Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Muddy Middle

Or -- Why the old political parties are no longer adequate.  (I wrote this last week, but am finally getting around to posting it.)
I'm not quite sure when I realized that I was uncomfortable with the Republican party. I've been a Republican all my life, raised by Republican parents. As a Christian conservative, it was a natural fit, right?

Maybe my discomfort began when I realized that some of my church friends seemed to be Republicans first, and Christians second -- when their political opinions were more important to them that their Christian witness or growth. But they wouldn't really put it that way.

Or maybe it was when I realized that the party wanted me to support torture of prisoners. What? Would I want our prisoners treated that way? Would I want to be treated that way, if captured? I felt that we were becoming a bit too much like our enemies. I was very uncomfortable. And although not a huge fan of John McCain, I felt if there were one area he was an expert on, it was prisoner torture. He was one, lonely, vocal opponent of "enhanced techniques."

Then there's the death penalty. I'd always supported it, in principal, and I still do. But in practice, my discomfort with the "party line" increased each time the DNA evidence proved that another person had been executed wrongly. Do we shrug our shoulders and say, "Well, these things happen"? What if it were my husband, my father, my brother? When states put moratoriums on executions, I breathed a sigh of relief. I knew already that the criminal justice system was often bent on getting convictions at any cost. What if these hasty and wrongful convictions resulted in wrongful death? My discomfort grew.

What about the faith position of the person in the Oval Office? I have devoted Christian friends who are fine with Romney being (at one time) the head of the Mormon cult in Massachusetts, but still state matter-of-factly that Obama is a Muslim. They like Romney's cult faith because they're already comfortable with Glenn Beck. (HEAVY SIGH) When Clinton, a Baptist, was president, they still despised him -- it didn't matter that he was a Baptist, but boy did it matter that he was a Democrat! They want a devout Christian man in the White House, who will let his faith influence how he governs (but only if he's a Republican). But if I ask whether Romney's faith will also influence his governing? They say, "Of course not!" The inconsistencies are mind-boggling. Do these Christians even know what Mormons believe? Do they care? The blasphemies of Romney's Mormonism are so much more worrisome than any back-slidden Baptist's or Methodist's, that I find it hard to stomach the whole conversation. Ugh.

Then, a couple of years ago, I began reading a lot about the foods we eat: how they're made and processed and marketed. The more I learned, the more worried I was to discover that the Republican party had always backed Big-Agri, Big-Pharma, and of course Big-Business. (For what it's worth, the Democrats do too, when they're in office.) I realized that, for these folks, it's all about money. They are businesses, after all. Why do we trust them to give us what's good for us, when it's better for their business to give us what's bad for us, and then medicate it too? As I became vocal for local farmers, local dairies, care for animals and the land, I began to get flack from my Christian conservative friends, as if I'd jumped ship. What? Because I'm using my brain and assessing a crucial situation, I'm suddenly branded? They think I'm a liberal? A Democrat even? No, I'm just another American who's lost in the Muddy Middle of the political spectrum.

Abortion? I'm as pro-life as anyone. Immigration? I think if they're illegal, they should be arrested and sent home until they can come in legally. Sorry, but citizenship here isn't just a given for every human on the planet, at will. Obamacare? No thanks, even though I am one of the many Americans living every day, every year, without insurance ... and thus, without care. Gay marriage? Nope. I think marriage does have a definition, and as handy as it might be for some to shift definitions to their liking, it doesn't change the fact that God made a family of a man and a woman, designed to have children. List a long number of political topics, and you'll find me in agreement, generally, with the Republican platform. I know this because my liberal friends are upset with me just as regularly as my conservative friends are!

Political parties are all about lip service. I don't trust them. They will say "pro-life!" but when they get in office, do they pass pro-life legislation, and fight against the current? No. They will claim to be for the little guy, the small business owner, the farmer, but does anything change? No, our nation keeps crunching down the sloping path to dysfunction and bankruptcy.

If you've read this far, this is for all my friends on all points of the political spectrum:  I hold my views because I've struggled through them hard, and arrived at my conclusions. I don't ever expect for my opinions to be yours. I've yet to find a friend with whom I agree on all points. Most of my friends accept this and love me anyway. If you just can't stand to hear me rant about a topic, please, just click away. I'm sorry we don't agree, but I'm not changing my mind to suit anyone, and I'm not shutting up either. I try to carry on discussions with grace, clarity, and absence of rancor. Keep accusations and assumptions to yourself; they have no place in civil debate. I'm willing to consider opposing opinions, and perhaps even change positions -- I've done it before! But I do it to suit my own conscience, not someone's else preference. That's also part of honest debate.

That's my political statement -- the muddy middle. Probably more conservative than liberal. I don't expect anybody to make a political party to suit my design, and I hope they don't expect me to jump on their bandwagon. As the generations go along, younger folks are less and less willing to do that.

2 comments:

  1. I have never heard of muddy middle, but I've been a registered independent for years--for many of the reasons you give and others of my own. I think for myself. I do not vote purely Republican because I am a relatively conservative Christian. I read, research, question, etc. I pray & vote my conscience. Then I live with the consequences. To me, that is what our country is supposed to be about. I don't know if it actually is anymore, though.

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  2. Ginger, I do think that a lot of people in our generation are feeling this way. We aren't devoted to a single party like our parents. We want to think independently. We don't necessarily want to be anarchists either. It's a tough place to be sometimes.

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