Labels are often wrong. Most people are much more than a single word or a phrase. When you assume a person is a narrowly defined element, you are also assuming what you think they believe fits into a neat compartment. Lots of things go wrong with assumptions. People are strange and often complex creatures; they can be a wide variety of beliefs, practices and sometimes even contradict themselves. Granted, some folks are very consistent and their beliefs align with certain categorical dogma. They even self-identify as members of certain labels and are proud of it.
I decided to write down a few important things that I believe, in order to see if they fit into a nice, compact category. See if you can figure out what I am.
I respect the Constitution of the United States. In fact, I have taken an oath to protect and defend the Constitution. Some parts are controversial and divisive, but maintaining freedom of speech, religion and other protections are fundamental to our security from governmental abuse, and from groups seeking to force their beliefs on others.
We choose to live in society with laws. We give up some freedoms and independence in order to belong to this society where we contribute some of our resources, establish protections and agree to allow the rule of law. We cannot pick and choose which laws or freedoms we will agree with and dispose of the others. This extends to protection from diseases and public health threats. You do not have the freedom to knowingly cast aside abiding by societal restrictions and subject me risk and possible infection of dangerous organisms. We place our trust in public health systems and rules to protect the shared health of our communities.
I have compassion, I have love in my heart and forgive others. My arms are open to others, especially the less fortunate. I believe there is likely a day of judgement and your “record” is more than what is in your heart and soul – your record is what you actually do. Your deity will know if pray on the Sabbath but behave differently on the other days.
If we advocate for less government in our lives, we should start with freedom over our bodies and our health choices. God gave us the freedom to make decisions, and as such, we must stand behind those decisions as our own. Saying that God guided us to do something is not acknowledging our free will or our own responsibility.
No one should tell us how to pray or what to worship. There is no state religion by design of our founding fathers. Using religion to rule or govern was rejected for a good purpose, to avoid tyranny or slavery by the theocrats.
We developed our government and Constitution based on the greater good, but with freedom as the prevailing concept, and therefore limited government, further defined by the Bill of Rights. The role of government is to provide for those things common to our life and for our protection. Government was not to used to suppress us. Government does not tell us how to think, or to repress knowledge or science or information. Government should not lie to us, nor should it be arbitrary or capricious in applying the law. We are all equal. There are not separate legal systems for Whites and people of color, or for the wealthy and everyone else.
Our economic system is our creation. God didn’t instruct us to have capitalism or any other kind of system. We broke away from a monarchy and rejected feudal systems and an aristocracy. I say, beware the money-changers who worship gold before God or man. In our country’s history, the greatest debate is over taxation, and that continues to this very day. We call ourselves capitalists, but what does that mean? The term is a moving target of definition and of practice by legislative bodies. I support a system where I can profit through my hard work, intellect and risk. When I succeed, I will keep my profit, but pay more than others who reap less, because I am able. We must provide for the greater good, not to remove their desire to work and provide for themselves, but to care for those unable to do so. When the power of government is used to change our taxation, it must be done in the sunshine and not by those who personally gain from the action. I am charitable and support provisions for the less fortunate. I am my brother’s keeper and will share my goodness. Jesus had a giving heart. Not a bad model to live by.
I am flawed, but we can still live as an example, not because I am better, but I strive to live a life of goodness and salvation. I do not force my beliefs on others, but I will serve as a teacher, humble and of value to others. I am free to practice my faith, to pray when and where I want, and under no restrictions of belief or ritual. This is my choosing.
Many say that I do not like change, that I am comfortable with my beliefs, customs and attitudes. I try not to be closed-minded, and am not swayed by shiny objects to abandon my will. Society evolves and so do I. We are not locked into a point in time. Knowledge and science broaden our understanding of ourselves, our community and the future.
I embrace my brother and an willing to share the fruits of liberty, believing in the rights and opportunities of this country. Unless we were Native Americans, chances are we are all immigrants, who arrived here for similar reasons. We assimilated over time and became a part of the foundation, broadening our culture and sharing in the opportunity as God’s children.
I do not believe in the mixture of theology with the power of government. Yes, many of of our laws are based on traditions and systems that date back hundreds of years, but the concept of separation of church and state is absolute. You may not hold your religion over me or vice versa. Your religion may not replace the interpretation of law or be exercised over my freedom or customs. Hate is not a value, it is a flaw, a weapon of a fractured soul. When a preacher talks from the government lectern or an elected official preaches from the pulpit, be concerned. There is no state religion.
What am I?
I want to return to a more principled and respectful operation of our government, where there is common sense application of fiscal policy and a willingness to provide for the greater good. I want to progress back to our core values. I believe there are things we can generally agree on. A non-repressive government? Yes. Caring for our needy? Yes. Providing for the greater good? Yes. Outlawing discrimination? Yes. Defending the constitution? Yes. Respecting the rule of law? Yes. Capitalism that works for everyone, not just those at the top or who make the laws? Yes. What I do not support is the concept of what is good for General Motors is good for America. That philosophy is flawed and corrupt. Trickle-down economics only works for those at the top, it is a pyramid scheme embraced by those who gain financially, either directly or through political power. The American Dream was built on the democratic participation of those at the bottom of the pyramid, to prosper and to grow our economy. America was built on the power of the vote and of economic participation.
I have some beliefs that could be from the conservative category, but I am mostly constructed of progressive notions. Government has a powerful place in our lives, but do you want it to mainly benefit the wealthy and corporations, or those who work and shop on Main Street? Government has a strong role in several basic functions. A federal tax system that is fair and provides for funding services that provide health and education for all. Protection of the planet from climate change and pollution. A judicial system that protects all people. Separation of the branches of government and accountability as outlined in the Constitution. You can be a conservative and belief in these things, Dwight Eisenhower did and he served two terms as President. He also led Allied forces to eradicate fascism in Europe. He would be unhappy with how fascism has crept back into the world, especially America.
In recent times, what we believe if has been complicated by our ability to turn truth and fact inside out. We are a world of justifiers. We are creatively talented to justify doing or saying anything, and to use the law or scripture to back us up. As humans, we view the world through our own lens, and we want to be right. I am included. When we say that we are “just being honest,” we are giving our view. Our opinion is not absolute or necessarily correct. If we are “keeping it real,” we are using our own portal of reality. The world according to us. There are laws I do not agree with, but I obey them. I do not always get to decide what is fair. As a member of a society, I give up some of my individual rights to live collectively with laws that protect us. We create our laws and we calibrate the moral compass that guides us. We have mechanisms for changing the law and interpreting the law. We compete to elect and appoint those who will tilt the needle in our direction.
Each of us is a combination of things: views, opinions, attitudes, experiences, education, prejudices and belief systems. Many of us are not even aware of how complex and contradictory we are. When someone labels us, they are generalizing and marginalizing who we are. By the same token, when we label ourselves, we may be naive about what all we are.
What am I? Less than I am certain, but more than I realize.