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Flip-flops. July 29, 2014

Posted by ourfriendben in wit and wisdom.
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Our friend Ben isn’t talking about summer flip-flops here, but flip-flops from liberal to conservative or conservative to liberal perspectives. I read a quote the other day via Yahoo news that defined a conservative as “a liberal who has been mugged by reality.” I found the quote amusing, but unfortunately, the article didn’t identify the source, so I turned to my good friend Google.

It turns out that this definition is based on a quote by Irving Kristol, someone I’d never heard of but who was a popular conservative commentor (not “commentator”!) back in the days of William F. Buckley. But the most priceless thing I learned from Google was that, upon hearing Kristol’s quip, the writer Tom Wolfe responded, “A liberal is a conservative who’s been arrested.” Priceless!

I love this interplay because it spotlights the limitations of labels. Life is a lot more complicated than “liberal” or “conservative,” and so are we. We can be morally conservative but support social programs that provide education, food and care to the less fortunate. We can support contraception but not abortion as contraception. We can oppose the mass availability of automatic weapons to the public while recognizing that an up-to-date arsenal and people trained to use it are essential to our security.

Nothing in real life is black or white. It’s easy to plaster a label on yourself, to say “I’m [fill-in-the-blank] and [fill-in-the-blank’s] platform is this, so that’s my platform,” without even thinking about its specifics on multiple topics or wondering what you really believe, you, you alone, you personally, and why. Nazis, Fascists, and Communists were forced into this black-and-white mold during WWII; extremists of all types and stripes still find themselves shoved into these molds today. Imagine being a member of the Taliban and suggesting that your wife should continue to practice as a doctor and wear modern clothes, her face uncovered? Blasphemy!!! Stoning! Mutilation! Death!

Fundamentalism, unbending rigidity, is the death of progress, of freedom, and ultimately of civilization. And that is as true of so-called “progressive” ideology as it is of conservative ideology. When you don’t dare to question, when you feel you must hew exactly to the party line rather than thinking for yourself, you are headed directly toward Orwell’s 1984, toward today’s North Korea.

Please, don’t drink the Kool-Aid. Think for yourself.

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