In my youth, I was a Liberal of the fiercest sort. I never went so far as declaring myself a communist, because it was clear to me, even at a young age, that communism would not work. However, I was for every other Liberal policy one can imagine.
When John and I got together, we had many discussions (and arguments) on economics and politics. John was a Libertarian at the time. I thought this meant, “he did not care about people.” In fact, I would have summed up politics as: Liberals care about people, and other political groups do not.
Then, one day – after many, many hours of fierce debate with my future groom – I had an epiphany. All in a flash, I saw my philosophy in a new way. Up until that time, I thought that politics was a matter of trying to get the government to put in policies that would help people. Suddenly I realized that someone had to decide what these policies would be – someone had to decide what they thought would help people. Who got to decide this?
Implicate in the Liberal mind-frame, I realized, was the idea that we, the elite, decided what they, the masses, needed.
1) The entire Liberal mentality was based on the idea that ‘we know better than you.’ (As in ‘we know better than you how you should spend your money, so we’ll make you pay for this with your taxes, instead of giving you a choice.’) Liberals were patronizing.
2) While I favored the system that allowed the patronizing elite to decide the fate of the masses, there was no guaranty that my ideas would come out on top. If they did not, then I was one of the masses who did not know better that the other guys to whom the other guys were being patronizing.
3) Treating someone in a patronizing manner often curtailed their freedom of choice.
Suddenly, I was at an impasse. Patronizing the poor was in conflict with freedom, and I had to chose which side I was going to stand upon. I could believe people were too stupid to take care of themselves or I could trust them and side with freedom.
It’s a very scary thing to decide to trust people, especially when the evidence around you suggested that they might not qualify to be trusted. However, I could not knowingly turn my back on freedom. For I was convinced that to be happy, a person needed wisdom, and to be wise, a person needed the freedom to make mistakes.
So, bravely, I chose freedom, turned my back on telling other people how they should live their life, and joined the rank of the Libertarians.
John and I lived some happy years as Libertarians – happy for us. Not so happy for the poor souls we harangued. In general the philosophy suited me, for it required you to believe that if you did something you would often get the opposite result from what the general mass of humanity would expect (lower taxes brings higher revenue, for instance.) This fit my model of hoe the universe worked.
From time to time, I would balk at some particular idea. Once, uncertain about something, I asked John how he could be so sure. He pointed out that it could be logically deduced, so how could it be wrong? I thought he had a valid point, so I stuck to my guns.
After 911, John began to slide from Libertarian to Conservative. This really shook me, because I had believed his argument about the logic of it proving it, even when it did not seem to me it would work that way. When he began to temper logic with experience, we began to slide apart, because my experience told me that many of the policies he was leaning toward would not work. So, I began to slide gently back toward where I had started.
About the same time, two things happened:
A) First, I began to spend more time praying. Watching prayer succeed showed me that your state of mind – or the state of your soul with God – mattered much more in how the thing turned out than what you did. For the first time, I applied this to politics. I thought: If I am right about this, then if there were two Senators, and one prayed sincerely and the other acted out of a selfish or fearful goal, wouldn’t the first one produce a good outcome and the second one a bad outcome – no matter what policy they supported or what party they were a member of?
If so, is there any way I can tell a politician’s heart, which ones are acting with God and which are not?
No. There is no way for me to tell.
B) The Iraq War loomed, and I discovered that I had two friends, both well-educated and good at research, who stood on different sides of the issues. Curious to learn which side might be right, I shuttled comments back and forth between them….and I learned something I found terribly disturbing.
Even right then, at the time – much less looking at history years later – there were no reliable sources. Each of them quoted sources, the other one discounted. Each of them quoted facts the other one disputed. Finally, it came down to original sources.
One afternoon, they began arguing over whether a certain politician had said a certain line. Being thorough, they both sent me a link to a site that had the “original transcript” of a speech…and original source. One site showed that the line was in the speech; the other site did not include the line.
And these were original sources.
At that moment, I became convinced that, while it may be true that “The Truth Is Out There,” I was never going to find it. There was too much information on both sides about any topic for me to find out the truth without traveling to examine it on my own, and I did not have the time for that.
What nearly everyone I know seemed to be doing was not finding the truth, but deciding what they’d like the truth to be and then finding evidence for it.
So, I lay down my party affiliation, and I walked away.
I walked away from reading the news, from arguing about politics (I still slip and do this occasionally, but it used to be a major pass time,) from aligning myself with a particular party of thinking, from believing anything I read in the papers, from thinking I knew what was going on, and most of all, from thinking that a particular party platform was correct.
I still vote. Sometimes, I even have opinions. But nowadays, I decide these matters by praying. If it comes to me that I should do something myself (vote for someone, write a letter, etc.) I do it. If not, I try to refrain from having an opinion.
I cannot advice anyone else to take this course. For one thing, you have to have a lot of faith in prayer and not much faith in the world, and that’s not something a person can do by decision…
…but I will tell you that since I’ve walked away, my whole view of the world and my fellow polity-members has undergone an astonishing change.
End of Part One. To follow – Politics Part Two: Seeing With Eyes Unclouded With Hate.