Wednesday, November 12, 2014

To Emerge Political.

Political Science. It's my major because once upon a time I took great pleasure in studying, arguing and writing about controversial topics. And I mean this happened as early as age 12. I learned quickly what it meant to formulate an opinion and back it up with facts. I learned what it meant to take facts and spin them. That's when I knew I wanted to go to law school - a very confident decision I made as a middle schooler. Before I could vote, I was campaigning. I will be candid - I emerged unequivocally a Republican. I'm not sure what that matters when you're 15 and trying to make sense of a post-9/11 foreign policy, but I was definitely forming opinions on who made me feel most safe. But even before all that, I couldn't shake this idea of empowering individuals over government. That idea influenced most of my positions on important issues. I didn't want the government interfering with fiscal issues. I didn't want the government endorsing capital punishment. And I wanted the government to keep its politics far away from my religion.

Speaking of religion, though not raised attending church, I began attending with friends in middle school. I saw quickly that there was little chance that religion wouldn't influence politics and vice-versa. I recognized that faith influences a lot of political views. It was obvious that nothing or nobody influenced votes in the American South more than God Himself. Boy did I (do I) wrestle with that idea, especially since my faith was not always leading me to the "right" side of some social issues, but who was going to be audacious enough to tell me how God would vote?  It was confusing to take the faith that I hold dear and the politics I love and wish more than anything they'd quit trying to hang out together. I began asking really hard questions. How does arguing against abortion based on the Bible resonate with non-Christians? Is that really an acceptable political argument? How is a Christian woman supposed to feel when she doesn't want the freedom to choose what she considers a murderous act? This all sure is complicated, I'd think.

Alas, I have wrestled and voted. Typically, I've always been that Republican with mostly Democrat friends. I've been that Republican with a different approach to social issues. You're one of the reasonable ones, they'd say. From a strategic perspective, I do hope that the formal Republican Party would modernize its approaches to hugely important issues. In recent years, I realized I was a Republican by default. I shared similar stances on most issues, but I departed drastically in my reasoning. Why? Because I'm a Libertarian stuck in a two-party system. Just as much as I'd like the government out of my personal economic affairs, I sure wish they'd quit trying be my moral compass as well. I am a proponent of limited government, not non-existent government. For example, thank goodness for government intervention in Civil Rights when it was clear that racial oppression would rule the day if not for some strategic government involvement. Many look to the government now to address LGBT rights, and I think that's necessary because key human rights are being withheld based on a moral calculation that is not endorsed by the majority of Americans.

I've learned over time that the best way to influence others is by being gracious and tolerant - by definition, withholding judgment or persecution. You want people to attend your church? You want people to vote for your guy or gal? Be an ambassador of kindness to everyone across all faiths, beliefs and orientations. Because I'll make a promise to both sides: your damning signs and preachy rhetoric is only serving to alienate. That's not even Political Science.  It's common human decency.

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