Monday, January 5, 2009

Indecisive, Noncommittal, and Uneducated

That’s me, apparently. Or at least that’s how one of those online political affiliation tests described me.

Sure, I’ve got my few Hot Issues in which I have a big stake and a strong, unchanging, vehemently-defended opinion. But for the most part, I’m a “roll wit’ it” kind of person. I don’t have a favorite color. And if you ask me about my favorite food or book or movie, I’ll be hard-pressed to come up with a satisfactory answer. And it took me a very long time to make up my mind when voting in the presidential election. I’m a moderate, I guess. Well, the test called me a “conservative liberal,” which I read as being a half bubble off plumb (to quote a T-shirt I once saw) and swinging just a hair to the left.

And what, pray tell, does that mean? I’ve been told I’m apathetic. I’ve been told that “moderate” is just a fancy word for “indecisive, noncommittal, and uneducated.” Really? So it’s better to have pre-formed, hard-set opinions, even when entering unfamiliar territory? So being open to new ideas and allowing influence (within reason) makes one apathetic and uneducated? I’m not buying it.

Too often I see people clinging to a certain ideology or belief with a rabid determination. When questioned, they become fiercely defensive. Probing deeper only serves to make them angrier. They think they have “reasons” for their beliefs, but it often turns out that they can simply reproduce political slogans and half-truth attacks against opponents. There’s no substance to their arguments, but they fail to realize this miserable fact and refuse to back down.

[Case study: Right now it’s pretty popular among the younger generation to be liberal. Democrats are the shizzle, dog. Everyone’s got to jump on the bandwagon for some Bush-bashing. Now, there may very well be legitimate reasons for doing so—I’m not going into that. And there are many informed, educated people who have examined and weighed the options and deemed this the best course of action. But there are just as many impressionable idiots who decided that since this was the cool thing to do, they’d join in as well. I’ve been guilty of this. In the 2004 election, I stuck by my parents’ sides and joined a minority of students who deemed themselves conservatives and the preservers of American democracy and values. The two groups got pretty pissy with each other. And, truth be told, there were only one or two kids in the class who had any clue why they supported what they did. The rest of us were just making false appeals to authority or popularity (thanks, Ess). In retrospect, it was all sadly humorous.]

So….I’ve gotten pretty sidetracked here. I think there were two points I wanted to make:

1. It’s really not a sin to be a moderate. I think there’s something to be said for entering every new situation with an open mind. Listen to the support for both sides, and then (and only then) make an educated decision. There’s no shame in lacking a well-defined allegiance to one side or another. Carefully weigh the evidence every time, and maybe you’ll end up making the better choice without the pressure to fulfill any outside obligations.

2. On the other hand, there is something to be said for being decisive and having strong beliefs. You need to have something to stand for. At times I think (as I’ve said before) that I’m a little too impressionable and open to outside opinion. Maybe I need to pick a few trusted mentors and listen to them and my own gut instinct, rather than trying to synthesize all of the information that’s thrown my way, legitimate or not.

Of course, that’s not going to make me say for certain whether I prefer turquoise or red or purple….

No comments: