It’s been quite a while since I felt the urge to write something and when I write, I want it to be meaningful. I see a lot of political terms tossed around such as liberal and conservative as we continue the seemingly never ending election cycle in our country. I feel we are getting so divided and so caught up in extremes that people are losing touch with what the real issues are. I want to take a few minutes, mostly for myself to work it out, to understand just what the terms liberal and conservative mean and whether or not we should all take a different perspective on them.
I was raised in a conservative family. To me, conservative means that I cherish the traditional ways we have done things and that we should keep doing the things we know that work. There’s a common sense approach to things and most problems shouldn’t require too much thought before deciding what to do. It’s a great way to look at things and provides a sense of security in the world. The attitude is that change may be necessary, but we need to hold on to our roots and what has always worked. Conservatives love things such as family values, patriotism, rule of law, treating your neighbor with respect and expecting the same in return, and taking care of the home front before worrying about others. These are all great values and sentiments for people to follow.
Since I was raised conservative, it’s taken me a long time to understand what the term liberal means to people in the US. Liberals are not simply against all that conservatism stands for. Liberal philosophy yearns for everyone to be equal and sees flaws with the way things currently are. Liberalism seeks to make our country better through recognizing the differences in the way people think and that different people need different things. Liberals are not the antithesis of all things conservative because liberals, too, understand that our heritage and values are fundamentally important, but that those values can, and do, change over time. Liberals seek to push the envelope of our society not through blind change to accommodate the wishes of the minority, but to embrace the spirit of the values that have helped us arrive at where our society is today.
Within both groups, liberal and conservative, differences of ideology can be found and I’m only speaking in terms of broad generality for the sake of brevity. There are always people with extreme views in both circles who will never seek to understand anyone else but themselves. I think this is where we have the greatest opportunity in our current political climate. I think there are assets in each political philosophy we can and should draw from. I think we should demand the same from our politicians instead of tolerating the extremism and hostility toward the other party we see in the news today.
The current hot button political issue concerns terrorism and the refugees from Syria and whether or not we should welcome them into our country. Conservatism tells us that we should take care of our own first and we need to protect ourselves from the possible terrorists masquerading as refugees in order to avoid more terror attacks on our home soil. Liberalism tells us we should welcome these refugees into our country because they are poor and down trodden people who need help we can provide. We’re told the government will vet these refugees to help protect us, but that’s not good enough for some politicians. The question is what should happen with these people? The answer isn’t as straight forward as it would seem, but I think we can look to both conservatism and liberalism to find the correct course of answer.
I find it interesting that many conservatives identify as Christian in their religious belief. As Christians, we know that Christ is the example for how we should approach situations and how we should make decisions. Christ demonstrated that we are to help the poor, and turn the other cheek when we are wronged. We have been wronged through terrorist attacks, but there is a lack of willingness to turn the other cheek; conservatives seek to close off the borders, hunker down, and ride out the storm. I don’t think this is what Christ had in mind so I respectfully disagree with that course of action.
Many people who identify as Liberal are Christian as well. They seek to open up our country to these refugees to help them in their time of need. We have a country of vast resources so why not use them for good? Perhaps showing that we are a people who love and take care of one another will help promote good will thus disarming extremists who seek to harm us because they don’t understand who we are. I can get on-board with this idea just like I can get on-board with the idea that we need to protect ourselves, too. Both answers are, in and of themselves, correct, but which one is more right than the other?
Ultimately, I have to say that, while we do need to protect ourselves, it is more important to help those in need. I think terrorists are going to find a way into our country no matter what lengths we go to in order to harm us and carry out attacks. I think we have the intelligence mechanism in place, as abhorrent as it is to our freedom and privacy, to mitigate these attacks and lessen their effect on society. When I look at the fact that we have extremists and sick people who carry out atrocities who are here already, I don’t think we’re opening ourselves up to any more risk than we already have. I like to think I have the spirit of conservatism and liberalism in my thought and decision making process. I’m not riding the fence, but I feel I am taking a pragmatic approach to the issue and weighing the benefits and risks.
The only other aspect of the conversation that bothers me is that whether or not someone is classified as a refugee depends on whether their story or origin fits in with the current political narrative. We LOVE to switch the topic to illegal immigration when speaking of people who come here from Mexico and other Latin American countries, but we conveniently forget they, too, are probably refugees fleeing the corruption and violence of the drug cartels in their own countries. It’s not a stretch to say that there are many similarities in both peoples except one group belongs to a religious faith that is foreign to our own and the others are more like us. We tend to downplay their status and relegate them into obscurity simply because it’s easier to blame them for our own problems than accept the situation for what it is.
At the end of the day, I think our immigration system is broken, misguided, and antiquated. It shouldn’t take years of vetting for someone in dire need to come to our country for help. If we, as Americans, truly cared about freedom and peace, we’d be doing just as much south of our border to combat political corruption and extremism as we do on the other side of the world. I think if we worked closer with the Mexican government and its people, we could have already broken the backs of the drug cartels and stabilized the economy of Latin America so that we wouldn’t see the seemingly uncontrolled immigration from these places.
It wasn’t my intention to bring that topic up, but, as I was writing, I felt the issue seemed to fit in with what I wanted to explore with these two political ideologies. I like to think I borrow the best from both to make a balanced decision. Hopefully, I’m right and other people feel the same way I do. If that is the case, why are we all sitting quietly in the background instead of demanding these issues be addressed in an intelligent and compassionate way. Instead, we’re content to let Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and Jeb Bush play buzz word bingo and make their short sighted and pandering political platforms gain traction. At the same time, we’ve got Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton playing the other side of the fence pandering to their base. Both sides are avoiding the true issues and telling people what they want to hear and making a political conversation an emotional debate.