Jan 22 2009

Right vs Left

Born to a Republican family, I was virulently conservative during high school. But it was, ultimately, just an image. Progressive influences were nearby and played a significant part in my break from the image — a Democrat uncle, a liberally minded friend, and others. I’ve voted along liberal lines for most of my adult life, yet I’m still conservative in many ways. I personally think that “Right” and “Left”, “Conservative” and “Liberal” are useless labels that might help define one’s image, but rarely define one’s self.

The damage that is done to our society by virtue of this needless distinction is significant. It is the politics of exclusion. One side must lose. Citizens will often choose the “lesser of two evils.” Ideas are reduced to ideologies. Black and white. Opposites, with no middle ground.

I learned via my own path that issues are never so clear. For example, I “believe” in the rule of law. But our prisons are choked with career criminals; they are a training ground for recidivism. Once in the system, it’s very hard to get out. And ex-cons return to the same environment they came from. Poverty, parenting, community, responsibility, vision — they all play a part in the solution to a serious problem. No black or white solution exists. But until the problems are addressed as part of the larger system in which they exist, progress will be elusive.

America’s politics needs a shift to sensibility, a suppression of individuality and a greater appreciation of community. Greed, intolerance — these are things we cannot abide. Our challenge has been met by past generations, so it can be met again. And if we can truly change, then perhaps we can make the change permanent so that future generations are not so mired in arbitrary difference and instead consider their values and make policies in the necessary broader contexts that all difficult issues require.