By Josh LeBlanc-Shulman
Sep 19, 2016
I've never defined myself as politically conservative. I used to say I was an anarchist and socialist and progressive and whatnot. I used to Occupy things. I've stopped attaching labels to what I think, say, or do. I attach labels to my feelings. These are universal.
If I did, however, imagine myself (male, age 31, white) in the shoes of someone who defined themselves as a conservative in this country, here's how I'd think:
Climate Change? I'm not denying that the climate is changing. I'm denying the way we're going about all of this. I'm denying making people feel bad about themselves and how they view the world. We need to get off our high horses and recognize that nobody has all the answers here.
Science is one way to view the world. We can use science to find specific solutions to specific dilemmas, but it's not the answer to everything. Often relying on science brings other, new problems to light. That's not because science is not useful or untrue. It's simply not the whole truth.
If we halted or slowed down the rise of temperatures caused by CO2 emissions, and then started a nuclear world war as a direct or indirect consequence of our efforts to do so, what will we have we achieved? Let's agree on the objectives before we jump into the solutions. If climate change is a global issue, then let's take into consideration the entirety of human knowledge and wisdom -- from everybody on this planet.
Consumerism? I'm with you that we own too many things, unnecessary things. It's a waste, and I get that it hurts the environment. I want less clutter. I want less waste.
We need to consider incentivizing consumers to buy less instead of punishing businesses for selling more. Businesses are designed to maximize consumption. Nobody said people are designed to be consumers.
The reason why people keep buying ever newer cars and the latest iPhones and the trendiest clothes is because the happiness that they derive from these things tends to be short-lived. That is, indeed, the case very often. It doesn't have to be.
Brands don't sell you things, they sell you a vision of yourself using or wearing or displaying those things. They sell you an image.
It's our choice to buy that image. But it's also our choice to buy into that image. Nobody said we need to abandon our existing, positive self-image just because we saw a commercial for another item, even if it's the new and improved version. Are we not capable of deciding when and whether we want to improve our self-perception? Since when have we sold our souls to corporations and brands? I don't remember signing off on anything. Do you?
Education? This is where the mess begins. It's not that we teach evolution. It's not that we teach science and math. It's the fact that every day that passes we seem to teach our children less about being human, and more about being knowledgeable. What's knowledgeable about not having a clue when it comes to connecting with someone, standing right in front of us? What's knowledgeable about learning the facts on the civil rights movement, but not being able to engage in an honest conversation with an actual black person, standing right in front of us?
You think I'm afraid of vaccines? No, I'm afraid of autism. We all are. That's because we're all autistic. We're all sick. These kids whom we label as autistic, ADD, ADHD, bipolar, OCD -- then force big pharma medication down their throats like geese -- these are people just like us who aren't very good at communicating with others. They spend their entire days looking at cellphone screens, just like us. We're terrified of this reflection of ourselves. Instead of facing our own faults, we find every way possible to make our kids and everyone else feel bad about themselves, like we're better than them.
We are all driven by love, and hindered by fear.
We're killing assertiveness. We're killing curiosity. We're killing serendipity. Our kids aren't getting the space to discover who they are and to grow as individuals, regardless of where or how they begin their life journey.
We spend the vast majority of time in schools testing and defining students by how well they regurgitate information and obey rules, and spend no time at all on instilling in them what it means to be human in this world. This stuff can't be tested with standardized testing. There's nothing standardized about being human, or about life. There's no standardized way of viewing the world.
This stuff can't be taught, either. A wise man once said, "If you teach a man anything, he will never learn." We should be showing and helping kids to explore themselves, others, and the world around them. We should be cultivating their curiosity.
Pledging allegiance to the flag everyday is fine, but it's not enough. Here's what we should consider adding:
- I am who I am, right now.
- It's OK to be me.
- I pledge to dedicate my life to exploring, learning, and growing -- with curiosity, and without judgement.
If we don't return to breeding human beings instead of building robots, we're going to continue bombing the shit out of each other until we all die a sad death. I assure you, that's bound to happen much sooner than the icecaps melting and the oceans swallowing us alive.
If we're in agreement on this, I'm up for figuring out how to reconfigure public schooling. Otherwise, leave me be as I try, as best as I can, to impart some humanity to my children.
Social security? Healthcare? I believe in safety nets. I want somebody to be there to pick me up when I'm down. I want to live to see my grand-kids, maybe even great grand-kids.
I believe in safety nets that are there for when we fall, not safety nets that bleed us dry until we end up falling. What we have going on right now is not healthcare, and it's no safety net. It's a rip-off. It's a scam. I don't feel anybody has my back, and I have zero sense of control over my health and my ability to provide for myself and my family in the future. Whenever I get to see (and am able to pay) for a doctor, all they do is slap a label on me and prescribe pills. They barely make eye contact. They don't know who I am, where I come from, and where I'm going. Not sure if they remember my name at all.
It's our obligation to support each other. If our government cared more about ensuring health rather than ensuring the insurance industry, then I might be open to hearing about solutions like a national, single-payer system. If our government focused less on keeping us dependent, less on making money off of us, and more on providing our communities the tools to take care of ourselves, I'd be open to rethinking a social security program that actually works for us all. Until then, I'd like to keep my tax dollars and keep relying on myself, family, and friends for support.
Marijuana? Does this stuff really have the power to heal our hearts, souls, and relationships? Can we grow and share this gift without relying on big money or big government? If so, sign me up (and stop locking people up for it).
Women? How can we possibly hate our second half, the people who have always been the backbone of every and any family? I know we can be controlling. I realize we're micromanaging their bodies and lives way too often. Nobody wants to be. It's not because they are female. The world is moving so fast and our families are being torn apart. Abortion is a scary thought, but what's really terrifying is that I don't know where I will be in 10 years. Will I have anybody to lean on when I'm old and frail?
Minorities? Immigrants? Our jobs are being shipped off, and our communities are disintegrating. We've become so reliant on big corporations and big government that we don't remember how to rely on each other. I don't know half my neighbors. The best resemblance of community we have today where I'm from are state correctional facilities. Yes, it's mostly Blacks and Latinos that we're locking up behind bars, but it's not because of their skin color or accent or religion. They're taking the hit for our lack of community. We don't know what to do about it, and we're frustrated.
Political correctness is blasphemy, in my mind. There's no honor in holding our feelings in. There's no healing in shutting people up. The more we suppress what's in our hearts -- good or bad -- the more hatred and disrespect we brew. Political correctness has killed individuality; it has killed our ability to connect with others as individuals.
There's nothing correct about political correctness, because there isn't a "correct" or "incorrect." I don't want to offend anybody. I admit that I'm not sure how to best relate to people from different backgrounds. I wish a gay guy challenged my ignorant self face-to-face instead of parading down the street naked to make a point. I keep wishing a black person engaged with me directly, and we talked honestly about what I'm feeling and what they're feeling, instead of what we're saying. We need less debates and more conversations, even if they start out as arguments at first. If we can put political correctness aside for a moment, we'll get passed the surface-level frustrations and eventually get down to the stuff that really matters, the stuff that makes both our hearts beat.
By the way, if you think that Colin Kaepernick and others who've joined in him in protest are unpatriotic, you're right. They don't like what they see around them. I don't like what I see around me, either. Let's not lose sight, however, that these football players are living their dreams, and making a fortune. Isn't that what we're all aspiring to do?
Military? I'm proud of our brave sons and daughters. I wish, instead, I could be proud of them for chasing their dreams. I wish I could be proud of them for living fulfilling, peaceful lives with their wives and husbands and kids and neighbors. Give me something else to be proud of, goddammit.
I'm not proud of invading countries and killing people, terrorists or not. The issue isn't violence. The problem is the consent we give our governments to engage in violence, on the backs of our sons and daughters. Governments, armies, and police around the world have assumed a monopoly over violence, and I don't like monopolies. They use violence to keep us down, dependent and reliant. They strip away fundamental human liberties, strip away our dignity, take our money, and doom us to working for poverty wages, or to die on the front lines, fighting against other big governments and their big guns.
Guns? I do feel strongly about the 2nd Amendment. I know it's not meant to promote violence and horrific accidents. Want to talk about gun rights in this country? Let's look at who has all the guns. Let's look at who does all the killing. Our governments have taken everything we have in taxes and spent it all on arming their mercenaries, telling us that it's for our own protection. They're protecting nobody but their power.
I may or may not be packing a gun, but if I am, I can assure you it's not intended for you, brother. It's not intended for anyone, really. I carry a gun for many of the same reasons you drive your fancy cars or swipe, drag, and text away at your huge phones. I want to be heard. I want to be able to connect with others without being rejected.
I don't want guns. I want to feel safe enough to be myself.
Hillary? Trump? Do you think we're "free" because we get to vote? I think we won't be free until we stop voting and start asserting our desires and aspirations. We're giving up way too easily, election after election, after election. We've created these liars and crooks. This is who we are. It's right there, fully uncloaked on our TV screens -- a representation of our anxious, depressed, and dishonest society, hooked on pills and hurtful relationships.
I choose a side because it feels good to choose a side, to know that I belong somewhere. The media profits from making us choose sides. They profit from making us feel bad about not having the things they sell us -- things that make us sick in the first place. They profit from pitting us against each other.
Let's turn these damn TV's off, and go get a beer. Hell, maybe smoke a little weed. We'll talk about how take our country back, from ourselves and for ourselves. Let's forget the labels and have an honest conversation for once.
Underneath all these politics, I'm just like you.
God bless y'all.