Friday, October 24, 2008

What it Means to be Moderate

I am a self-described libertarian. However, many libertarians annoy me with their righteous moral certitude (ever read Ayn Rand?). So I must also add that I consider myself a political moderate, and no, that certainly doesn’t mean I don’t pay attention. It means, like it sounds, that I fall in between the political extremes at least as it relates to the United States of America. And to do that and care and be informed, well let me tell you, it’s harder than being a rank and file conservative or liberal. It means I have to form objective opinions on my own, recognize bias, and never only settle for one source or point of view. Yet it is well worth it.

The main reason it is so worth it is what becomes of those who are not. It’s amazing the amount of bias that smart people will allow themselves to absorb with out a second thought. It will always amaze me when a conservative takes something Bill O’Reilly says as fact or a liberal does the same with Michael Moore. These two are bias producing machines, using stick men opposition, shouting, omission and fancy editing to make their point seem like the only one that could possibly be correct.

The idea that only your point of view is correct is, in my humble opinion, the single greatest cause of human suffering in the world. I’m not saying that Bill O’Reilly or Michael Moore and anyone who agrees with them are evil. I’m saying that their thinking and techniques are what has lead to such disastrous consequences. Normally at this point, it would be prudent to give an example, but there are so many that it’s hard to settle on just one. For instance, the Nazi’s believed it was only OK to be Arians, Osama Bin Laden and his followers believe it is only OK to be an Islamic fundamentalist, Pol Pot and Khmer Rogue believed that it was only OK to be an uneducated, agrarian, communist, etc. etc. How hard would it be for someone to say “this is too much, these are people too!” Evidently, very hard when you’re only seeing things from one perspective.

This ‘with me or against me’ attitude creates a false dichotomy: an absolute good and an absolute evil. What must happen to that absolute evil? Well it must be eliminated! So we see the Holocaust and Killing Fields and just about every other tragedy as a result. Now obviously this doesn’t mean that those with strong opinions are going to go on a genocidal rampage. It’s just that this kind of ideological idolatry is the foundation that kind of evil can be built upon. Luckily, for the most part the problems it causes are less severe.

The US government is currently paralyzed by partisan politics where each side is looking to gain power instead of helping the common good. I heard a political pundit say that more people know Bush’s political advisor (Rove) than his chief of staff (who knows what his name is?)! And it’s true! George Bush, as well as other Republicans and Democrats, have done a great disservice to the American people by being a member of their party first and their country second. The rhetoric coming from both sides of aisle during this election cycle should be proof enough of this.

So finally, what it means to be a moderate must be capped by what it absolutely does not mean to be a moderate. Being moderate does not mean that you don’t have strong opinions. I think George Bush has failed miserably, but that doesn’t mean I’m a liberal. Who’s to say our political balance is even in the right hemisphere. For example, a moderate in the United States would be considered a radical right-winger in the former Soviet Union!

A moderate could be a communist or a laissez-faire capitalist (like me), it doesn’t matter what you believe. In essence, you can still be a liberal or conservative and still be moderate. Because a true moderate is not defined by where he stands, but the fact that he knows and tries to understand where others stand and why. Someone who is willing to debate robustly but in the end, agree to disagree. A moderate is someone who recognizes that we are all human and all want what’s best, we just disagree on how to get there.

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