The rest of the conversation isn't important. The question I asked, is. It spilled out of my mouth before the clarity of what I was saying actually hit me. This isn't about why I feel the way I feel about current events and politics. You're probably already well aware. This isn't where I make jokes about France, or the human shields that ran home because they were afraid for their safety. This isn't where I tell people we're not fighting for Kurds, but fighting for Americans. This isn't where I berate my view into the head of everyone reading in a desperate, arm-flailing attempt to either vent, or (scoff) change someone's mind. As it turns out the rest of the conversation was pleasant. The person thought, and implied they really would like a concise explaination. I offered the list of reasons, and they thanked me and told me my explainations were helpful. The purpose of this post is to disect the question I asked this gentleman, when I was unsure of his motives for tossing out his statement.
"Do you really want to know? Or are you just politically alligned?"
I've looked back on the some of the encounters I've had with people who've possessesd contrary opinions to my own. I remember working late at night at my first copy shop job, and going into a very deep and refreshingly polite discussion with a coworker who'd come to visit during his off hours to get some personal work done. Our topic - amazingly enough for a polite discussion - was on abortion rights, and the definition of human life, legal versus scientific/ethical. In any normal environment, I'd expect such a discussion to decend into a flury of emotional back and forth, personal insults, slinging accusations and stereotypes, and defending our intellectual ground like it was God Almighty's sovereign territory. It'd be hard to find a person capable of carrying on a completely non-personal, intellectual discussion, an exchange of views and counter-views, in a civil manner, without eventually taking personal insult to anything said, or giving into frustration. However, it happened that night, and it's one of the things I'll never forget, just like the time I ran into that gentleman mentioned in the first paragraph of this posting. The reason it stood out was because it's so rare. Engaging in such a discussion for hours on end gives you a high feeling, reguardless of either side never changing their mind. The only other high I can equate it to is the type of good feeling you get after a long run or a good workout. Odd, I know, but there it is.
Most of the online areas I frequent are inhabited by a fandom known as "furry". I'm an ideological minority in almost every sense within this small group. For my espoused views, I've been maligned, ostricised, and insulted endlessly. I've had people tell me that they hate me, and hate everything I stand for, because I carry a contrary opinion to their view of what should be. I've been told by people I've never known that they have absolutely no respect for me based on the views I possess. I've tried to analyze these people and figure out why they tick as they do, and I only have to regress back into my own childhood to see them as they were, as I used to be, a person who believed what they believed because it's what they were taught, in the images they saw, the friends they held, the music they listened to, and the teachers they listened to. They were never taught to analyze the things before them, to apply them to the thinking skills they were taught in school. They were conditioned to react to a set of circumstances before them, instead of thinking each one through in a logical fashion to it's end conclusion. As a result, they've never been tested, conditioned, or challenged to defend their views in an intellectual fashion. I'd dare say they've rarely met people within their peer group who've held contrary opinions, or even expressed opinions. When they approach a contrary thought, they treat it as alien, foreign, something uttelry wrong and inconceivably evil. They beleive they are the center of the road, and not off to the right or left of issues. They can't understand why others around them feel differently, because they've never developed the mental excercise in putting themselves in someone else's shoes, to see a thought from another person's eyes, to challenge their own notions with intellectual honesty and think out the results of their desires if they come to fruition, in a grand manner. In other words, they fail to think beyond their nose, or outside the box of ideology they've been raised on, like a fish trying to grapple with the concept of air, ground, lush forested areas, and entire realms of alternate existance beyond the water it was raised in and still resides in. In their frustration at being unable to reach those they seek to change they grow even more irrational and resort to insults, and a form of naked hatred that stews within them for the rest of their lives, ready to explode at the next person with a contrary view.
Did I mention my childhood? Yes, as a child I was conditioned by a teacher of mine to love the environmental movement, and this subsequently sewed the seeds of a hatred for the wealthy, corporations, and a liberal cycism from which I viewed the entire world. My child mind hated the President of the time, Ronald Reagan. Everyone else was making fun of him. He was an authority figure, and as such, power and influence draws envy and hatred, and made him a big easy target. I didn't stop to think of if I'd been misinformed, lied to, or if I was just doing what everyone around me seemed to be doing so I could fit in. I just went along like an unthinking animal, saying the things I said, and believing the things I believed, frightened to death, actually staying up at night, more afraid that all the trees on my planet would be gone by the year 2000, than I was of nuclear war. This was what they'd sewn into my head, and it wasn't until I started reading heavily that I began to confront my own views on the world, and began to realize they weren't based on anything but for the environment I was raised in, and the fact that my brain wasn't mature enough to decipher opinion from objective data, or feeling from logic at those times. My inputs were contrary. Leaving New Jersey public schools, we were thrust into West Germany, into the tip of the spear in the Cold War. The seriousness of every reason we were there hit home like a ton of bricks, even though I was only 8 when we arrived, and 11 when we left.
It is actually "Bloom County" that I owe my current political leanings to. Not that it fed me everything I believe, but that I was absorbed in the cartoon and loving it, and occassionally feeling pangs of insult whenever the comic would stereotype people I'd grown up around - Military people, normal parents, people I grew up with, and even myself. My parents were very hands-off in their raising of me, so I suppose I didn't really have them to rebel against. Without the pressure from them, I felt pressure from the media around me, and I suppose that prompted me to rebel against their influence, instead. I began to read heavily. History. Science. Novels. Views. Ideas. Things that surrounded every hot-button topic in history that they didn't go into detail in our high school history books, I absorbed. Because I'd seen the other side, I could properly analyze it. When someone made a statement, I knew from whence it came. I had the memories in my head of when I used to think along the same lines. I went from liberal, to crowd-pleasing moderate, to conservative within the span of about six teenage years. I suppose if I was all wrapped up in girls, music bands, and was surrounded by friends I could visit, I would have had plenty of distractions to keep my thinking mind at the same childhood level up through adulthood. Because I'd given up on acceptance, it never was a goal past the age of 17, for me. This has resulted in a jaded attitude about my views, on just about everything, since, and resulted in a very candid, and honest approach to espousing them. This can lead to some very childish exchanges in open forums, but it's very hard to sit by and watch something you love dear be repeatedly trashed by those who are still children, reacting on notions, emotions, and things they were taught by their favorite media, without all the information at hand, or even the mental facilities to be open to the information you can provide. I'm very sorry to use the term "children", but I can't think of any other better way to put it, because when I thought like these people, behaved like these people, talked like these people, I was literally a child. When they speak, this is exactly what it sounds like to me, only with the occassionally expanded vocabulary.
It would be very easy for me to pass myself off as a moderate thinker, above the fray, bashing both sides in a form of gathering praise from everyone and passing myself off as pious because I take a middle road approach, trying to sell it as one that sees both sides and makes the intellectual compromise. I've seen both sides, and such a thing would not be an honest to my own conclusions and experiences. And at the risk of disappointing everyone who thought that furry porn artist = liberal thinker, I stopped wearing masks in High School, and what you hear/see/read is what you get.
So, we get back to my earlier question. Do you really want to know? Or are you politically alligned? Is your mind made up? When you pose a problem to your mind, whether it's a current event or a personal matter, do you honestly seek all the information around you in an attempt to formulate a conclusion, based on your analysis and meditation on the issue? Or do you seek a media source that feeds you the answer that falls in line with your current, dogmatic political formula? In the absence of intellectual application and logic, conclusions can only be shoved into the realm of meer opinion, notion, dogma, or - something to really steam a leftist - religion. This is by no means isolated with the left. It manifests itself with the right, as well, and moderate thinkers especially. Images of people on both sides of the isle waving signs, as if it makes a difference, seem silly to me. I've never wanted to stake my arguement, or base my world views, on brief soundbytes that fit on tacky bumper stickers.
Will you just read this, nod sagely, and forget about it when you close the window? Or will you remember it the next time you're confronted with an issue?