Being a raging liberal living in Utah during the 2016 election had been a strange experience. (Did I say “liberal”? I meant “libtard”, for those of you who live in the western U.S and are grandparents.) I’ve had to learn how to defend my beliefs using logic I didn’t think was necessary to state out loud, because it’s so intrinsic to me and the environment I grew up in that I truly did not realize how not-prevalent it is in the area I now live. Similarly, my conservative neighbors have views of the world that are so wildly different from my own that it can be almost impossible to find enough common ground to adequately exchange ideas, let alone change anyone’s mind. For halloween I’m going to dress up as two circles without the ability to form a Venn diagram. It’ll be heartbreaking.
I’m biased, and believe the resistance to alternate worldviews has come primarily from the conservative side — partly because I surround myself with people who would gladly throw out their beliefs in favor of more accurate ones if newer/better evidence became available to them, but mainly because that’s part of the very definition of the word “conservative”.
Conservative: a person who is averse to change and holds to traditional values and attitudes, typically in relation to politics.
It’s hard to have conversation that might lead to the changing of one’s views when half of the participants are averse to change by definition, especially when they have always lived in a crony capitalist democracy where politics are glamorized like sports by (trigger warning, conservatives) the media. *Thunderstorm sound effects* But as difficult as conversation with conservatives can be for me (I hope you’ll excuse the extreme labeling of complex human beings in this post — it’s the only way I know how to discuss this topic in the way I want to), trying to change the false narrative about what it means to be a “liberal” in America has probably been the most frustrating part of this 2016 clusterf*ck. (Second only to the wild stigmatization of the word “socialism”. And by “word” I mean SLUR, western U.S grandparents.)
As Sam Harris and Bill Maher stated so clearly in this exchange about religion, being a “liberal” means standing up for liberal principles. Those include freedom of speech, freedom of religion, and equality for women and minorities. When conservatives complain about liberals because they think they censor their speech or stop them from practicing their religion (emphasis on the “them” and “their”), they’re either complaining about someone who doesn’t actually stand for liberal principles or have misunderstood someone else’s position.
But I get it. Many who brand themselves “liberals” seem to have no clue about what that actually means. They cry “racist!” when someone dares criticize Islam (isn’t the romanticization of foreign religions fun?!), they demand protection from controversial ideas at universities, and they accuse my furthest-thing-from-sexist best friend of “mansplaining” because he expressed his opinion about a subject he’s knowledgable in. Worse, because those people can often shout the loudest, they create a bad reputation for liberalism, just like the alt-right can do for conservatism. (Except I think conservatism is fundamentally illogical while true liberalism is highly logic-based, but we can talk about that another time, maybe. I’ve just lost half of you. Thanks for stopping by.)
It’s hard to get your evidence-based views across to conservatives when they’re met with mocking retorts about “safe spaces”. I HATE SAFE SPACES TOO, OK? PLEASE DON’T EQUATE ME WITH THEM. It’s also difficult to have a logical discussion about something like abortion when conservatives have already determined that a studio audience clapping because Hillary upholds the Roe v. Wade ruling equates to joy at the thought of “babies being murdered”. (Ask yourself in what circumstances a mother would abort a fetus “just days before delivery”, conservatives. Then maybe consider how fit you are to make medical judgments about the situation. Then ask yourself if you really think your liberal friends feel happy at the thought of a mother being forced to abort her baby right before delivery — right before she was about to finally feel the pure joy of meeting her child. Then follow me on Twitter. I’m hilarious.)
This election has been a nightmare, that is obvious. But it’s not just because of the presidential candidates, or even the corruption of the DNC/RNC. It’s because of us. (I inwardly grown at writing such an overwritten sentence/concept.) Democracy cannot withstand endless ignorance, and a house cannot stand when it’s divided. America is insanely divided — we’ve got a presidential candidate refusing to accept the result of the upcoming election before people have even voted, and I can’t log onto Facebook without hating everyone for trying to be a thought leader on a topic they’ve read one Medium article about. (Are you guys following me on Medium?!)
Republicans — if you’re sick of “liberals” censoring free speech, you have to let them kneel for the flag. (Especially if you have ever refused to respect the president of the United States because of “he’s not American” conspiracy theories. I know it’s not all of you, but come on.) Don’t be too much of a literalist, creationists — this is about way more than that Colin thing, I’m just using that as an example. Also I don’t think you’re all creationists, or I wouldn’t even bother writing this. I think you and I can work together to promote values we both regard as extremely important, but to do so, we have to be on the same page about some things.
You can’t get angry at the “other side” for expressing different views. You can’t mock them for things you don’t know they believe in (I’ll try to do the same…eek), you can’t keep linking to bogus news sources because they’re the only places that back up your points, and you can’t hope to make any headway in debates if you’re unwilling to try and comprehend others’ worldviews.
Some worldviews are stupid — I’ll be the first to admit it. I’m sure I have some stupid views lurking somewhere. (Maybe they’re not lurking. Maybe you’re all screaming at me from behind your phone screens, you monsters.) We’re all just the products of our experiences and education, so we should expect that some people will simply hold more wrong views than others. Assuming we’re talking about things that can be proven right or wrong, of course — I try and always use the scientific method to determine truth. Others may rely on religion or their social circle to form political ideas. (Try telling someone taught by their religion to distrust any science that contradicts their beliefs and you’ll know what it feels like to be living in 1984.) And some things are just totally subjective, because we’re a bunch of humans trying to figure out how best to organize ourselves, and we’re never going to work everything out.
It’s easy to villainize “the other side” — we evolved to be tribal, and it’s a trait that is still strongly in all of us. Progress has only ever come after understanding, and if you want to be understood, you have to do the work to understand. Ugh, I know, it’s so annoying. I for one hate most exchanges with people who don’t think like me, because I am intolerant and sheltered and painfully INTP. But not that sheltered THANKS TO UTAH. Everyone’s views aren’t of equal worth (because some are just plain wrong, remember?), and not everyone is worth investing conversation time into, because they’re not interested in the exchange of ideas, only in blurting theirs out at any given opportunity. So I mean…pick your battles. But don’t get the wrong idea about what it really means to be “liberal”. And stop taunting me about safe spaces. IT’S ANNOYING AND I FEEL TRIGGERED.