In these days of voluminous information and instant communication, many things that were never questioned are now called into question. Questions of morals and ethics, religion and politics are constantly before us. Granted, the questions do not delve into the depths of any consideration, and appear as sound bites or headlines. But many of us assume that these headlines sufficiently describe any dynamic to the point that we resonate with the bite or not.
However, there are things in our 21st century lives that are never questioned. One of these is the dynamic of liberals and conservatives. These terms are not described and spelled out in the Constitution or the Declaration of Independence. Legislation appears to benefit those we designate “liberals” or “conservatives.” But there are no laws that govern how a person is one or the other. In our common mind all politicians are either liberal or conservative, even those who profess to be more “independent.” Similarly Supreme Court justices are designated one or the other. And, of course, the president is designated one or the other.
As opposed to appearing by documentation in any form, these terms have emerged in our common life as dynamics that we describe as permanent. If a person is liberal or conservative, they are that way because it is written into their DNA.
I question that. In my own life, I have the ideals that a person described as a liberal would have. But I also am aware of the limits of those ideals and what the cost would be to implement them. And that would be seen as more conservative. Similarly, we see liberals as always standing for ideals and conservatives standing for the realm in which the ideals are found. I find that the reason anyone appears conservative or liberal has to do with the story of their life and the decisions that have brought them to the present. Conservatives and liberals are seen as oppositional. But I remember when they were seen as more interactive.
As a 21st century American, I stand for both. But I fear I am a political party of one. With the informational advantages of the internet and the advantages of instant communication, isn’t it time for more Americans to stand for both? In the Christian faith, Jesus spoke of the two greatest commandments: to love God and to love your neighbor as yourself.
Loving a neighbor, at least in the context of this article, may mean being more intentional with understanding and respect as opposed to waiting for the warmth of love to descend. And clinging to the dynamics of liberal and conservative seems anachronistic and perhaps not in our best interest.
I do realize that the populace uses these dynamics to vent our fears and anger about a lot of things. The political and media mechanics that have emerged with the designations make it easy to blame anyone for anything. And perhaps that is one cardinal reason we hang onto the designations.
I opt for a change in what I have described. In our country, I am one of the older ones. And it may be that the only ones in our nation who could make such a change would be our younger people. But I’ve always thought it was possible to teach an old dog new tricks.