We have reached a point at which politics has lost much of its political correctness.
This election year is signified by a collection of struggles, both domestic and international, all of which too often linger in the footnotes of press releases. They are forced to compete with the more prominent struggle of modern affairs not based in progress or preservation: that of the liberal and the conservative.
In politics, history has shown us that true meanings fade, while titles have staying power. Conservatives, simply enough, defended the ideologies of the Revolution. Liberals valued progress and modernization.
Over time, one side systematically embraced new issues as the other systematically denounced them, creating a strict political duality and doing away with a middle ground. Issues, rather than ethics, began to shape each division.
It may be confusing as to why an individual supports the death penalty while opposing abortion – and more remarkably, why such paradoxes are expected on both sides. In a traditional sense, everybody is a conservative and a liberal, and these titles should not influence people’s moral stances. Yet, looking to party affiliation for moral influence is a common practice.
Individuals with no commitment on a volatile issue tend to be more accepting of their own party’s rationale – which, conveniently enough, always comes with a convincing counterargument to the opposition. Americans have always feared the unknown – epitomized by such things as manifest destiny, the MLK assassination and the Cuban Missile Crisis – and many are willing to trade individualism for groupthink if the latter provides some peace of mind.
It is important to note, however, that this nation was created as an escape from imperialistic conformity. Democracy is meant as a challenge to inflexible thinking, and participating in the growth of these close-minded neo-traditionalist concepts undermines the accomplishments of many important people.
With that said, I am not advocating a witch hunt, as that would only create a division between political conformists and nonconformists, and I would be, in essence, asking people to conform to nonconformist methods. I seek only to clarify several outstanding inconsistencies that have consistently hampered our political process.
Conservatives are not oppressors of the less fortunate, they are not robots built for cost-benefit analysis, and they do not seek to exploit the planet for pocket change. Those are elitists. Elitists may tend to identify with conservatism – but then again, John Wayne Gacy identified with suburban middle-class white males. People must look past superficialities and re-evaluate their moral bases for decision-making.
Modern-day conservatives generally value religion and tend to be more resistant to change. As a result, they are reluctant to cede control to a government entity and therefore support less intrusive policies and hold individual rights in high regard. Big business is a prominent symbol of private success which draws conservative support, as is a strong military, which serves to defend individuality from foreign intrusion. Hence, conservatives are more often reactionaries.
On the other hand, liberals are not Robin Hoods. They do not aim to brainwash the youth or destroy private enterprise, nor do they desire a constrictive government. Those are communists. Liberals hold the same values as conservatives, but at different levels.
Typical liberals today are concerned with utilitarianism – the greatest good for the greatest amount. Reform Party candidate Robert Bowman points out that liberal support for government programs such as social security and welfare springs from concern for others, not a hidden socialist agenda. Liberals’ denouncement of foreign military entanglements is due to moral conflict, not cowardice. They do not necessarily reject the notion of God, only the notion of religious intervention in political matters.
When both entities are thus defined, it seems difficult to antagonize either. Each seems to have an obligation to progress, and each works toward it with confidence. We are not too far off from a system that uses ethical differences to analyze and interpret a situation, rather than one with individuals fighting for justification.
It is interesting, in retrospect, that the eagle was chosen as our national symbol. It is a creature that finds grace and harmony with both a right wing and a left – and requires the participation of both to elevate. Americans must also see their wings as tools of elevation and use them confidently and constructively.
Mohammed Ibrahim is a senior majoring in pre-med biology