Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hopefully, for the last time ... but likely not!

Recent e-discussions have brought this issue to a head for me.  Hopefully, I can pump this out and will only have to refer to it in the future, when it happens again, as it surely will.  As time passes, I get more and more tired of people responding to my comments with ... "You're assuming all of XX believe in YY!!" Just for the record:  I'm not making any such assumption, and never have!! 

I've listened to many, many conservatives, both within the circle of my acquaintances and via public media.  The number of times in the past year or so I've heard the aforementioned complaint from individual conservatives who apparently are upset by my criticisms of "conservatives" has grown commensurately with the stridency of the current political campaign.  Again, let me be perfectly clear:  I'm more than casually aware that conservatives (or "right-wingers," or republicans, or christians, or whatever) don't all believe in the same things.  If you choose voluntarily to call yourself a conservative (or whatever), you're implicitly endorsing other conservatives, whether you intend to do so or not.  If you disagree with another conservative about something, then you need to make that difference known explicitly. You need to distance yourself from that viewpoint.  More importantly, if you believe that you don't fit in a particular shoe, I'm not really making you wear it.  If the shoe don't fit, I must acquit!!  Must I say that every time I say something about conservatives?

Many people label me a liberal, but I don't wear that label voluntarily and so I feel quite free to disagree with something endorsed by someone willingly wearing the liberal label.  I don't like wearing labels precisely because I want that freedom.  Although my opinions on things are often driven by viewpoints that many would call liberal, I still refuse to accept your labeling of me.  If I feel that way, then perhaps those giving vent to this particular complaint should understand with complete clarity that I'm perfectly willing to afford you the same privilege.  But if you wear some label willingly, then you may be endorsing implicitly viewpoints with which you disagree, so be careful!  By the way, the one label I voluntarily wear (apart from my professional life) is atheist - the good part about that it that it says absolutely nothing about my beliefs - it only refers to my disbelief in a diety.  Anything else said by some other atheist is not necessarily something I endorse, implicitly or explicitly.

Anyone who knows me and has bothered to listen to me and/or read what I've written should know with absolute certainty that I'm more than willing to say that specific individuals may not fit a certain generalization.  Why do so many people immediately assume that I intend my comments to apply to everyone who willingly wears label XX?  I have no clue, but I suspect it's related to the implicit nature of their endorsement of certain viewpoints common in their XX crowd.  Perhaps my question should be about why they choose to accept that label if they're cherry-picking within the set of common XX beliefs.  If you're XX but you disavow any support for their viewpoints V27, V46, and V115, then do you really want to identify with the XX crowd?  How important to you are these differences?  If they're not important to you, then for all intents and purposes, you're mostly an XX "fundamentalist" and I can lump you in with the rest.  If you feel strongly enough about your differences with the XXers about your differences with them, you might want to consider avoiding the problem by not accepting the XX label, leaving you free (like me) to express yourself without the added "baggage" of the XX label.  If you don't accept the label, then you automatically are excluded from any generalizations I might make about XXers.  You have no reason to be offended, because I'm obviously not talking about you!

Another related concept is the default assumption.  When you wear label XX, you will find yourself being confronted with the whole panoply of common XX beliefs.  If I'm critical of President O'Bama, then I must be in favor of Mitt Romney!  If I'm in favor of welfare for the poor, I must be a socialist!  If I'm in favor of gun control, then I must want the government to seize everyone's guns!  This is the classic mindset that says "If you don't agree with me, then you must be directly opposed to me!"  You might refer to this as bipolar thinking - in this mindset, there are only two possible positions on anything, so any disagreement signals a total confrontational opposition.  No doubt this one will continue to crop up in response to my e-postings and comments.  Those incapable of thinking beyond polar opposites has little or no skill at critical thinking.