Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Neither Country Nor Rock and Roll

Note: This entry is about the difficulty of navigating political conversations when one has family and friends in varying political camps. All are welcome to comment, but please keep it civil.

A personal blog is very much like a family gathering or a work-related function. There are three subjects that one should never, ever bring up: (1) Sex, (2) Religion, and (3) Politics. Mentioning any of these three things invites a world of trouble. This is true, of course, for the entire internet. Up until now this page has kept itself confined to low-brow humor and movie reviews. But today I'm afraid I must attempt to carefully skirt the edge of topic # 3, talking around it but not about it directly.

Let me show you what I mean.

My own political alignment is difficult to define. Confined to the American political system, I refuse to subscribe to the complete agendas of either major political party. I likewise refuse to spell out my political views here. I would no more broadcast my political philosophy than I would my precise salary or pants size (both seem to vary with the phase of the moon). I will say that I am socially liberal, lest anyone should throw the word "bigot" around. I believe that all people should be free to do as they desire so long as it doesn't harm anyone else. Other than that, though, suffice it to say that I am neither Democrat nor Republican, liberal nor conservative.

With that said, I find myself increasingly uncomfortable talking about politics with my friends and family. I avoid the topic if at all possible. If it comes up in a group, I stay quiet for as long as I can. If someone directly asks me my thoughts on one issue or another, they might see me visibly cringe before attempting a heavily-prefaced, heavily-quantified answer. The problem isn't that I'm uninformed or uninterested. I won't claim to be deeply knowledgable about everything, but I read and watch and listen as much as possible. Rather, the problem is that I am neither liberal enough for liberals nor conservative enough for conservatives.

Let me rephrase. Amongst liberals, I am a fascist right-wing nutjob. Amongst conservatives, I am a bleeding-heart communist hippie. I lose either way.

Example. One of my best friends has a brother who is passionately liberal and possibly anarchist. He is a man who prides himself on having been arrested several times while participating in protests. I won't try to explain his views here, firstly because I won't pretend to know or understand them all, and because any such attempt would over-simplify and cheapen a man whose opinions I respect. But when talking to him I get the impression that in his eyes, I am everything that is wrong with the world. I am employed (by the government, no less), I exist above the poverty line. I literally represent law and order. But I feel like to him, what I see as personal economic responsibility and the right to the fruits of one's success come off as corruption and greed.

On the other hand, I know several people who are very conservative. People who strongly believe in a completely free-market, that people should fend for themselves, and that the government should stay out of their wallets. They believe that they (as employed people paying taxes) are beeing fleeced by the poor and the people gaming the system. My defense of certain social programs, infrastructure and the general concept behind taxation make me a socialist, a commie-pinko (I had to look it up) who wants to give all their money away to those who don't work and don't contribute.

I don't begrudge my loved ones their varying views. One of the best things about my life is that I've been lucky enough to be able to gather such a wide range of friends. Name a profession, any profession, and odds are I have a friend in the field. Likewise, I'm proud to know people who come from both sides of the political aisle and seemingly everywhere inbetween. That's really cool. But being caught in the middle is no fun. You end up feeling like everyone's enemy and eventually you just don't talk at all for fear that speaking your mind will ruin a relationship.

Anyone have problems like this?

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Noble Origins

Funny how the meaning of a name can change...