As we move another day down the road —to either ruin or paradise I guess, depending on your point of view— it seems to me being a moderate these days is the most radical thing one can do politically: Not singling out the most extreme of opposing view for accusation, ridicule and derision, but trying to find some uncontested ground where, as fellow citizens, we can respect one another’s intentions, the sense of purpose and meaning in this life for each and every one of us.
I don’t mean to advocate that conservatives should stop being conservatives or liberals liberal. And I don’t think the answer to every problem up for debate is splitting the difference. I think we can all advocate avidly on the genuine basis of our beliefs, but we have to allow those who differ with us to be our fellow citizens, not our rivals or enemies. The avid liberal activist does what he does out of love ideally, but so does the the careful conservative skeptic. We should figure out how to honor that as we resort to the contest aspect of our political process, before we do. We have to be real wary of casting aspersion on the motive rather than challenging the substance in each other’s beliefs. We have to start devaluing rage and indignation and placing some stock in understanding and consideration. I don’t think I’m commenting on the politics of the past few weeks and the current conjured crisis, at least not directly. I’m thinking of the longer larger trend of political branding taking precedence over basic truth, over civility and even grace.
There’s a little bit of the political branding that goes on when we start to gather up all the liberal or conservative causes and pose them as stark either or questions. The ‘tastes great’ versus ‘less filling’ sort of debate unfolds —where certainty and conviction are what counts —never compromise or equivocation or doubt.
I’m a firm believer in doubt.
Complexity and contradiction. Both/and rather than either/or. I think both liberals and conservatives do themselves a disservice when they tell themselves that any issue or question so very neatly resolves with them right and the other wrong, with themselves firmly in possession of the whole truth. I think I am somewhat of a liberal. I voted for Obama twice. That doesn’t mean I think ObamaCare (a.k.a. Fred) is a shining jewel of perfection that shouldn’t be amended and reformed and improved. That we shouldn’t be mindful of its consequences along side its benefits. I believe in a woman’s right to choose, but at the same time I agree also that abortion is symptomatic of a throw away culture that commodifies and degrades sexuality and human identity. I believe in separation of church and state, but I also resent a vilification of faith that certain liberals convince themselves is a virtue. I believe all of these both/and’s call on us to craft public policy and a public discourse that is respectful of the complexity.
The key, as Aretha Franklin, The Queen of Soul would put it, is R-E-S-P-E-C-T!