Thursday, September 03, 2009

Political Views: For more information regarding this space, please contact the owner

I have been trying to think of a replacement for the current description of my political views on my Facebook profile ("Philippe for America. He is five." which is a reference to Achewood), one that would be accurate, pithy, and inoffensive to potential future employers or other people who are easily offended, so good luck with that I guess. Back when you had to choose your political views from a pull-down menu, I wanted to say something like "I refuse to conform to your arbitrary categories!" Because if you see "Republican" or "Democrat" in that space, you're going to think you know what I think, right? Even if I say "moderate," it might be the case that (as Stephen Carter described himself) I have extreme positions on both the left and right ends of the spectrum.

I mean, take for example, that I'm pro-life (or anti-abortion, I guess, with a million caveats, which already makes me uncategorizable). Do you now think

1. I am pro-death penalty
2. I am anti-gay marriage


Because I'm not. You might have assumed so. But why? What do those things have to do with each other, or with other political positions on economics, foreign policy, and so on? I mean, there is the religious explanation, except that there are religious views on both sides of all those issues, and in fact there are certainly religious institutions that agree with me on the first point and at least one if not both of the latter two, like hello the one with which I and 20-25% of this country's population are affiliated (if you read the Catholic Church's position on the death penalty as opposed in most if not all circumstances, which is my understanding from my Catholic moral theology class). And gosh, it would be nice if either major party represented the whole of Catholic political theology, wouldn't it? But neither one does, which accounts for some but not all of my dilemma.

I believe political parties are necessary for people to affiliate broadly in order to elect representatives who share similar views and for those representatives to cooperate to get things done. I think their utility ends, however, when we start pigeonholing people into one of two categories, with a few outliers in third parties (none of which really represent my views, either).

The sad thing is, so many people do fall into those categories, and we get so used to being able to predict one person's entire set of views based on their position on one issue (because honestly, a lot of people regularly fail to surprise me) that our brains explode when we meet some weirdo who doesn't conform to our expectations. I am guilty of this too. But this is what it means to think for yourself, isn't it, that nobody else is going to be able to guess what you think?

(And conveniently, I'm writing this two days before the thirtieth birthday of my favorite unpredictable thinker!)


Margaret said...

I totally agree. I haven't filled out either the political or religious views because why would I want to label myself on two such important (and personal) matters? Of course I know what my labels would be if I were to label myself (pro-life libertarian and evangelical Christian), but that doesn't need to be shouted from the rooftops.

Juliet said...

That is interesting that you didn't label yourself re: religion either. I guess I feel safe labeling myself Catholic because there is such a huge variety within the RCC, and most people realize that, so Catholics are kind of hard to pigeonhole.

Margaret said...

But so many evangelical Christians will look at your Catholic status and think you're not saved! ;)