This was going to be longer, start off slower, a nice gradual build-up to a profound resolution, but the hell with that.
Would you kindly please stop patronizing me with a convenient label, especially one born in an artificial dichotomy of ideas that the French came up with 300 years ago? Do you really think that the world we live in today is so similar to 18th-Century France that the best use of our time and efforts is to organize ourselves and—more importantly—everyone else into easily-dismissed categories that a bunch of Frenchmen came up with when American was still just a bunch of squabbling British colonies?
Serious question. I know there are similarities between then and now—more, in fact, than is comfortable to be considered at length—but before you again reach into your bag and pull out an obvious, simple-minded nametag, think on it a while…they had and extensively used guillotines back then too. Just saying…
I am not a Liberal, nor a Conservative. I am not a Democrat, or Republican, or a Libertarian, or Progressive or Neo-Con, or a Capitalist, or a Socialist, or Religious or Secular Humanist or any other label that would so conveniently fit in the aptly-named gutter beneath the mid-close-up camera framing on some round-table TV talk show.
I will probably be, after another glass of scotch, slightly inebriated, but that’s more of a condition than a label.
Labels are meaningless. They were once powerful things, a way for the individual to band together with other like-minded people so that their voices would grow in volume, demanding attention and finding strength in numbers.
“Oh, we can’t push for that law that will so unfairly benefit us to everyone else’s detriment to pass, the Liberals/Democrats/Republicans/Conservatives/Clowns will fight us tooth and nail, and we can’t win, not against a unified front like that.”
But those days are over. If denial is the first stage of grief, then labels are the first stage of dismissal. Everyone in power, regardless of their label, is now paying for or is paid for by the same sources. And the easiest way to marginalize and dismiss the voice of dissent—the voice that is not paid for, that cannot be counted on to think and behave in a proscribed manner that fits the desired overall plan—is to slap a label on it and file it away with everyone else already wearing that label.
“Don’t want tax cuts for the rich? Just another Liberal, nothing to worry about, we still have enough of their votes to move forward.”
I fervently believe in the sanctity of life, and am 100% opposed to the idea of the government enacting and enforcing any laws that constrain what a person can do with their own body. I am deeply religious, with a predominantly Christian bent, and consistently appalled by what so many say and do and claim it is in the name of the God I believe in, especially when they try to legislate from the point of view of a belief system. I am steadfast in my belief that there are people—powerful people—for whom violence is their first and only option for getting what they want (and sometimes even just something to indulge in, for the lulz), and that those people must be stopped, with our own violent force as the greatest possible deterrent and ultimate solution, and I am aghast at how much money we spend on our military, and its sacred cow status in discussions of our priorities as a nation. I passionately believe in a limited—not weak, just circumspect—government, where the primary emphasis is empowering everything that isn’t government to succeed and cause our nation and world to thrive, and that A does now and always will equal A, and amused to the point of illness that the most animated supporters of the 20th Century philosopher who was the most vocal advocate of these ideas are seemingly incapable of seeing the contradictions in her theories when they are applied to the real world and real people, and that those contradictions can be resolved by a little secondary-school-level empirical observation and engineering problem-solving that somehow mortally offends them.
And those are just a small sampling of the beliefs and ideas I carry around with me and that evolve and refine with each new experience, each new thought, each new breath. So go ahead: put a label on me. Waste my time and yours trying to make an off-the-rack category fit me, rather than actually doing something meaningful.
Convenient labels no longer apply. They no longer serve any useful purpose, at least not for those who see wrong in the world and want to actively work for change. They do serve a very valuable purpose for those who want only to maintain the status quo and make sure that new ideas and voices are marginalized and dismissed before they have a chance to take root. So decide which side you’re on.
This is one of the critical and profound aspects of the Occupy movement, where you will find, standing next to each other, arms linked, a Catholic priest, and a homeless man on methadone, and a single-mother whose unemployment just ran out last month, right as the weather started turning cold and heating oil prices skyrocketed, and a college student, and his professor, and a couple of hipsters with degrees in theoretical graphical design and cumulatively half a million dollars in student loan debt, and a mechanic who worked for forty-five years maintaining the city’s buses who is nine months from retirement who watched his pension vanish into thin air over the last three years and is taste-testing wet dog food to find which he might be able to stomach eating for dinner every night until he dies, and a retired police chief, and an aging hippy, and a Gulf II vet, and a group of representatives from the Local 23, and a WWII vet, and a guy on his lunch break who just wandered by to see what all the fuss is about.
And the only “label” that they have chosen to identify themselves with isn’t tied to an ideology, or a pre-existing system: it’s simple math, identifying themselves purely by their numbers.
That confusion you feel when you don’t understand them, can’t figure out what they want, why they can’t just settle on a couple of key issues and align themselves with one pre-labeled sector or another of the existing power structure to try to make a watered-down version of those desires happen?
That’s the whole point. That’s the way things work now, hundreds and thousands and millions of individuals coming together to build consensus while remaining individuals, unfettered by convenient, limiting, de-humanizing labels.
It is not supposed to be simple, it is not supposed to make immediate sense, especially not if you’re still chained to the past, to the idea of pre-divided sides acting out the same roles, going through the same motions, with the same results, that we have for the last three centuries.
It is supposed to be something new, something different, something that has a chance to achieve what you have so long promised and so awesomely failed to deliver: a way for every human voice to be heard and honestly considered.
Your labels, your games, your rules, they no longer work. It’s time to try something else, something new. Something you don’t already have a convenient label for.