I found myself in a really odd position the other night, when a long-time friend informed someone else, in a matter of fact way, that he knows for a fact that I am a Republican! I guess surprise and shock was evident on my face as he stopped speaking and then stated, "oh! you're not?"
"Of course not!" was my reply.
Then you MUST be a democrat!
Green Party? Communist ?
No and NO!
Some confusion reigned at the table as I tried to explain my position...I do not believe in aligning myself to a particular political agenda. My opinions will always be issue-based. I will think about the issue at hand and then decide which candidate or political party or group has similar thoughts and ideas. If I find one, then I might back them, for that issue alone.
Well, the reason for this post wasn't to clarify my political affiliations, or lack of one thereof. I was intrigued by the vagaries of human nature. Just because you propose a different opinion from the person whom you engage in a dialogue with, you are automatically classified as belonging to the "other" side! For most people, affiliations and opinions are either black or white. There is no place for shades of grey that is usually abundant in life. I mean, I have been categorized by different people as being a democrat, right-winger, republican, liberal and various other unprintable types! For instance, some of the folks that I hang out with, decidedly swing to the right (or more promptly to the Republican party agenda), When I disagree with some of the views that they express, I am immediately classified as being a "liberal". When I argue with the aforementioned friend (who is decidedly a believer in left-wing ideas), I am classified as being a Republican!
It seems like the thought, "if you are not my friend, you are my enemy" holds true among most human beings. Most people look for some sort of affirmation and when they don't get it, they suspect a hidden agenda - in fact, along the lines of opposition! I mean, we're humans - we're opinionated, self-obsessed, egotistic and short-tempered. We can't all be expected to hold the same views and opinions (a la "1984") - I mean, most of us have disagreements on where to go for lunch, and how can one expect a rational human being to align himself or herself perfectly with everything that one person believes in? In fact, dissidents abound in every major political party the world over. Hey, if the party leaders can rarely agree on what is a "correct" course of action (is there such a thing?), then why must someone from the general populace pick just one side and agree with all the baggage that comes along?
I mean, you might pick the Democrats because they are more "liberal", but may not like their socialistic ideas of medicare or increased taxes. Perhaps the Republican party's ideals of fiscal responsibility may be your thing, but you may like their ties to the oil industry. The Green party's ideas that everyone should do what they want perhaps makes sense in the larger scheme of things, but you may not like fact that people could get easy access to pot and cocaine!
This "being the enemy" phenomenon is not limited to US politics. In India, for instance, the Congress party's sole reason for existence seems to be to stay in power, but they say they are pro-poor. The communist left claims that the Congress party is a bunch of elitist rich squeezing the blood of the poor labourer. They both dislike the BJP, which is supposed to be "right-wing". If you disagree with even a single policy that any of these three political parties may have, then they classify you as being "disloyal" and belonging to the other side!
Perhaps if people stop jumping to extremes when they face something different, and understand the idea that something different doesn't necessarily mean something "wrong", then maybe half the problems in politics wouldn't exist. But then again, politics itself wouldn't exist!
So, coming back to the discussion which started this entire thought process, I was asked, "so, who do you vote for - Republicans or Democrats?". My response was - well, I can't vote in the US since I'm not a citizen, so my "affiliation" probably doesn't count!