I’m really beginning to hate the labels liberal and conservative.  Both have worn out their welcome as far as I’m concerned.

It’s not as if I don’t believe their is any such animal.  There are liberals and conservatives, individuals and organizations that embody those philosophies nearly perfectly.  Yet most of us are more nuanced, more interesting than that.  Only when we admit that we ourselves or those with whom we disagree are more than labels can we ever hope to achieve genuine discourse.

The problem with these labels (indeed all labels) is that they are merely tools to understanding our universe.  They aren’t truths.  In the cosmic scheme of things, there is no liberal and conservative.  No one could reasonably suggest that a bear or a tree or the galaxy is liberal or conservative.  While it’s true there are, by our own definitions, liberal and conservative views, even most of these are up for debate and not even everyone agrees on them.

But let’s pretend, for the sake of argument, that every idea in the universe could be labeled liberal / conservative.  And let’s pretend that each of these is a grain of sand in the heap of sand that makes up our own personal political philosophies.  If we remove a grain of sand, does it stop being a heap?  If someone defines themselves as conservative but they happen to be pro-choice, are they wrong?  If they held every other conservative idea in the universe as sacred but this, would it negate their conservative status?

And that’s the problem.  When we label, we make broad sweeping assumptions.  Assumptions that really don’t hold up under this kind of analysis.  I would be more willing to believe liberal / conservative labels except for the idea that they must be applied at all times.  Everyone in America is either of these, yet some people should be logically considered neither if only for the fact that they carry a close mix of both arbitrary types of opinions.

It’s not difficult to argue that Sarah Palin is Conservative or that Jeanine Garafalo is Liberal.  But when it comes to folks like Jon Stewart, is he really a liberal?  I don’t think so.  Stewart might have liberal leanings, but his commentary and thoughts are some of the most nuanced and intelligent you will find anywhere (even if surrounded by jokes).  Yet our perceptions do not allow Stewart to be neutral.  He MUST be one or the other.  There is no choice.  It’s not that we want Stewart to be liberal.  We NEED him to be liberal.  Because if we don’t know where he fits in our much cherished tidy little universe then how do we know how to relate to him?  We become our labels because it’s expected of us and then we demand others wear theirs because that’s how the game is played.  We don’t know how to play it any other way.

Doesn’t it bug anyone else that we live in a world where this sort of broad labeling is applied to everything as if it’s truth?  It’s as if everything, not just politics, can be summarized in a one or two word description and everything else about it is irrelevant.  Man.  Woman.  Patriotic.  Socialism.  Pro-Life.  Pro-Choice.  Funny.  Heartfelt.  Literature.  Genre.  Silly.  Zany.  Wacky.  Liberal.  Conservative.

The list goes on and on, and all it does is imprison us in a cage of pre-conceived notions and inherited sacred cows.  It’s time we grew up and realized that the world is not so simple, and, honestly, it never was.

Fighting the good fight, Writing the good write,


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  1. Rippley
    Posted April 30, 2010 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

    Jon Stewart isn’t anything. He has a team of writers who tell what to say. As for labels, we don’t need them. Labels are reference, meta-data. Conservative/Liberal are two sides of a pole, both of which only speak gobshite. The both leave a puddle of rhetoric wherever they go.

  2. VultureTX
    Posted May 1, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Well to really know a man (and not just a label) you must walk a mile in his shoes it’s been said . Unless Obama is secretly in competition with Imelda Marcos for footwear, not many then can know the man, just his labels.

    As for issues labels, well, if the issue is important enough to make all others irrelevant, then you can act on that label without going much deeper. But only the single issue labels not group labels like Liberal/Conservative

    • A. Lee Martinez
      Posted May 2, 2010 at 1:14 am | Permalink

      Interesting point, but I think even single issue labels can be traps.

      For example, Pro-Life / Pro-Choice. I respect both philosophies, but I also think the issue is far more complicated than an either / or. It makes sense for people to consider this issue as part of their personal philosophy, and have it shape their opinions. But anyone who has it dominate their opinions to the point of blotting out everything else is taking a complicated world and diminishing it.

  3. bad grapes
    Posted May 2, 2010 at 12:56 am | Permalink

    i just want to eat pie.

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