Be open-minded when analyzing political issues, rather than relying on party lines

I’ve never been a big fan of politics. Not because I don’t understand political issues or have opinions on them; actually, I quite enjoy debate, though I am more prone to look at all sides of an issue than simply to strictly defend my own. As someone studying the humanities, I find that I am much more comfortable with gray areas than definitive black-and-white answers.

While I know myself and my own political standpoints fairly well, I find that, most of the time, I do not align to one particular political party. Sure, I know that I don’t fall smack-dab in the middle of the conservative/liberal spectrum; I have a tendency to lean towards one side. But my core values – the fundamental principles which guide my decisions, political and otherwise – can’t fit all under one party.

Most of the people I know identify clearly as Democrat, Republican or otherwise. To not have a label is often considered political ambivalence, which is a cardinal sin in our society. You have to pick a side, or else you must not be fighting for anything at all. But is there no room for movement? Can we have political opinions that don’t consistently align with one party, and still be good citizens?

I think so. In fact, I am here to suggest that sticking a label on yourself may not do you any good at all. I have a family that is deeply political, and they all have big opinions they aren’t afraid to share. Growing up, I knew which “side” we were on. I assumed I was the same. If my whole family believed it, it had to be the way to go, always, every time.

When I got older, I realized that I could have different opinions. While my family’s viewpoints often make sense to me, I also know when to recognize that they don’t.

However, I have younger family members who have grown up so entrenched in specific beliefs that they cannot fathom opposition. Yet when asked, they are often unable to defend their standpoint, simply because they are young and know so little about the topic. But by sticking one party label on themselves, they have already developed the “we versus them” mindset. And ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure that it’s going to do us any good at all.

I’m not here to suggest an overhaul of the system. I’m not saying that we forgo all political parties altogether and just try to be one big happy political machine. I don’t think that could ever happen, nor do I think that it would be a good idea if it could. There is always going to be opposition and debate; if there wasn’t, we would be in the dangerous position of never questioning the popular opinion. If anything, we need more choices, more opportunities to have our viewpoints showcased. The likelihood that we can side completely with one of two options is extremely unlikely.

Our second president, John Adams, definitely held these viewpoints. “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader, and concerting measures in opposition to each other,” he said. “This, in my humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil under our Constitution.”

In his farewell speech, our first president, George Washington, also discussed this: “The alternating domination of one faction over another, sharpened by the spirit of revenge, natural to party dissention… is itself a frightful despotism.”

We need debate. We need people to question us, and we need to question others. In the grand scheme of things, labels are never very good. Let your opinions form organically. If you come to a problem with the assumption that you will probably side with Point A over Point B, neither point will get the fair and honest judgment they deserve.

This isn’t to say that you can’t have consistent right-or-left viewpoints. But if you do, make sure that you are being truthful to yourself and the situation. Don’t let prejudices cloud your judgment.

There is a Buddhist ideal that suggests that to learn about something new, you must first “empty your cup” of all prior biases before you can “fill it” again with new information. Approach big topics in your life the same way, whether it be politics or life issues. With a clear head and an open mind, you are bound to make better-informed decisions.

This entry was posted on Monday, April 13th, 2015 and is filed under Opinion. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Responses are currently closed, but you can trackback from your own site.

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