Monday, August 10, 2009
Grayness . . . Seriously Underestimated, Seriously Under-present
Since so much of my thoughts have been focused lately on the world of politics I feel compelled to expound a bit on my observations of this very tumultous and polarized state of our society. I do not claim to have all the answers, nor be correct in all of my views or assumptions. That is the beauty of living in a gray world, which I thoroughly enjoy. I used to be more black and white as I was growing up. We all must start out that way; a child's mind cannot process the "grayness" until they are a little older. But you know, one thing that I've learned in all my years, especially with growing up in a minister's family, is that many adults are still at least somewhat stuck in this black and white mentality. They haven't evolved past a more immature state of development, mentally, spiritually (that'll be another discussion), or philosophically. This is one of my greatest frustrations in life.
I was lucky enough to be raised by parents that not only gave me a foundation of faith for my life, but also allowed me to be an individual -- to explore and decide upon my own beliefs. This is also just in my nature as well, but the fact that I was allowed to be myself made it possible for me to take the scary but satisfying leap into the world of gray sooner than I may have without this. I know that this is frightening for many people that either did not have the same allowances growing up, or simply refute the possibility of other ways of looking at things, but I must say that living in "grayness" is amazingly liberating. This does not mean that I don't operate through a faith, or through a moral compass. It is quite the opposite. Living in "grayness," I believe, allows one to operate on a higher level of morality. It allows openness, honesty, compassion, and vulnerability to thrive and flourish. For me, this is a more "faithful" way to live in the world.
I know many would have a problem with this statement: I believe everything is relative. I know, I know, that's one of those red flags for many Christians. Not for me. When I said that I live in a gray world, I wasn't joking. Even those things that I would at first tend to say are the absolutes . . . murder is wrong, stealing is wrong, etc. Well, sorry, but I think that there is always some sort of situation that may change the "rightness" and "wrongness" of these assumptions. Consider, a pregnant mother in the hospital . . . if they continue with the labor they know most likely that the mother will die. Is an abortion still wrong then? Consider, a family that is homeless, without money, without a job (not because of their own mistakes), a child may die if they do not receive food shortly. Is stealing still wrong then if there are no options for food banks or shelters? You may still hold to the absolute that it is. You may be right. But it gets a little trickier when thinking of some these other situations. I know these are more extreme circumstances and will not apply to probably most instances, but how can we say that something is ALWAYS right or wrong? Can we at least consider that there could be an instance where the same judgment is not fair nor just?
This brings me to my original topic . . . politics. As I have witnessed the black and white mentality so often from people in the spiritual and religious realm, I have been inundated with it in politics in the last several months. Well, let's face it, it's actually been the last several years. What in the world happened? When did everyone become so polarized?! I don't remember it being quite so extreme many years ago. It seems like it started happening while I was in late high school. Clinton seemed to bring out the rage in enough people, mainly conservative Christians. And then Bush enraged the other side. This level of polarization frightens me. This is when we begin with mob-mentality, group-think, and irrational rantings. To me, these are all very dangerous occurrences. These kinds of events stifle and repress tolerance, compassion, respect, and openness. They push back the progression of so many of our values that make us truly human and truly good.
Now, I am not a Democrat or Republican. I do not align myself with any one party. If anything, I guess I'm an independent. My values and views are sort of a mixture of the Green Party, Independent Party, and Libertarian Party. I can see meritous aspects of each party in our country. No group has the monopoly on what is right for our nation. This is why it is healthy for the political power to be switched up and turned around fairly frequently, so that hopefully each group of people is being represented at some point in time. If only we could get some power shifted to a third party for once . . . ahh, but I digress. If one group is in power too long, they start to believe that this is how it should always be. They begin to think that if anyone but them has control the world is going to hell in a handbasket.
This is something I find to be quite disturbing of late. Some Republicans have been putting out there that everything the current Democratic administration is doing and will do, will put our country on a fast track to socialistic, freedom-crushing, Hitlerism. Where do they come up with this stuff? (I should clarify one thing: when I speak of those with a black and white mentality, conservatives, or Republicans, I do not mean to lump them all together as being part of the ones that come across as hateful and crazy. They are certainly NOT all like that. I am only speaking of the more extreme people in these groups.) You know, I once believed that the Democratic and Republican parties were equally at fault. Well, while I certainly don't think the Democrats are right about everything and have plenty of faults, I feel that the current Republican party has become more harmful and suppressive to us than the other side. I have not witnessed the same hatred, mean-spiritedness, half-truth-telling, self-righteousness, or fear-mongering from the left as I have from the extreme people on the right. Sure the left has their cooks, nutbags, jerks, and inciters, but really, can you say that it is balanced with the right?
I listen sometimes to Glen Beck, Bill O'Reilley, Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, etc. . . and I find myself mesmerized by their lack of compassion, open-mindedness, and humility. How do people get this way? When most of them assert to hold Christian values, how is it okay for them to degrade others that don't agree with them? How is it okay for them to spew the hateful and poisonous toxins that do nothing but incite anger, fear, hatred, and arrogance? I won't say that they are all wrong all the time. That is not either a fair nor accurate statement. But the majority of the ideas and values that they are putting out there in the world are not of a "Christ-like" nature, in my opinion. The foundations of the Christian faith are love, compassion, respect, and tolerance. These are to be unconditional.
But many on the right do not see what they are doing as going against these values. They see themselves, I think, as living out their faith, pointing out the wrongs of others in Jesus's name, so that the world can be a more perfect place. Many have good intentions . . . many do not. But either way, is it okay to depict a politician with Satan horns, Obama as equal to Hitler, and burning effegies of state congressmen as long as it brings the country to a supposed more "righteous" state? Do the ends always justify the means? I think not.
I've recently been "arguing" with people on Facebook about these such things. My dad and I are the only ones in these conversations that are not on the right. And I admit, with being surrounded by people much, much more conservative in their views than me, my whole life, I have allowed myself to sometimes get polarized as well. I'm not proud of that. I always strive to be a very balanced person. But hey, I fail miserably at it sometimes. I end up defending the left, when really, I'm not on either side. I have this innate urge to balance out things when I feel that group-think is present. It just so happens that I've usually been surrounded by conservative Republicans more often than liberal Democrats, or even just plain, old Independents. This polarization becomes cyclical. We are engulfed in an unhealthy, perpetual state of extremes. Ahhh, if only we could all just chill out a bit! Instead of turning everything into an overdramatized, battle-against-the-world, state of madness. Someone should really tell us that hysteria is not very attractive. :)
There are so many sensitive and important issues on the table right now. I honestly don't know what the right decision is for health-care, the economy, etc. I don't know enough to have a truly, truly informed decision on what is the best way to fix it all. I'm not sure too many do, certainly not as many as purport that they do. But I do feel that the administration is at least trying to address what needs to be and are doing the best that they can. The last administration went off on tangents and allowed built up problems to simply become worse.
I do agree that there should be a public option for health-care. I understand the argument of socialism vs. capitalism. I had an incredibly wonderful Econ. professor, who gave me a good understanding of how the economy truly works, beyond just supply and demand. Yes, a public option would be a mixture of socialism and capitalism . . . but since when have we ever had true capitalism?! If there are regulations, then it is not a true laissez-faire market. I don't think Republicans are against ALL regulations. So, logically speaking, they are okay with at least a dash of socialism. Besides, I really don't think Jesus was a capitalist. He was an altruist.
We can argue for days about how to best accomplish health-care reform, and that is one of the delightful rights we all have . . . to freely discuss differing viewpoints and disagree. Everyone has a right to express how they feel and what they believe. I am not against freedom of speech; I am vehemently FOR it. I believe in practicing that freedom of speech to the government. But what I am against, is exercising that right while degrading, defaming, or supressing other viewpoints that do not jive with your own. I am an idealist. And while I realize that realistically speaking, this is a lot to ask, why can't we ask it anyway? It can be done. And we should all try. We must ALL strive to live as we choose to live, while allowing others to do the same, without making them out to be less of a person.
When one lives in a black and white world they often cannot handle someone viewing things differently. It becomes a personal affront to their very nature. If someone doesn't fit into their little box their entire foundation becomes shaken and disrupted. If you ask me, this is a very weak faith. This is the reason that they cannot concede to the opposing side that they may be correct on one or two things. No, it's the "I am always right, you are always wrong" way of looking at the world. A person living in "grayness" may not be easily rocked. They do not require anyone to be any certain way. And they are able to stop and consider that perhaps they are not correct and maybe the other side might have something worthwhile from which to learn. I accept that there are many with different beliefs and that is okay. I can respect our differences. All I ask is that you do the same for me.