Like many other posts in my blog, this one has evolved as my views have grown and I’ve gotten more of a voice for my thoughts.
Years ago, I used to identify strongly with “liberal” and my only political understanding was through far-left LGBTQ-specific online media. As I gained life experience, I started to realize that LGBTQ issues are not the end-all-be-all of politics. In 2011, I discovered David Pakman, and spent the next 2 1/2 years listening to his Independent Political talk show on a daily basis. David opened my mind to realizing that there’s many more issues that affect the United States (let alone the world) on a regular basis. Also in 2011, on Twitter, I discovered @Shoq, who has taught me more deeply about the system of politics in the United States, and the nuances of how it works. Moving to Vermont has also had a major impact on my political beliefs, having been exposed to a very different political picture that what I was expecting when I first moved here.
What I didn’t realize until recently was how seriously uneducated the general United States public is on politics, both national and local. Forbes and Salon have some great posts that explain this. Furthermore, large groups of people use the internet as an excuse to avoid being active in politics. Here’s my proof of that.
While I understand that the above video comes from Libertarianism.org, I’d like to point out that many of the points it makes are things I’ve seen in my own life with growing frequency. So many people around me have not been able to tell me basic facts about the legislators who are supposed to represent them. In my Business Law class, one of the test questions asked “Name the justices on the supreme court” and I know this was a bit of a struggle for some of my classmates.
I am proud of the fact that I’ve at least been following political sources for over half a decade now. I can name most of the supreme court justices. I know who my congressmen and women are. I understand the system of checks and balances in the branches of government, and understand why they exist. I know how the political system works – specifically that it’s not a one-night deal. Political change takes time.
I understand that there are people out there who believe in the bliss of being politically ignorant, but I fiercely oppose that viewpoint. Living in ignorance of what’s going on politically (both nationally and internationally) is where the plots of George Orwell’s 1984 and the film, V For Vendetta come from. With this being said, my first and foremost political stance is to be informed.
This is a great place to get started on learning about politics for the newbie.
Another issue is that there’s a minority group of people who are on the extreme sides of politics. I used to be at the extreme left end of the political spectrum, and have learned through life experience that political extremes are dangerous. Between leaving my first University and moving to a different part of the country, I’ve seen how being more moderate is far more rational and reasonable.
The above tweet sums the 2009-era me uncomfortably well. Many of my political views were more black and white than I was willing to admit at the time.
I believe that one of the root causes of the rise of political extremism in the United States (and the world) is the advent of social media, which gave a voice to all the extreme people in the world. When I think of typical political terms like Democrat, Republican, Liberal, and Conservative, my brain defaults to what has become some very extreme examples, such as Tony Perkins and Bryan Fischer. Because of that, I tend to have an immediate bias for or against something or someone as soon as one of these terms is used to describe them. This is a bad train of thought, because I begin to filter out and ignore people/sources that I assume that I won’t agree with, based simply on a single word. The same bias that many non-conservatives accuse Fox News of having I’ve displayed myself. This was wrong of me.
It took having friends with different political affiliations for me to realize that using terms like this as umbrellas to encompass anyone who uses them is wrong. Thus, my second political stance is for more listening to others and more cooperation with others instead of the extremes. More on that here.
Here’s a discussion on this:
I see myself moving away from the political mainstream. United States Politics, in my opinion (though there’s plenty of evidence to back this up!) is becoming very polarized and turning into an “us versus them” type of mentality. As I grow in my political journey, I find more often than not that I don’t fall neatly into one specific party (i.e. Democrat). I like the concept that each of us can think for ourselves and we can come to our own conclusions about the world and how to operate within it. With this in mind, and understanding that being raised in a country where individualism is highly praised and celebrated, I consider myself to be politically independent. I am proud to keep an ear to the ground and evolve my views as I gain life experience.
This is a sign that political independence is a growing movement in the United States. The extreme form of this movement shines in secessionist groups. This listing (from a site based right here in Vermont!) points out that there are plenty of people in the United States that are seriously trying to make states secession happen again. While the concept of a secession is too extreme for me, I am growing frustrated that terms like “Democrat” and “Republican” conjure up corporate sponsorships and massive money being spent on politics, with money seemingly drowning out people’s voices.
I use the term Progressive to describe my political orientation, but I find myself slowly leaning a little closer to libertarian as I spend more time in Vermont. At the end of the day I use this word both because of where I stand on today’s political issues, and based on which issues are important to me.
I do feel that there is a large group of conservatives who consider themselves to be “morally righteous” and this is a problem among liberal and progressives as well. This is another article on how online liberal-identified people are becoming monster-like. A Season 7 contestant on RuPaul’s Drag Race received death threats online after being eliminated from the show. These threats came from self-identified “fans” of the show. Now, if you call yourself a fan of a show about men putting on wigs, dresses, and make-up (yes, this is a giant over-simplification!) and you feel the need to attack someone for doing so, there’s only so much credibility you can give yourself and your beliefs. Fans of the show very rarely fall outside the politically left-leaning area, which is what made that controversy so much more disgusting, because the amount of hypocrisy there is scary.
Furthermore, I’ve found similar attacks coming from self-identified feminists. For a few weeks, I was wrapped up in a Facebook Page that produced daily screen caps of feminist extremes, and people using feminism as a tool to attack people, much like how religious zealots attack Queer people. I discovered YouTube clips that further discussed this, and became so immersed that I began to question the very concept of feminism.
No matter what my beliefs are, I never want to be so entrenched in them that I am unreasonable about listening to other people. As a Unitarian Universalist, my core belief is to learn from as many other people as I can about life, be it positive or negative things.
What finally made me take a step back was realizing that the sources for all of these presentations was a mixture of serious libertarian sources, but also conspiracy theorists (yes, I was listening to Alex Jones for a brief period). Again, it becomes critical to listen to the material, but also consider the source. It’s education 101. From there, the next step is to craft my own opinion and belief, rather than just parroting off what I’ve found. While there are many libertarian points that I can agree with, I find it difficult to agree with many conspiracy theories.