Thursday, October 15, 2009

Chain letter has it wrong; "Difference between Liberals and Conservatives" not as much as you'd think

Lately, I’ve seen a chain letter being circulated entitled, “The Difference between Liberals and Conservatives Explained.” It’s a very elementary view of the real difference between liberals and conservatives, and I’d like to take a moment to explain why each point isn’t a valid one to have been made.

-If a conservative doesn’t like guns, he doesn't buy one.
-If a liberal doesn't like guns, he wants all guns outlawed.

This is a common misperception that the right has of liberals. We don’t care if you have guns or not. Sure, some communities have outlawed handguns, but it’s not a liberal position to take; it’s a position a community has taken, and one that is unconstitutional. A specific weapon may be considered unfit to have, but banning weapons outright is an unconstitutional thing for a community to do.

Many leftists are avid hunters, and encourage people to have a responsible way. Guns that are for more than hunting or self-defense -- that is, guns that are military-grade or similar in stature -- are not appropriate in the minds of many liberals.

The right to bear guns, like any other right, comes with responsibilities. I have a right to free speech, but I don’t have a right to lie in court when I’m under oath. I have a right to hold whatever religious views I want to hold, but i don’t have a right to conduct human sacrifices. We have a right to bear arms, but not if those arms are incredibly lethal in the wrong hands. Thus, the right to bear arms, like all other rights, is not absolute. If you disagree, then perhaps you’d like to be the first to support the right of every American to have a nuclear weapon.

-If a conservative is a vegetarian, he doesn’t eat meat.
-If a liberal is a vegetarian, he wants all meat products banned for everyone.

I haven’t met a single liberal vegetarian who has told me I can’t eat meat. I have many friends who belong to PETA, but they all understand that being vegetarian and/or vegan is a lifestyle choice. They continue to encourage me that my ways are wrong, but they have that right -- they view the consumption of meat as morally wrong. If an American feels that strongly against something, certainly they have the right to encourage others to go against it as well. They may not win the debate, but they have a right to engage people in it.

-If a conservative sees a foreign threat, he thinks about how to defeat his enemy.
-A liberal wonders how to surrender gracefully and still look good.

This “point” is absurd; there’s no doubt in my mind that it has to do with the Obama administration’s call for diplomacy before action, and liberal America’s stance on the Iraq war. Yes, we wanted to get out of Iraq; but that’s because we didn’t belong there to begin with. We had won the war, and yet stayed as an occupier; we had invaded a country and killed tens if not hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, in the process (estimates vary). The war had done more to damage America abroad than to help it.

But our position on Iraq doesn’t mean we are appeasers; it means that we want to use war only as a last resort. That’s the way it should always be. What’s so wrong with that? Why can’t diplomacy be a viable option before we go to war? Some call that appeasement, but they forget the true meaning of the word. We are not appeasers; we wish to keep the world as peaceful as possible, but we will use force when necessary. Remember, it was Bill Clinton who pushed for war in Kosovo, and conservative Republicans who opposed him.

-If a conservative is homosexual, he quietly leads his life.
-If a liberal is homosexual, he demands legislated respect.

Most conservative homosexuals, too, demand legislated respect. Most conservative homosexuals, too, want gay marriage rights. Look up the Log Cabin Republicans to find out about this subset of conservatives who support “legislated” respect.

A homosexual certainly has the right to demand legislative respect with regards to marriage just as a straight person already HAS such rights. The rights of a married couple are not derived from any church; an atheist couple can still marry so long as they’re straight. Thus, it isn’t so much a debate over religion and the institution of marriage in a religious sense, but more the rights of two people to enter into a relationship and have certain rights respected within that relationship. Certainly, a debate over whether gay and lesbian couples can have that respect is warranted in this country.

-If a person of color is conservative, they see themselves as independently successful.
-Their liberal counterparts see themselves as victims in need of government protection.

This isn’t true either; in fact, the statement itself is a stereotype (as all of these statements are), which makes it ironic since it discusses racism. Certainly non-white Americans, still the victims of violence in America, deserve to have legislation aimed at deterring violence against them. Such a thing is commonly called “hate crimes” legislation, and is criticized for being a law that specifically punishes people for murdering people of color.

But that’s not the point -- the point of the legislation is to deter people from killing others based primarily out of racism or other forms of hate (gender, sexuality, etc.). It’d be a hate crime for a black person to murder a white person simply because they’re white. We should deter all crime, but especially crime based out of hate.

-If a conservative is down-and-out, he thinks about how to better his situation.
-A liberal wonders who is going to take care of him.

The liberal, too, worries about how to help themselves out of the situation they’re in, as an individual. While a conservative and a liberal differ on what role the government should play in helping a person’s life, the liberal believes that the individual bears most of the responsibility in helping themselves out of the “rut” that they’re in. However, the liberal also understands that the weakest among us cannot always get out of that “rut” on their own -- sometimes, they need a little push, some help to get that person out of the gutter and back into work. The liberal also finds it immoral to leave a person who has just recently lost a job without any way to support themselves or their family (thus a rationale for unemployment help).

Certainly, a person who has no help whatsoever could be a bigger burden long term than someone who we choose to help -- if we don’t help them, they could end up being worse off, leaving a class of people who have no way to climb back up on the horse that bucked them to begin with. So no, a liberal doesn’t “wonder who is going to take care of them.” But a liberal does believe that a government can help a person who is down on their luck, to ensure that they once again become a productive person in society -- or at the very least have a fair shot at getting back there again.

-If a conservative doesn't like a talk show host, he switches channels.
-Liberals demand that those they don't like be shut down.

This may be true in a sense, but it turns the table on the argument completely. A liberal will indeed try to get a person they disagree with off the air -- but they’ll do so through market forces. Suddenly, the author of this chain letter feels that capitalism is a bad thing? If the market forces want a conservative off the air -- and certainly liberals are just as much a part of the market as their conservative counterparts are -- then shouldn’t the market do what its supposed to do and remove that person from the air?

-If a conservative is a non-believer, he doesn't go to church.
-A liberal non-believer wants any mention of God and religion silenced. (Unless it's a foreign religion, of course!)

Ah, but that’s completely false, too. The ACLU is often considered a liberal litigation group that often “attacks” the rights of Christians, but in fact it has defended their rights to worship in public many times, and have even defended a Christian group’s right to protest a gay rights parade. This fact troubles many conservatives when I bring it up, but it’s really simple if you look past the initial fear that you might have if you think liberals are Christian-haters: the fact is, liberals believe everyone should be allowed to worship whatever they want, so long as it doesn’t cause harm to anyone else. Even Christian students in schools have a right to pray to themselves.

But when a public school begins enforcing prayer, or when a City Hall building allows one religious display but denies another group the right to place theirs up as well, then there’s a problem. Favoritism in government isn’t acceptable; either all religions are respected or none should be.

I also had to laugh a bit at the notion that a "foreign" religion is somehow better in the eyes of a liberal. Did the conservative author forget that Christianity, too, is a foreign religion??? If we didn't want foreign religions here, wouldn't we be worshiping with Native Americans?

-If a conservative decides he needs health care, he goes about shopping for it, or may choose a job that provides it.
-A liberal demands that the rest of us pay for his.

This statement is full of several assumptions that aren’t necessarily true. First, the fact that someone can go out and shop for health care is erroneous. If a family’s provider(s) doesn’t have insurance through their employer, purchasing insurance themselves can be very costly, and it doesn’t always deliver (pre-existing conditions allow insurance companies to sell insurance to people while denying them the same insurance later on down the road without them knowing).

The second assumption is that a person can simply choose a job that provides insurance. Go ahead and quit the job you have now, and then try to just “shop for” a job that has insurance. Some may be able to pull this off, but it’s not always that simple. You don’t always just go “shopping” for a job; in this economy, you take what you can get, insurance or not.

Finally, the assumption that a liberal “demands the rest of us pay for his” insurance is flat out untrue, too. Even the liberal who is pushing for single payer care doesn’t do this; such a proposal would pay for EVERYONE’S insurance, not just his own, nor just for liberals (conservatives would get health care, too!). The public option plan being proposed by Democrats now is also not being paid for by others; it will be a self-sustaining program, wherein each person receiving insurance will still have to purchase in. Much of the costs of reform are coming elsewhere, as the health care reform plan from the Senate Finance Committee version lacks a public option yet still costs just shy of the plans that do have that option.

The last two points I don’t care to address, because they represent things that everyone, not just a liberal or a conservative, do.

-If a conservative slips and falls in a store, he gets up, laughs and is embarrassed.
-If a liberal slips and falls, he grabs his neck, moans like he's in labor and then sues.

-If a conservative reads this, he'll forward it so his friends can have a good laugh.
-A liberal will delete it because he's "offended".

Conservatives sue, too, not just liberals. And conservatives also delete messages they receive that they find offensive. It’s human nature, not a matter of political ideology.

In closing, I want to say the following: liberals and conservatives are different people, there is no doubt. But we are more similar than we think we are. A conservative, in my mind, wants to promote a person’s well-being by making it that person’s own responsibility. A liberal wants the same, but understands that some people aren’t able to do that on their own initially, and believes the government can play a small role in helping them at first.

That is but one example of how a liberal and a conservative are different from one another; and yet, it’s also one example of how they are the same. We both want people to take care of themselves. How we get them there, we disagree; but while our means differ, we have similar goals for our ends.

We’ve seemed to have forgotten that over the course of the past couple of years. Perhaps its time that we all remember that. It will definitely cause some of us to cool our heads when we argue with one another; and that’s never a bad thing.

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