Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Political Heads and Tails -- Two Sides of the Same Coin

Just as my ethnic self includes the binary of black and white, it also includes the binary of both right wing and left wing camps. I am a Democrat, and believe strongly in Democratic values, but because I was a born again Christian for 10 years of my past and attended rather conservative churches, many of my long term friends are Republican. While their views, which sometimes include Libertarianism, often violently contradict my own, many of these friendships able to withstand this divide because of our history, our mutual respect, and our genuine desire for each of us to understand the political motivations of the other. This is not true for all the friends of my past, however. Those who use facebook as a platform to comment on the “stupidity” of “socialists” and Obama supporters in general are not people I can easily tolerate. This intolerance is twofold: 1) Because I feel that none of us should call the other camp stupid, and 2) because Obama is my biracial brother, and one who I trust as my Presidential leader.

As I read these spews against an increasing “socialist America” I become aware of the fact that Libertarians and extreme liberals really want the same things, we just view these wants through a different lens. I read 1984 about six years ago and became afraid of Bush and capitalist greed. A Libertarian acquaintance read the same book and became afraid of Democrats who he feels are thinly-veiled socialists. How can one book provide such similar reactions to such opposite truths? The answer is this: Libertarians and Socialists both want and fear the same things—not on a specific level, such as healthcare or abortion—but on the thematic level of freedom and a quest for truth. 1984 speaks to both camps because it relays a fear of power, a fear of being denied one’s rights due to the control of an outside Other. These rights differ, but the fact that we are all afraid of losing them is what makes us the same. We each accuse the opposite camp of being “lemmings,” and demand, as Coldplay demands of those they feel are not socially aware, to “Open up your eyes.” Each of us feels that those who do not share our beliefs are living in darkness and following the status quo without giving thought to what it is we are following. But how can each of these status quos be threatening our existence at the same time? How can we at once both be doomed to Conservative Capitalism and to Socialism? If both camps have their eyes closed, who has them open?

I will always believe in a woman’s right to choose and equal rights for homosexuals. I will always believe that everyone should be afforded healthcare and a good education. I will always believe that war is not the answer, and that America should embrace people from all countries, religions, and orientations. But while I support these things, I am simultaneously aware that humanity is predisposed to believe that the world is falling to pieces, and that this individual fear unites us collectively. Whether we fear Conservative Bush or Liberal Obama, we should “open our eyes” and realize that our belief in freedom is what links us to, not separates us from, our political opposition.

--Shannon Luders-Manuel


  1. I think what both sides mainly fear is corruption. Absolute power WILL be corrupt, no doubt about it. Libertarians feel that if the Government is involved in much of the decisions of the individial, corruption would soon be the norm. Socialists fear big business having too much power and dealing with corruption there. Maybe we should all band together and fight against corruption of any kind, this is what is destroying Mexico and lets not let it happen here!

  2. Well said! As someone who was raised republican and then moved to the "big bad city" and discovered that democrats can be christians too (lol...) I totally hear where you're coming from. I try really hard to understand everyone, especially when I don't agree with them. We all just want to be loved and heard.

  3. Great post, and I agree with a lot of what you said and especially the areas that kind of hinted on the respect that should be offered to the other parties. This debate has brought out some of the "worst" in both sides of the aisle and your discussion of "Who does have their eyes open?" is a good one and everyone needs to consider that as they attack or oppose someone who has beliefs that are different from them.

    There are some things in life that are facts, and there are some things that are opinion... one needs to determine which are which and stand firmly behind the facts, and listen and perhaps even change opinions.