Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been accused of being a Clintonista leftist and a Trump-loving hatemonger, of being a sexist and a racist and of basking in my white privilege, of being a bleeding heart social justice crusader and wallowing in my victimhood. I’ve been told “that’s why you voted for Trump!” for stating something that, in the very same conversation, led someone else to inform me “that’s why you voted for Clinton!”
Along the way, I’ve fallen prey to the same trap so many others have: I’ve spent too much time attacking the character of this politician or that, while not focusing any energy whatsoever on stating what it is I, myself, believe. Somewhere, I allowed myself to start ascribing to people the Gollum of their chosen candidate’s positions, without taking a moment to consider whether or not that person has or could articulate what beliefs it was that drove them to chose that particular candidate in the first place.
Then, I had a slightly arresting realization: while I’m pretty good with words, of attacking the positions of others, and of deconstructing arguments from both sides, I haven’t arrived at my own positions. Might I not be very good at stating what it is I believe–because I haven’t been practicing that. Have I thought about how to best articulate the principles behind what it is I think on any given issue? I’m thought it would be interesting to, instead of trying to tear down this position or that based solely on someone’s expressed political candidate or notion, focus instead on practicing saying what *I* believe, and letting that drive my actions and thoughts. So, here’s my list so far, and my conclusions at the end:
- I believe everyone is created equal, that no one should receive special privileges or restrictions because of who they were born as or where they were born.
- I believe hard work should be rewarded with fair wages in a consensual relationship between an employer and the employee.
- I believe people should be free to say what they want, do to them selves as they want, and go where they want, so long as they don’t harm others while doing so.
- I believe government is, frequently, well-intentioned but ill-equipped to deal with problems it takes on, that the solutions to many of those problems would arise naturally from pure hearts and right action left to its own, and that too often, even good intentions lead to bad outcomes, often making the problems worse, not better.
- I believe people — all people — have a right to express their beliefs however they see fit, so long as they don’t violate the rights of others in doing so.
- I believe that people have the right to ignore the statements of others any time they choose. Just because you have a right to say something doesn’t mean you have a right to be *heard*.
- I believe there are despicable people in this world, that evil exists, that bad things happen. But I also believe that these people, this evil, and these events are rarities, the outliers, not the norm.
- I believe we’re far too afraid, and that many of the fears we have are unfounded and based in our own insecurities, not in reality of our situations.
- I believe in helping my fellow man, lending a hand to those in need, offering assistance to those less fortunate.
- I believe to whom and how I express my help should be my decision and mine alone. I believe neither the government nor society have no moral authority to dictate to me how I help those around me.
- I believe in promoting peace through encouraging engagement first, formidable strength second, that a strong military doesn’t require committing an ever-spiralling amount of money to achieve.
- I believe in a safety net to catch people when they fall, but that net should have a bounce to it, not a hole in the middle that people get trapped under for the rest of their lives.
- I believe social justice begins and ends at home, with parents and children, and that any attempts to enforce social justice by a government will do little more than institutionalize and crystalize opposition.
- I believe love trumps hate every time, but that too often, we let our self-love turn into hatred of others.
- I believe facts matter before beliefs.
- I believe the power of an argument, not a letter behind my name on a card, should drive my decisions at the ballot box.
- I believe that most people who spend their lives in public service have pure motives, that the impulse behind their drive is good, but that sometimes their plans are bad.
- I believe that some people, far fewer than most, but far more than I’d like, are evil and should be opposed.
- I believe in turning the other cheek, and I believe in just war — and I believe that those two things aren’t mutually exclusive.
- I believe in freedom of religion and freedom from religions, and that most people are smart enough to understand the difference.
- I believe that zero-tolerance policies of any stripe for anything are almost always ill-advised, if only because there are almost always exceptions to a rule, no matter how just, moral, or ethical, and that those exceptions will always manifest themselves when we have zero tolerance for an act, a belief, or an individual.
- I believe it’s possible to be a member of a group — even a political party — without granting sanction to each and every one of a party’s goals or platform planks.
- I believe when we join a group or party we have a responsibility to make sure that that party’s goals and planks are just, not just popular.
- I believe Karma isn’t for the next life, that Karma about the here and now, and I believe in Dharma–right action, even when that action is dangerous, unpopular, or difficult.
- I believe in speaking truth to power.
- I believe that silence is simply silence, not consent.
- I believe opposition should be based on ethics and philosophy, not group membership or personalities.
- I believe society is its strongest when vociferous, boisterous discourse between opposed groups produces teamwork, not gridlock.
- I believe society is weakest when we fight about personalities and policies, not ideas.
This is where I’m starting my list. I’m sure there will be others I come up with, but I’m surprised how difficult it is to state affirmatives rather than negatives.
That being said, please stay safe, stay engaged, and God Bless America, the president-elect, and Secretary Clinton.