Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Are You A Liberal or Conservative?

I was interested to watch this Prager University video (below). Some of my friends really appreciate Prager, and I want to be more familiar with his program and views to understand more about him and honor my friends. So I watched this video. I thought, "This could be really cool! A liberal or conservative test. Perfect. So simple. And he's trusted by so many people I value."

After watching the nicely done video, I decided not to take the Liberal or Conservative test. Since, I do very poorly on multiple choice tests in general, I knew I would only be frustrated by being asked to "yes" or "no" the questions posed. I tend to be one of those test-takers who see various levels of reasoning, tend to complicate things by analyzing each answer, and I can usually see why each answer could be right. I was once told that I am more of a social worker than a cop, and I think I understood that comment at the time. I live in the gray area.

It was interesting how Prager listed awesome adjectives to describe his opinion of how liberals would describe themselves and disparaging character blows to show a liberal's way to describe those others, the conservatives.  There is major truth in that, but it is true for all sorts of groups of people, how they view themselves and their particular "others." Good guys and bad guys. Liberals can't claim that all to themselves.

As I considered each of Mr. Prager's questions, I felt trapped by the choices being simply yes or no. That trapped feeling with some resentment happens to me when an issue is boiled down to a yes or no position, and I cannot choose. That's a personal problem I need to work through. That drives me crazy. You, too, right?

Did you notice how the words chosen, the framing of the questions and the logical explanations that follow put a person on the wrong side of the tracks, if they'd answer no to the question? Those felt to me a little like loaded questions. A loaded question a logical fallacy technique defined as "asking a question that has a presumption built into it so that it can't be answered without appearing guilty."

More than that, these were "black or white" questions. That is another logical fallacy technique, too, defined as "two alternatives stated as the only possibilities, when in fact more possibilities exist."

Figuratively speaking, I live in Gray Heights. Not a real location, yet a neighborhood where I am most comfortable. And in that neighborhood, we do not have cul-de-sacs where you cannot drive through. So don't go all "yes or no" on me. Some things just cannot be black and white. We all know that. I even dislike that phrase, black and white, for its subtle racist tone to communicate wrong and right. Ugh. And don't load the questions, either. So, I will just take my toys and go home. But not yet.

It is difficult for me to answer any of Mr. Prager's liberal test questions, if my choices are only yes or no or agree or disagree. These issues are NEVER that simple for me. I heard his reasons. That prompted more questions for me. And I wasn't a difficult child.

Let me give you an example. Take the college and fire fighter admissions standards question. Should we change the standards on hiring and admissions for minorities? What was that? The answer is obviously no, in a perfect world when everyone has equitable educational opportunities, like so many in the race of power and privilege. Then, to me, that would be a legit question that implies honoring all who have worked hard. Until then, we have to watch these gatekeeper questions and make opportunities and on-ramps, as I like to call them, more accessible to all children who then have met the qualifications. Right now, minorities are often under served in the K-12 educational system, even when it comes to just simply getting to school safely, and those limits demand reform and even a resurrection. So, I guess I am not conservative on that one.

Another example: Murderers should never be put to death. I love the use of the word "never." Complicated word. Muddies the question. If I was convinced the person sentenced to death was guilty and got a fair trail, I'd still struggle with capital punishment. But to answer yes to that question makes me sound like a bad guy, myself, when I am recognize other research and statistics on this issue.

These questions are all cans of worms for me, and I don't like fishing.


And did I mention I'm trying to live my life in accordance with that old text commonly called the Sermon on the Mount? That doesn't smooth the issues road out for me at all. But it gives me a compass.

According to Mr. Prager's assessment, I am not conservative. But that cannot automatically make me part of the "other," the liberals. Facebook has a relationship category where an option was "It's complicated." That should be my relationship to politics, too. If you were wondering.

I don't have a label for my positions on political issues, I guess. I cannot pick a team. I cannot wear a fan jersey for either side, according to the line drawn by Mr. Prager. I'll have to go sit in the sky box, watch the game from above with a broad view of what's happening, watch the entire game and perhaps the season to see how more information helps my views evolve.

That might make me the monkey-in-the middle. That might make me too chicken to choose. That might make me the dove of peace. Or just the ostrich with my head in the sand. And so often this labeling creates an elephant in the room where conversations become awkward and even non-existent.

But I like the view from the sky box. I like the big picture. And I'll admit bias. I also like letting my hair go naturally gray, and perhaps that is symbolic for my views on many political issues. Or just a result of the madness of conscientious citizenship.

So, if you or I can't answer simply "yes" or "no" to my title question, what category on the issues are we? So then what?

And, yes, I mixed metaphors all over the place in this post because I wanted to create a feeling of how muddled this topic of conservative or liberal can get. Did you feel it? Yes or no, please. Or perhaps, in my case, yes AND no.

To learn more about recognizing logical fallacy, I recommend this website: