Monthly Archives: September 2012

Liberal or Conservative? Neither.

angry boxing elephant and smiling shopping donkey

illustrated by Ezra Engle of

Most people I know believe that poverty and helplessness are sad issues that should be addressed. What many don’t agree on is how they should be addressed.

Politics polarize these people to judge each other with labels and accusations that others don’t care as much as they do.

To simplify the arguments, I hear that liberals accuse conservatives of not caring about the poor because of a general lack of support for government programs that give to the poor.

Conservatives accuse liberals of not caring about traditional morals because of their lack of support for laws that would enforce a more a more strict set of values involving marriage and sexual conduct. They also criticize efforts to remove prayer and references to God in schools and other government buildings.

I do see a pattern in this. One party criticizes the other for not giving power to the government that the other sees as a personal decision that should not be legislated. A fiscal conservative may say, “Don’t force me to give through the government. It would be better to protect selfish people’s right to choose where they give than to reduce my freedom to be generous to organizations I fully support. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I give.” A liberal may say, “Don’t force your morals on everyone. It would be better to allow some to live out their beliefs in a way you don’t like than to force your values and restrictions on everyone. That would reduce my freedom to choose how I live.”

I used to believe that the government should just do whatever I thought was right. In a democracy, it is the people who are responsible for the decisions of the government. Although I still believe in that idea, I see government and legislation as a wasteful and ineffective conduit to implement many of these ideas. I believe in generosity and selflessness, but the government takes away something more than revenue when it assumes the role of distributor from me. It takes away a felt compassion from the giver to the receiver. I believe in self control, loyalty, monogamy and modesty, but when the government dictates what substances are legal to have, what the terms of marriage are, and what a pastor can and can’t say in a church, it takes away the responsibility of individuals to make many decisions for themselves about what is wise, what commitments they are willing to make, and have the freedom to say things that are not popular.

For the Republican party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having an embarrassing friend who is seen as a bully, picking fights and stirring up trouble for everyone and causing unnecessary & expensive drama, even though they mean well, and just want to make things right as they see it.

For the Democratic party to get it’s way, I fear it would be like having a well-meaning friend who wants to give gifts they can’t afford to give and help everyone out using their credit card, not realizing how much of a mess they have left things for everyone involved.

I believe that the government should solve more problems than it makes. When the government oversteps what it is good or efficient at, it will create more problems than it solves. Right now, I believe that the US government is bigger than it needs to be, and its role and our expectations of what problems it solves should be reduced. Some believe that voting for a third party candidate is throwing my vote away in a two-party race, but I think that believing that a two-party outcome is always inevitable would be throwing away my vote. I am voting my conscience from now on, and I hope you do also.

Reading for Understanding

When some read, their goal is to understand, while others want to invalidate that what they are reading is worth their time.

I get it, I do that with junk mail. Perhaps I would read through what i saw as junk mail, if there was a passionate person who really cared about it enough to discuss how it really changed their life in some way. I could be convinced they were worth listening to because they respect my opinion and my time. Respect is the great adaptor for challenging ideas and sharing knowledge. Without respect, ideas cannot pass effectively. The greatest respect is shown through a willingness to also have an interest and listen to my ideas or beliefs. So far, it seems junk mail is only a low cost way to mass market products and services for businesses. The motive seems pretty plain and simple.

There have, however, been passionate people who have come to my door and I do hear them out, and I let them keep coming to talk more and discuss their ideas. Eventually, their passions and motives are made plain and we have a sort of mutual respect for one another, even without agreeing about everything we believe. I am not threatened by hearing or reading about different beliefs and ideas, and I love being around others who have a similar confidence or curiosity about what others think and believe, and what their reasoning is to come to such a hope or certainty in their view.

I only hope to come across this way to those I write to online as well, because there is a sort of coldness to digital communication that many times is taken as disrespect or condescension. I aim to both love and to understand.