Monday, September 1, 2008

The Difference Between Us

Here's the difference between the so-called Right and the so-called Left in the United States. Here it is. This is it. Are you ready?

The people on the Right do not expect their people to be perfect. The only being who is perfect is God, after all. If you share their values (anti-choice, pro-gun, pro-military, Christian) you are part of their community and therefore you can be forgiven almost anything, as long as you confess and promise to be better. I have seen this again and again in my own town. Someone does something which I and others may consider heinous but once he confesses to the members of his church and asks for forgiveness, he is redemned and welcomed back into the community. This includes politicians they feel are a part of their community—politicians who share their values. They will continue to work for these imperfect politicians after they have confessed their sins or after their imperfections are made public.
(Now, if you don't share their values, the story is completely different.)

The people on the Left expect politicians to be as near to perfection as possible, and each Lefty person defines what that vision of perfection is. If a politician says or does something the Left doesn't agree with or something the person believes is wrong, (and there could be a variety of things depending upon the particular Lefty), the people on the Left ostracize that politician—which means they won't vote for this politicians and they will bad mouth the politician; they may even work actively against this politician, much more actively than they ever worked against the "opposition."

I believe this is one of the reasons Progressives lose so many federal elections. The Left does not tolerate imperfection. The Right will look at a politician and say, "Does this politician basically share my values?" If the answer is yes, they will vote for that politician. I believe many people on the Left don't ask that question. They believe that some perfect politician will appear on the horizon some day and they're just waiting for that person!

This is the thing: I think most people go into politics because they want to make a difference. The good politicians become great statesmen. They learn how to work with other people. They respect the opinions of others and try not to demonize them. They understand that some compromise is almost always necessary in order to get anything accomplished. (This is one of the reasons I would not make a good politician.)

Here are my values: I cherish this Earth, I want everyone to have good healthcare, I don't believe in the use of violence unless it is to protect myself or my loved ones, and I believe every person should have autonomy over her own body, which means (among other things) that every woman can chose to use or not use birth control and to continue a pregnancy or terminate one. I believe that a culture who values money over clean air, clean water, healthy food, and safe, clean energy has lost its soul. I believe Obama shares these values with me; John McCain does not. I will vote for Barack Obama without hesitation.

Instead of lamenting how terrible the Democrats are or how terrible the Republicans are perhaps each of us should take responsibility for what we are doing in our own communities. Are we encouraging like-minded people in our community to run for elected office? Or are we ourselves running for office? Are we volunteering in our communities? Are we adding to the discourse or are we just badmouthing everything and everyone?

Imagine that we are the people we are waiting for. If that's true, were you waiting for someone who tears everything and everyone down? Or were you waiting for someone who knows how to act—in all the senses of that word; someone who builds and encourages; someone who discerns the truth and conveys it to others in a way that allows others to hear it.

I've never heard a Republican say they were going to "hold their nose" and vote for a candidate. Instead, they talk about what's good about "their guy." I've voted third party nearly every election (although not the last election). I understand the impulse. I know how disappointed those of us on the Left have been over the years. Will we ever find someone who shares our values more closely? But the idea that there is no difference between the Democrats and Republicans has been solidly put to rest after eight years of living under the George Bush administration.

Now, I'm not saying we shouldn't speak truth to power. I'm not saying we should put our head in the sand. I'm just saying, let's build the world we want instead of talking about how crappy this one is.

Whaddya think?


Jamie said...

You have shared some great insight into this matter at hand. I full heartedly agree with your synopsis of the situation. Just because you vote for someone doesn't mean you agree full heartedly with the person and you can veteo what he says and stands for.

gb said...

It's an interesting observation, and I have to agree that the valuing of appearance over substance has always been an important difference between the two camps. In my own stumbling way I tried to show over at Missing Factor a few weeks ago that the major difference between conservatives and liberals was in the concept of family.

Anonymous said...

Here's another difference that is crucial: too many lefties don't vote, period. The majority of the country is left of center. If all eligible voters would vote for the candidate nearest to their values, the left would win pretty much all the time. The right doesn't have this problem because they come out in force, every election, every time.

I also think that a lot of lefties see their vote as something sacred and they don't want to sully it by "wasting" it on someone they don't adore. It would be more useful to see a vote as a tool that can help you get closer to what you want. Look at the two candidates. Pick the one closer to your values and vote for that candidate. Abstaining is not a useful way to get close to what you want.

All work copyright © Kim Antieau 2008-.