Blanket Group Labels Inaccurate
Wow, it’s finally here! I would like to begin my first column with a word of thanks to the Beacon staff for giving the old guy a place to share a few thoughts and random ramblings. I hope that the twenty years that I have been a part of the UT community, both as an employee and as a student, have given me some unique perspectives that will provide you with a little food for thought.
I will start with a caveat: If you have an aversion to those right-wing religious fanatics who shove the Bible down people’s throats, then it’s only fair to warn you that I’m one of them. Okay, so that may be a bit of a stretch. While it is true that my political views generally lean right-of-center, I am not a blind partisan. You can be assured that I will not simply be regurgitating Rush Limbaugh’s latest talking points. And no, I won’t really shove a Bible down your throat.
Generally speaking, Evangelical Christians are not just a group of mind-numbed robots that blindly do the bidding of Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson. We have lives. We have hopes, dreams, joys and sorrows just like all other human beings. And contrary to popular belief, we do know how to think for ourselves. For example, try asking a group of Evangelicals about their opinion on the Iraq war, how to fix the economy or what to do about global warming. You might be pleasantly surprised at the diversity of opinion you would get in response!
My faith will be reflected in my writing, and I make no apologies for that. However, that does not mean that I will simply be giving you a theological treatise every time. To paraphrase T-Bone Burnett, sometimes you write about the Light, and other times you write about what the Light enables you to see. Often, following that Light puts you into categories that defy classification.
This is especially true in regards to politics. For all of the passion and animosity they provoke, "conservative" and "liberal" are actually very ambiguous terms. If you call yourself a conservative, exactly what is it you want to conserve? Historically, it has represented the desire to preserve positive things such as tradition, morality and patriotism. Unfortunately, it has also been used to defend atrocities such as racism, anti-intellectualism and blind allegiance to the status quo.
Similarly, the word "liberalism" bears the undertone of compassion and generosity, which obviously, are wonderful things. Yet even these noble motives can go horribly astray if they are not kept in proper perspective. In his book How I Accidentally Joined the Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy (and Found Inner Peace), journalist Harry Stein sums it up well:
"I, for one, can respect serious souls who continue to believe that liberalism remains the road to an honorable and humane future. But a lot of contemporary liberal dogma is not so much forward looking as based on contempt for the past, including what many of us see as our best traditions and most essential values…”
For these reasons, many Americans (myself included) are finding it more and more difficult to fit in with organized political parties. In several states, voters have been registering as independents almost as often as they have registered as Republicans or Democrats. Perhaps more than ever, the U.S may be positioning for a major paradigm shift in which individual conscience will finally be more important than party labels.
As we sort through these issues, I do not claim that I will be totally objective (no one is), or that I will be an unbiased observer (this is the opinion page, after all). But I do pledge that I will always respect your intelligence, and that I will keep this column free from sensationalism and personal attacks. Honest, thoughtful dialogue is becoming a lost art in today’s world, and if I can make some small contributions to help remedy that, then my work will have been worthwhile. In the meantime, let’s enjoy the journey together!