The blessing of complicated politics

I was undertaking a small errand at DS2’s school and in the company of several other class parents when two of them discovered they shared an acquaintance in common. As they offered up little details about the gentleman in question to cement their understanding that they were truly thinking of the same man, one woman said to the other something to the effect of how sad it was that this fellow was still so deluded as to be a gay Republican.

Once again, I found myself in the unhappy place of feeling quite obliged to speak out or risk considering myself unprincipled. I actually dislike political arguments, because I can’t help but take things personally. In this case, I had very little to say about the precise opinion in question, but was compelled to call the speaker out on the matter of dismissing so cavalierly the man’s probable heartfelt, carefully considered, and socially uncomfortable position.

I think I said, “Isn’t it unfortunate that this man may have strong feelings about fiscal policy or how exactly we interpret the Constitution, and because of it people question his commitment to his sexual identity?”

The matter dropped rather quickly, as well it should, being generally inappropriate conversation for mere acquaintances at a school for children below the age of 14, but I’m fairly certain the woman I challenged left thinking less of me.

Returning home and reflecting upon the matter brought me more clarity about the root of why I was so troubled by her comment. Now I saw what had really motivated me to speak.

We live in an age of shallowing opinions; most Americans immerse themselves daily in a soup of media constantly polarizing every issue to black and white in order to sensationalize it and keep the jaded audience coming back for more titillation. Carefully teasing out the subtle strands of a complex situation takes time and energy that few producers—or consumers—of content care to exercise. A really thorough understanding of most issues will reveal at least two sides to the story, and should highlight why someone else may feel a different way, even if one is not, oneself, convinced by an argument.

Thank God for a complicated individual who finds himself straddling multiple worldviews in contrast to a sea of bobbing lemmings with their intellectually lock-stepped politics!

When I moved to a state known for its collectively liberal politics, I thought it would come as a relief after my upbringing and subsequent college experience in states with liberal cities and conservative rural districts. Imagine my surprise in finding it disquieting to be so constantly confronted by assumptions about one’s politics, ballots with no alternative candidates, and rarely even sign-holders from more than one party across the street from my polling place.

My politics have, without a doubt, been affected by my husband’s keen insight, rational discourse, and non-traditional views, but, more than anything, it has been the subtle effect of disagreeing completely on important issues with someone I simultaneously hold in the highest possible regard that has highlighted for me the value of respecting diverse views. Frankly, this is an oft-ignored facet of true diversity; yet another pseudo-acceptance by many people with whom my politics roughly align.

I know with certainty that my husband is a person of such excellence, high moral character, abundant intelligence, and absolute decency… yet I disagree with him on principles that are matters of moral imperative. This was a strain on my conscience when I met him; I had no practice in real tolerance, and I did not yet see what a gift it is to the world for there to be people, regardless of their convictions, who at least have thought long and hard to create them, and hold them faithfully, especially when they can accept the different, but equally hard-earned values of others.

So here’s to the gay Republican! May he hold his principles sacred, do what he thinks is right, and continue to reflect for the rest of his life, and so may it be for every one of us.

Originally posted via iWeb in 2011

7 thoughts on “The blessing of complicated politics

  1. What a balanced perspective! I’m weary of the divisive nature of politics right now. However, it has pushed me to be more self-reflective and diligent about my own ability to suspend judgment rather than to simply choose a side. Great post.

  2. This is a great way of putting it. Thank God for complicated politics indeed! If a person is never testing and refining their own political beliefs, taking new information into account, then they’re stagnating.

    I’m not saying everyone needs to constantly change their principles, but at least be willing to entertain the idea you might be wrong, and even try to understand the other sides of an issue and the perspective of those who hold them. At worst, you’ll sound–and be–more intelligent.

    You nailed it though: Diversity of thought is most certainly NOT what people mean when they talk about diversity. They only preach the most superficial kind.

    Great post; thanks for sharing the link!

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