Being Liberal

I have recently acquired a friend who identifies as an "extreme leftist." Now, depending on the company I'm in I can also look like an "extreme leftist"...but next to my friend I practically look like a conservative. He's literally (and I do mean literally) a card-carrying socialist. And I love his company, and enjoy talking to him about a lot of different things. Though, he definitely presents just one side of the story most of the time. But he presents it persuasively.

Now, one thing I've noticed over time is that it's typically much more fun to be the liberal one in a group, rather than the more conservative one. Like, at my church (which is self-defined as evangelical, and quite conservative) I think I'd probably be considered off-the-charts liberal, but at my seminary (where the faculty, and much of the students, have a pretty strong liberal bent) I came off as staunchly moderate. It's really fun to be the liberal one. Liberals just come off as cooler, you know? Sometimes a conservative comes off as a prudish schoolmarm...always saying who shouldn't be doing what, and wanting to convince everyone they're doing something immoral, and also that they should be white and American and make a lot of money. (Yes, I realize that's a giant stereotype, but it does often seem to come out that way in interactions and debates...) But liberals seem to be about greater acceptance of people, especially people on the margins of our culture, and just seem to be less judgmental in general (except of conservatives, to which the judgment is often patronizing and self-righteous and venomous...but that's for another post).

But one thing I've noticed in my friend, is how easy it is to get bogged down in a self-designation. It's like, once you've declared yourself a "liberal", you have to follow the liberals on every issue--and it's easy to become kind of lazy in figuring things out for yourself (he's not, it just makes me think about that possibility for people). Not that you aren't educated and articulate and aware of the arguments, but at the same time, because you've based your identity on this label, it's easier not to really consider those options outside of your self-designation. And because it's just more fun to be liberal, I think it's easy for me just to not even want to think about those times I am more conservative on certain issues (which is not necessarily frequent, but I don't think it's never either). I don't want to be lazy in my stance-taking, y'know?

And I got in an argument with this guy I know recently, who was trying to say that I wasn't very liberal. His rationale was that it was because I believe in God (and I think also, because I wouldn't sleep with him, but that's another story). And I found myself fighting to defend my designation as a liberal. And after trying for like 20 minutes to prove how damn liberal I am, I finally just thought--why does it matter whether he gives me this designation? And I realized that sometimes it's easy to get caught up in a label, and that it can prevent growth into new and different ways of thinking and being. I don't want to be about a label, I want to be about loving people.

This was underscored when I watched the movie Children of Men over the weekend (which I highly recommend). I won't give away the plot points, but let's just say, some people with a liberal agenda in the movie get really invested in their ideals, and they are so passionate about pushing their ideals, they forget that what it's really all about is the PEOPLE and not the ideals--the ideals are just there to empower and love and serve the people, especially the poor and people who don't have a voice, not the other way around.

I want to try and live that as much as I can, and if it makes me a liberal, fine, and if not, fine.

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Blogger mishabomb said...

B, the only thing I get annoyed by is when we get so defined by titles that we stop thinking about what we really think (which, I think, you sort of covered in your post.) There are certainly issues that "define" left and right. It is so strange that we've, for example, associated conservative right with ppl who don't believe in abortion, think that the earth isn't undergoing a global warming, thinks that the DaVinci code is evil, thinks that Mel Gibson has failed us as a spokesperson (huh?!), etc. And then as for the leftists, I see the same irrationality - association of values as defined by potentially superficial qualities. Anyways, I donno if I'm making sense, but I hope ppl don't lose themselves in labels, but really start identifying with the heart of a cause.

3:27 PM  

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