I have never been a big fan of labels for people.  They were never very useful to me, and I discovered that the people who were so enthusiastic about placing labels on people were usually not very helpful or compassionate.  So, many many years ago, in my early adulthood, I decided I would not be a friend or agent of this process.  It's really just a way of being prejudiced with a socially approved method.  You may be right about "those conservatives" or "those liberals", but chances are, your package of predetermined characteristics for everyone in that box does not accurately apply to many of the people that you think it does.  I don't mind, for the sake of argument, looking at people based on their preference for certain opinions, such as "he's left leaning" or "right leaning."  But I realize that recognizing this doesn't mean that this person comes automatically with a predetermined set of beliefs and flaws and will never vary.  It just helps to situate them in a grand tapestry of beliefs to understand why they might be saying or doing this or that so that you can engage them for useful clarification or to politely challenge them on something that seems to step outside of the bounds of polite society in which we care about our neighbor. 

Granted, there are some people that drink the koolaide of whatever political philosophy that is their favorite and tend to be very zealous and unthinking in their debates -- down along the level of spouting bumper sticker slogans in a rally.  I believe if you engage those people one-on-one and start stripping away the hype to find out what they really mean by this or that term and whether they have really thought through their political philosophy and its implications, you are likely to find one of three things: 
(1) A nice person (nice, but misguided judging by your own system of truth) who really believes what they say and truly has compassion for people around them and has truly thought beyond the bumper sticker slogan to how their philosophy plays out in a daily life and actually lives by that philosophy;
(2) Or a person that has thought through all that but takes logical leaps and broad assumptions for truth, a moving target during debate or calm discussion, because they do not want to have their beliefs challenged, and any amount of argument you may have with them will devolve into ad-hominem attacks and raised blood pressures for you. They will not budge on their opinion, don't enjoy discussing it, and see debate merely as a war of attrition where they hope to wear you down.  For them, it is no longer about truth but rather it is an attack on their character or person, their very psyche (and they have some deep-seated pain or animosity that drives them to cling to this system);
(3) Or normal human being like yourself that has just not been taught to think more broadly and consider all possible opinions before picking one that seems to correspond best with the system of truth or religious beliefs that he/she has chosen.  You may even find that the person does not fully understand the ramifications of their chosen system of truth or belief. 

Often, young people fall in this category because they are impressionable and do not know enough about life to sift out what is just ordinary dirt and what is gold.  They usually end up following the opinions of their parents if they have a reasonably good relationship with their parents, or they follow their peer group, or they seek out an older, seemingly wiser or cooler person out in the world that they emulate.   That is, they lean on the external opinion until they day that they start thinking for themselves and realizing that they have as much to contribute to the search for truth (so long as they are grounded in a good system).  Unfortunately, some people don't grow out of that stage.  They continue to stay in the same rut of thinking, good or bad, that they chose in their youth, and take it verbatim without challenge or question or without demand that it correspond to some external system of truth (such as the Bible).  

Everybody comes from a different place in life based on their upbringing or experiences.  Sometimes it is helpful to know where they are coming from, perhaps what logical or moral baggage that they bring with them into a discussion, maybe recognize when they are just applying labels and not really thinking through.  But it is always good to remember in a debate, that the person in front of you is still a creation of God and loved by God just as much as God loves you.  And it is always good to remember that you may have more experience and a better system of belief, but that doesn't mean that you are yourself the source of truth.  You are merely relaying as best you can understand in this sin-cracked lens of a mind what God speaks to you through the Bible or personal interaction in prayer or even the thoughts, letters, or sermons of others which seem to resound with His voice.  But always, as Paul said in 1 Corinthians 13, "we see through a glass dimly." 
 
 
As I noted on the home page, there seem to be two Americas right now -- one  which stands on the Judeo-Christian heritage, tradition, and history, and another that wants to redefine history in the cracked lens of a Marxist viewpoint. You might find these characterizations a bit trite or oversimplified, and you might think that the other various cultures and systems should be a part of the equation, but the really big forces that drive most of history come down to the duality of those that want to live as God would wants us to live (to the best of their ability and understanding of what they discover and what God reveals to them), and those that want man to be the end all and be all for all of life's issues and demands. 

Either God is God, or man is god.  The really big, useful ideas in history were, at their root, as simple as this.  And the simplicity of the Judeo-Christian heritage is the sacrificial love of God toward man, boiled down then to the very idea that one can and should emulate God, placing others ahead of himself in importance in life, and that this is a viable and even desirable way to live.  This outlook leads to courtesy and compassion and a diminished ego.  It also leads to more successful societies and institutions that thrive as teams and families so long as they realize we are all in this together and so long as they remember and honor their roots (aye, there's the rub).  It is a society grounded in service to others and non-judgmental compassion, understanding that "there but for the grace of God go I." 

Granted, this society has not always been successful, but not because of a flaw in the foundation on which it stood.  Rather, it (we) failed when we succumbed to our innate base urges or desires, rather than maintaining our higher ideals and being true to those ideals, even when that correspondence to the ideals required sacrifice on our part or setting right obvious wrongs.  At those points, we lost touch of the very concepts  that we claimed to live by, when we let human desire for profit or fear of the unknown drive us instead of the more noble ideals that gave us the best of our history and achievements. 


And it is a validation of those ideals that we got through the worst struggles in our country's history and remained intact as a nation.  It was the idea that all are created equal that gave the moral foundation for and made inevitable the ultimate struggle of brother against brother.  And it was the same idea that eventually pulled us back together in a common cause, reconciling us together in the fight against the evils of this world in other countries.  It was this idea that drove Martin Luther King, Jr., in his valiant struggle for real civil rights, not just "separate but equal".   He understood the same as our founding fathers that these rights are from God and come from our innate equality and infinite value before God. These rights are not from men and are not to be filtered down or sliced up to fit the comforts of any particular segment of our society -- which leads us to the other America where certain people believe they have a better system than God.

This other America is one which sees everything as a class struggle and makes everything, therefore, a power play.  Power (not love) is the driving force.  One must have this power in order to set right some vaguely-defined or definitionally-suspect wrong.  It is the thinly veiled politics of envy.  If you have more than I, then you must have wrongfully gained your possessions through deceit or trickery, because in all "perfect" societies, everyone has equal amounts of money, possessions, prestige or power.  Sounds rather bland, right?  Everyone has the exact same as everyone else.  Who determines that this is the ultimate goal and why do they think this is even morally or practically desirable?  Human beings do not naturally desire equal-ness, sameness, blandness.  Rather, they are inspired by the unique, sometimes exotic, differences of each other and are driven by the newer, bigger thing, the greater idea, the more marvelous possibility that lies just around the bend or just out of reach.  So the human imagination always strives for something greater, more exciting, and more wonderful, rather than the blandness of equal things and equal situations.  Such a world could only be desirable for the unimaginative, the slothful, maybe even for the average paranoiac whose unwarranted fears are based on the belief that everything important in this universe rests solely on human effort.  But, due to the infinitely unique mix of our temperaments and personalities, it is rare that human beings would even share the same picture of this grand, possible future that we strive for.  So, this "one size fits all" philosophy does not even match reality let alone human nature.

Here's the kicker, too.  Just as Orwell's Animal Farm satirically exposed the eventual elitism of such systems of equality, so too do our own American versions of this insane political philosophy also lift up the elites to freely enjoy themselves at our expense.  You wouldn't have to look too far for evidence of this in the current administration of our executive branch.  The name of Marie Antoinette has been offered up in rhetorical comparison to the habits of our well-meaning first lady.  Not too far from the mark.  

So...you decide.  One America holds the greater promise of good things but the path will always be challenging as the good and valuable things in life always are.  Or one holds the unchallenged and unproven promise of a possible utopia where one might have an easy, effortless, bland life.  Sounds a lot like the old promise of the Lotus-Eaters.

 
 

    Author

    I'm a retired soldier, having spent 23 years of my life serving our country, actually 30 years when you count the reserve and National Guard time as well.  I believe in servant leaders, following the example of our Lord, and I believe in giving back to the troops once one has attained a certain status or level of success in life.  But I also believe in fighting back against corruption and incompetence wherever you find it if it hurts people.  Our national values were worth dying for.  They are also worth living for.  A man or woman can actually live a life by these principles of humility, service, love, duty, and honor, and have a significant impact on the world around them...if you have the dedication to see it through. 

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