To be fair, it is important to say from the start that I am neither conservative nor liberal. Politics is often confusing and trying to understand it all and keep informed takes work -- a lot of it I’ve found.
After a few years of watching the news every night and reading and discussing issues on political forums such as this one, I’ve found that people don’t listen to each other. Surprise! Most people (myself included) form their views and then defend them. When they come across someone who says something that might shake that belief a little, they try to “save face” by stubbornly clinging to their position rather than admitting the other person might have a point. No one learns anything; no one understands the other’s perspective and no compromise or solutions are possible.
I can almost see why some people give up and vote for a candidate that seems likable -- if they vote at all.
To accomplish something, we need to listen -- not sit there with a scowl on our faces and our arms folded like we’re kids in a classroom again. Not like that stubborn kid wishing the “stupid” teacher would just shut up but feeling forced to pay attention. I mean we need to really listen – and hear one another.
In that spirit, I sought the conservative view. I listened and I asked questions. I decided to examine why conservatives have the perspective they do, and I considered their point of view. I left my inner school girl at home.
I began by typing out what I thought conservatives believed. This, in itself, was an interesting exercise. No matter what your political leanings may be, try to do it without bias. It’s not as easy as it sounds. If you truly try to see things from another’s perspective you might be as surprised as I was to discover that the way we think about things isn’t all that different.
After I typed out what I thought conservatives believed, I sent the list to some of my conservative friends and asked them to review it and send me feedback. I wanted to know if the list was accurate.
Turns out I did “so-so.” More importantly—I gained insight.
For example, I found nothing generates greater passion among conservatives than the abortion issue—and for good reason. It’s not a simple issue. I am torn over it myself.
Nevertheless, I think conservatives who think it should be outlawed have a point. As a woman, it is off-putting to hear someone tell me what I can and can’t do with my body. But one conservative offered a point that gave me pause. He said “Once a woman gets pregnant her ‘choice’ has already been made.” In other words, it’s not whether a woman makes her choice but when she makes her choice. In that light, it doesn’t seem so unreasonable, then, to be against abortion.
Another heartfelt and poignant answer to my abortion inquiry came from Rob Vargas, a conservative friend.
He said, “I don't accept that this is a scientific issue. This isn't about the physical state of the embryo/fetus. We know what's happening inside the woman's body. A human is being developed and trying to be born. So what do our morals tell us then? As a conservative, the answer isn't an easy one for me. It's a life trying to come into being. So a respect for and valuing of life itself tells me we should give it all the value and respect of an actual human life. At the same time, however, do we surrender one life and the rights it should have for another? Where do the two balance out? Honestly, I don't have that answer. That's why you'll rarely see me speak out on this issue.”
Other conservatives I spoke with are against abortion except in certain circumstances. These include times when the pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or when the fetus or embryo suffers from a severe deformity/condition and is detected by medical personnel prior to birth.
When I put these three viewpoints together, I can see why conservatives argue against abortion:
- A responsible woman chooses when and if she will become pregnant. If a woman chooses not to take precautions, she is gambling. As with any gamble, if we buy the ticket and lose, we can’t get our money back.
- Science may argue that a fetus is not yet a life, but we know it is trying to be. What are our moral obligations in this case?
- When it comes to the life of the mother, it seems reasonable to me that the person already living should be considered first. In this case and in the case of fetal deformities, others believe nature must take its course for better or worse. If the mother dies in childbirth or the child is born with a deformity, then that is what was meant to be.
Besides abortion, I also asked my conservative friends about public assistance, universal health care, capital punishment and the economy.
I won’t get into all the different viewpoints on these issues, but I will say that I was impressed with how they thought them through.
With all these issues, I’m only looking to understand other perspectives. Even if I disagree, at least I’ve listened and really heard a perspective different from mine.
In the process of discussing these issues, Ray, a conservative friend said, “I believe that the vast majority of Americans be they Liberal, Conservative, or a combination of both at times, want the same things…Life, Liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Where the heated disagreements come in is how to achieve and keep those ideals. For over 200 years we have been able to argue, disagree, give each other mean looks and finally come to compromise. I hope our nation can continue to do that.”
I agree and suggest we start by really listening to each other.
And I’m asking you to join me.