Wednesday, March 05, 2008

One government, two worlds

Many years ago, I had a pastor that was giving a series of sermons on hot topics of the day. Of course, many of those topics are still big, not least of which is the topic of abortion rights. You can probably guess what side of the issue he came down on, but many people might be surprised how he approached it.

Rather than simply standing up and blasting the opposition to his personal view, he took time to point out some things that most people don't think of. A person's views on abortion are really formed largely upon their opinion of the nature of what an embryo/fetus really is. If you believe it's a human being, then you're most likely going to want to see it protected. If you believe that it's just a lump of tissue on the wall of a woman's uterus, then removing that lump and disposing of it is no more of a moral issue than getting a wart removed. Until you take the time to understand those two viewpoints, you'll never understand those who stand on the other side of the issue from you.

My main point here is not about abortion, but about understanding the opposition on many, many issues. I find myself so often confused as to why the Republicans and Democrats seem to have so much animosity towards one another when there really seems to me to be very little difference between them. Where does this animosity come from?

I was thinking about the Libertarians, and I remembered something one of them once told me. (I have a lot of respect for Libertarians, although I myself am not one, because I tend to see them as perhaps the least hypocritical party for reasons that may become clear here.) This Libertarian pointed out that Democrats seem to think we can use government to solve all our problems, and openly admit it. However, while Republicans say that they are against "big government", if you watch them, you'll realize that they simply want a different kind of big government than the Democrats. I think there's a deep truth there.

We're not talking about a fetus now, we're talking about our government; what is it that Republicans and Democrats view the government to fundamentally be? I think that it's that view of government's fundamental purpose that not only forms the two parties' policies, but is the root of the animosity they have toward each other.

Take two issues; taxing the rich on the one hand, gay marriage on the other. Generally, Democrats are for both of these, and Republicans are against them. Why? The Republicans look at the government and ask, "What can the government do to protect me from things I think are wrong?" We don't like to see our money being taken, so less taxes for everyone. We have a moral system that says homosexuality is wrong, so we're not going to budge on that. The Democrats look at the government and ask, "What can the government do to create situations that I think are right?" We need money for social programs which the rich can afford to fund, so more taxes for everyone, especially the rich, and whatever my personal views on homosexuality may be, equal rights for everyone is a good idea.

So many Republicans and other conservatives seem to have this idea that liberals feel that wealth is evil. Why? Because they seem to want to just tax that evil right out of the rich. Now I'm sure there are a few people who do believe that, but not the majority. Where do Republicans get this idea? It's from their view of the purpose of government. The action of raising taxes on the rich implies to them that rich people must be wrong. That is not why Democrats do it.

Likewise, Democrats seem to feel that conservatives feel it's right to squelch the rights of others. Why? Because they don't take every chance possible to expand equal rights to everyone at every time. Once again, I'm sure there really are people who enjoy stopping those they dislike from enjoying their full freedom, but the aim of most conservatives tends to be different. They just want to stop what they view as being immoral. Democrats assume hatred of freedom and hatred of the poor on the part of Republicans because of a refusal to see eye to eye with them. But Republicans are just following their moral conscience, just like Democrats.

How do Libertarians view the government? To them it's just a tool for people to force their own morality on others, which is exactly what the Democrats and Republicans both do, albeit in different ways. My view? Does it matter? The fact is everyone thinks they're right, and the opposition is wrong, and it's all based on opinion. All I hope for is that people will stop mistaking a difference of opinion for a lack of morality, because there is nobody who is completely moral or amoral. We're all just trying to make things right.