You Don’t Fit in the Box!

It’s always interesting to see people try to place others in political boxes. If you read comments beneath a few online news articles, you will run into all kinds of assumptions. Sometimes assumptions turn out to be true, but many times not. I make it a rule never to make them about anyone or anything. One of the most common political assumptions is when someone criticizes Obama’s policy, and he or she is instantly labeled a Republican or a conservative. As if the political world starts where Obama defines it and ends with the GOP. That is a mighty narrow political world.

“Then, Paul,” one may ask, “What in the world are you: a socialist, a communist, a libertarian?” People often want to stick a label to you, so they can place you in a tidy, little box. It makes them comfortable. Unfortunately, I can’t be placed in a political box. I don’t fit any.

“But Paul,” one might say, “Common, give me a break, what’s the closest box that you fit into, so we can have some idea?” Some people like to classify others into groups so they can dismiss them, or at least better understand them– oh those Democrats, those Republicans, those hippies, those commies, those foreigners, those Muslims, those rednecks and so on. And yes, it is true, because of lack of courage or critical thinking people often place themselves in their own partitioned box. They want to belong to the group. They want to be around people that think like they do and don’t want to hear other ideas.

Well, I believe in Catholic social teaching. And how does that look politically in the United States? I’m against war and U.S. imperialism (sounds real lefty), I’m against abortion (wait, are you conservative?), I’m against the death penalty (huh, are you liberal?), I’m for single payer health care and universal child care (you’re a socialist?); I’m against euthanasia( huh conservative?), I’m for protecting the environment (you’re a hippy?), I think if two people of the same gender want to have a civil partnership that should be a legal right and they should have tax benefits etc, but I don’t believe in calling it gay marriage (it should be a civil union)– for me marriage is between a man and a woman (that’s kinda liberal but kinda conservative too), I believe that Palestinians deserve freedom from occupation, in immigrant rights, and that the US corporate mass media tells half truths, airs a lot of propaganda, and sometimes just blatantly lies (sounds real progressive)… and I could go on. So my rhetorical question is the following: Into what American political party do I fit? Absolutely none of them. Which candidate matches my convictions? None of them. Which one will I vote for? It is too early to say. The only candidates that I could see supporting at all are Bernie Sanders or Rand Paul. Neither one of them excites me.

Ultimately, I’m a true independent. Some conservatives are one issue voters: They only vote on the abortion issue. I don’t think being a one issue voter is a good way to vote. It’s rare that a candidate matches anyone’s views completely– (I’ve never had one match all mine). I voted for Ralph Nader in 2000, 2004, 2008 (I was on Nader’s staff in Chicago), and voted for Rocky Anderson in 2012. I loved working for Nader. He’s a man with great integrity– an American hero. I agree with his foreign policy and most of his domestic agenda. I never really heard Ralph talk a whole lot about abortion rights and don’t think he wants to; he rather talk about economic justice and peace. I don’t know this as a fact, but it was my gut feeling that he was against abortion in his heart. He comes from a Lebanese Christian family.

One should take a candidate’s whole platform into consideration. Why do I bring this up? Because this accusation of being a one issue voter is often leveled at conservatives, but they are not the only one issue voters in town. I’ve had personal experience with what I call “reverse one issue voters.” I think I coined that term (but I’m not sure). When I was going to run again for federal office a few years back, we had a campaign to get me on the ballot as an independent. There were some so-called progressive people that rejected even the notion of supporting my campaign or my getting a third party nomination because of my stance against abortion. These are people that probably agreed with 90 or 95 percent of the rest of my platform, but wouldn’t support me because of that one issue. And I wouldn’t change my position then for political expediency and I never will. It’s about living with integrity and being true to your values.

It’s important to understand that human beings are not required to fit in these tidy boxes– like the establishment encourages. Of course, they do this to divide working class people who have so much in common. Working class Democrats and Republicans have much more in common with each other than they do with the super wealthy in their own parties. You should be able to be “conservative” on this issue and not be called a “fake liberal” or be “liberal or leftist” on this other issue without being called “a phony conservative.” We need to think deeper about issues that affect human life and society, and we certainly don’t do that by making assumptions and placing others in convenient, little pigeon holes.

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