Sticks and Stones

A few weeks ago I was critical of the Obama Administration’s record breaking sales of weapons and one of our readers accused me of being a conservative. Last week, after describing the Bush (and Obama) Administration culpability in 19 years of war in the middle east, I was accused of being a liberal. Sticks and stones.

I found myself missing my friend, Alva Barrett. If you’ve lived in this area long enough, you may remember Alva. She was a formidable and highly intelligent woman, born and raised in Towns County. She brought up her family in the state of Washington, but she never lost her love for our mountains, and she continued to correspond with the home folks here and subscribed to our newspaper to the end of her days.

Alva did not suffer fools, and she wrote some of the most insightful and amusing letters to the editor, well into her eighties. I remember one letter in particular that she wrote after being accused of being a “liberal.”

The label wasn’t meant as a compliment, rather, it was hurled as a projectile. But Alva grasped the intended weapon and wore it as a medal. She reminded her accuser of some of the names from our history who were similarly accused, including all of our Founders and even Jesus Christ Himself, though she made no claim to any moral equivalence.

Hannah Arendt said, “The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution.” The meaning of a word changes over time, and still falls short of providing understanding. One hundred sixty years ago the republican party was working to abolish slavery. Today, some launchers of verbal projectiles would have us believe that “republican” is synonymous with “racist.”

All of this, my friends, sits squarely in the middle of why we write. There will always be those who call names like we did in the fourth grade, and sadly we see that kind of behavior modeled by our leadership and parroted in all forms of media. But for the rest of us, it only serves to divide, to provoke anger and to prevent understanding.

Have you stopped kicking your dog, yes or no? So, you got a new vehicle! Is it a Ford or a Chevy? Projectile labels are symptoms of a false dilemma or other logical fallacies. So you’re a republican? Why do you hate purple people? You’re a liberal? You must be a vegetarian, and why do you want to destroy the country?

When did being a republican or a democrat, or a conservative or a liberal, become mandatory? A majority of Americans identify as independent, but the national narrative is jealously guarded by two organizations which fall far short of representing the array of choices Americans actually have. After 166 years of opportunities to work together, they have lost the ability to govern effectively.

Most Americans agree that, at the very least, after generations of gaming the system, there is room for improvement in our form of government as it is currently administered. Sadly, as voters we are not ideally situated for making improvements. Our choices in the national realm are few and highly manipulated. We’re conditioned for blind allegiance to one party or another, and if we question any part of our party’s platform or disagree with its leadership, past or present (after the primaries are over, of course) then we are attacked or ostracized.

The process of making choices for the country is mired in corruption and partisanship, although the revolving door system of legislator to lobbyist is not considered to be “corrupt” by those who practice it. Legislation is bundled like something offered by a cable company, and the question of what is just or effective or urgent takes a back seat to what is political.

The most worrisome aspect of our once and future government, however, is frequently overlooked by those of us perpetually distracted by partisanship. Regardless of the sound and fury of politics, the posturing, the histrionics and the virtue signalling, certain things are always accomplished.

Despite the steady stream of accusations, recriminations and lies, and the shocking sounds of two cats “fighting” at midnight prior to kittens being born, there are certain things that every Congress and every president seem able to agree upon: We will continue to sell weapons all over the world. We will maintain as many military bases as we can borrow money to pay for, and we will continue to use lethal force in parts of the world that a majority of Americans (and about half of DoD employees) can’t find on a map. Nancy Pelosi created great political theater by ripping up the President’s State of the Union address, but a few weeks prior to that, she voted for his defense budget. Get it?

Our emotions often dictate that we listen, not to understand, but to reply. This shortens the distance between communication and name calling considerably. It’s a challenge as old as humanity, but in the end, the only thing that matters is the labels we give ourselves.

Therefore, for what it’s worth, I’m not a liberal, or a conservative, thank you. I’m a strong supporter of the 2nd Amendment, but I’d rather stupid people (a label that’s hard to get around sometimes) were unable to own weapons. I believe in Jesus Christ, but I’m not prepared to judge how other people live their lives. With my wife and family I’ve worked very hard to preserve and protect the environment, but I support the American energy companies that make our standard of living possible while we undergo the long process of finding and implementing better alternatives.

To me, these opinions seem logical, based on the best information I have now. It does not matter where they fall under the movable tents of the two party duopoly.

As I get older, I also find that I’m less interested in the opinions of people with no “skin in the game.” Everyone has a right to an opinion, but not everyone is entitled to one, so if we’re talking about war, which has been the context of the discussion for several weeks now, if you have served, if you are willing to serve, if you have a son or daughter or parent or friend who has been or will be in harm’s way, I’ll take your opinion under advisement, whether we agree or disagree. If not, well, you have a right to your opinion.

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