senator John McCain and had hoped in 2000 that he would've defeated George W. Bush. Even though I was loyal to Gore, I would have been okay with a McCain victory in 2000. The reason for my moderation is because I grew up around military people, both as a dependent (of an Air Force officer father) and as an enlisted man myself (in the Navy). Growing up, I bonded with other military dependents, most of whom tended to be on the personally conservative side. I've also easily made friends with Mormons, who were also on the conservative side. Then in the Navy, when I was more politically aware and outspoken, I realized that I knew few liberals in the ranks. This life of being around conservatives means that I couldn't be an ideologue if I wanted friends. Thus, I grew up basing my friendships on common points of interest, not on beliefs.

In college, I also had a tendency to date women who were slightly more conservative than I am and when I dated a woman who was more liberal than me, I was actually turned off by her political correctness. Truth be told, I simply do not get along with ideologues. I know some people who think I'm an ideologue because of my passionate outspokenness on political opinions, but they are judging me without really knowing me or they are ideologues themselves, so they view my liberal views as a threat to their conservative views. My voting record and personal tastes reflect a moderate inclination. And I like it that way.

The photo above of Ann Coulter is of one of her books, which all tend to look the same: a body shot of the conservative ideological commentator and a provocative title that disses liberals, accusing us of treason, guilt, and even godlessness. I don't know why anyone would buy such expensive toilet paper. When talking with ideological conservatives, its interesting when they attack and accuse liberals of listening to or reading books by "liberal equivalents" to their favourite standbys (Rachel Maddow versus Ann Coulter, Keith Olbermann versus Glenn Beck, Michael Moore versus Rush Limbaugh, Alan Colmes versus Sean Hannity, Al Franken versus Bill O'Reilly). However, I'm a real political scientist (I loved the topic enough to major in it for my bachelor's degree, which makes my opinion actually informed, which is more than I can say for those who listen to Fox or Rush all day and thinking that they know shit). I read actual political books, not the tripe that passes for political propaganda in our country's never ending culture wars. There is nothing in Coulter's, Beck's, Hannity's, Limbaugh's, or O'Reilly's books that will help solve our country's crises. Nor will a reader of such propaganda gain a deeper understanding of the issues facing our world today.

I'm not out to annoy conservatives or make their day darker. I would never buy a book that gives you 365 ways to annoy a conservative. There is no point in doing any of that. People who do are ideologues. I'm a pragmatist to my core. I only care about what works. I'll try any idea that captures my fancy. I don't put a lot of labels on what is liberal and what is conservative. I am who I happen to be: a conservative personality and lifestyle with a liberal view of politics and religion. Wrap your minds around that, media elitists who think in black and white!!!

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