I have a confession to make. I’m an atheist.
No, not the spiritual kind. Were I that kind of atheist, I’d have never written this. No, I’m a very different kind of atheist. I’m a political atheist.
I know. I just horrified hordes of progressives, Tea Party activists, Marxists, social conservatives, and people under the mistaken impression they are actually Democrats or Republicans. Really? Which office did you hold? What official did you work for? Oh, you didn’t do either of those things? Well, then, by your definition, I’m a Cincinnati Red. Where’s my big salary, Mr. Castellini?
My problem with most political thought is that it’s binary. Binary is fine for computers, but if you’re reading this, you’re on some sort of computer. I’m sure you’ll agree that the mere machines we are using right this second are capable of so much more than binary thought. So why do humans insist on simple yes/no answers? Reality is not a yes/no proposition.
When pressed as to whether I’m a liberal or a conservative, my answer is always “not conservative.” The follow-up is always, “So you’re a liberal, then.” No, Corky, you just flunked the test. You are not smarter than a fifth grader. I never said I was a liberal. Why? I find the either/or litmus test wholly unacceptable.
Politics has to do with governing, and governing is a far more complicated process than the hundreds of armchair quarterbacks on cable news make it seem. Reality doesn’t care whether you’re pro- or anti-abortion when New Orleans is flooded. It’s one thing to say “Let big business fail” or “Throw money at every societal ill,” but quite another when you’re faced with possible bankruptcy at either turn. But political discussion, regardless of the country (assuming it’s permitted. The rules completely change where it’s not.), always goes back to either/or.
My personal pet peeve is when someone invokes the Founding Fathers to win an argument. When they do, they’ve automatically lost the argument. Why? If you think there’s a politically divisive atmosphere in Washington today, try looking at the details of the Constitution’s writing and ratification, as well as that of the Bill of Rights. That damn near broke up the union. Some of those vaunted Founding Fathers even tried to sabotage the Constitution. The virtue these men had over today’s would-be political geniuses is that there were no real groups among them. There were federalists and anti-federalists, both of whom called themselves “republicans.” And not all of them agreed exactly on what made them one or the other. Never mind that the term “republican” didn’t mean then what it meant to Thomas Jefferson when he ran for President, which didn’t mean what it meant to Lincoln, et. al., when the GOP was founded, nor Teddy Roosevelt, nor modern Republicans. There was a refreshing vagueness in the term, it’s only absolute being one despised a monarchy and distrusted rulers for life. Suits me fine.
It’s the absolutism we deal with today on all sides, demonization of those who don’t agree with this ideology or that one. Fine and dandy, but let’s call a spade a spade. Absolutism is a cop-out. It’s an excuse not to think for oneself. It’s embracing mythology and urban legend over history and fact. It’s favoring the pet cause over right and wrong. It’s choosing fear instead of thought. It has nothing to do with reality.
Which is why I refuse to bow to everyone else’s political stone idols.