Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Splinters and beam II

The race is not always to the swift, but to those who keep running.

At this point in the history of the world, the mainstream Western news is concerned with claims by Syria that it has pulled all of its troops out of Lebanon, the aftermath of a deadly train accident in Japan, and insurgent attacks continue in Iraq against the new Iraqi government and the occupying (U.S.-)Coalition forces.

It is afer sunset and overcast with ocassional light rain at my current location at the current time. The radio next to me is set to an AM talk station. What is going on around you as you read this?

I have been told that my political leanings are somewhat centrist in some areas and somewhat to the left of center in other areas. I was once asked if I could or would then critique "my" side of the political fence. Although I consider "my side" to be the side of compassion, not a political affiliation, here in brief are some things that occurred to me with regard such questions. It's a nice follow-up to questions about bias in religious vs non-religious views. I suppose I am going looking for the beam in the "Liberal" 's eye.

One failing that has emerged in the application of liberal ideas in the United States can be highlighted by the ruckus over political correctness. The basic nature of the failing is the shift in some circles from the rightness of the intention and application of certain policies to idolatry of the objects affected by those policies. This comes in part from simply being told "This is right, this is wrong" without a strong effort to explain why this should be so. In other words, it was wrong to call a person a bad driver just because the person was woman. In the more extreme and absurd circles it has shifted to: it is wrong to call a woman a bad driver. Now, whether or not you subscribe to the policy of "If you can't say anything nice about someone don't say anything at all", the simple fact is that women, like men, can be bad drivers. It is one thing to presume a woman will be a bad driver (and after all prejudice literally means pre-judgement) as many sexists once did, but simply pointing out that a particular woman is a bad driver is not sexist.

Obviously this example is a more benign one (and conservatively-oriented people are prone to the same error), but we can easily substitute in more charged examples involving race, religion, and economic status. Whether one's views are considered liberal or conservative or anything else, it is imperative that the question "Why?" should remain in the general consciousness. This is not to say that the majority of liberals have fallen into a lapse of actively contemplating the meaning behind their views, but it is a dangerous trend which has been captured in the media spotlight whenever controversial court cases or legislation comes to the fore. When confronted with the question of expressing religion, for example, there is an unfortunately loud minority in the liberal camp which takes the anti-religious stance. A good example of this is the question of religion in public schools. Schools are not allowed to promote religion, which includes requiring school prayer. This is intended to protect our younger citizen's freedom of religious expression (i.e. to behave in way consistent with what they believe or do not believe). Yet some think this separation of church and state means that students should not be allowed to wear religious symbols or carry religious texts to school. But by trying to restrict such behavior they are hampering the very freedom of religious expression that the Establishment Clause of the First Ammendemnt was created to protect.

The alternative to combating these minor tendencies within the liberal community and the unfair image they project is to allow extreme partisans on the conservative end of the political spectrum to exaggerate them and paint all progressives as anti-freedom control freaks who want to force all citizens into compliance with a set of rigid rules which suppress individual liberty. By focusing on how progressive principles can work to make things better for all citizens, not just those who hold certain beliefs or occupy certain stations in society, one can keep the intention and proper application of those principles in the forefront and dispel harmful and misleading stereotypes which can prevent fruitful public dialogue.

Finally, it should never be forgotten that "liberal" is a descriptive label, not an identity. "Liberalism" or "Progessivism" are not the names of goals end and of themselves but merely convenient umbrella terms for a common set of values. The agenda of people who consider themselves progressive should be to make the world a better place, alleviate suffering, and promote prosperity and equality for all, as opposed to the more politically-defined objectives such as "defeating conservatives".

What problems can you see in your region of the political spectrum?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hello! Thanks for leaving a comment.

Everything but spam and abusive comments are welcome. Logging in isn't necessary but if you don't then please "sign" at the end of your comment. You can choose to receive email notifications of new replies to this post for your convenience, and if you find it interesting don't forget to share it. Thanks!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...