Jack Ingram

Last week, one of the letters to the editor claimed that I made a “classic liberal mistake.” Although a seemingly innocuous phrase, I thought, “what exactly did the author mean by ‘classic?’” Was there a flaw in my reasoning – a mistake that is common among liberals and therefore “classic?” Or was my reasoning itself a mistake, because the writer perceived my reasoning to be that of “classical liberalism,” as opposed to “modern liberalism?”

Confused yet? Regardless, the point is that I found myself asking a deeper question: What exactly does it mean to be a liberal or a conservative?

Truth is, my motivation for addressing this question is simple. Now that I’ve got a “conservative” punching bag, I mean columnist, countering my views, I’m fearful that I’ll become something I hate – a stereotype. I don’t want to be pigeonholed as “the liberal” columnist. I despise conformity, especially ideological conformity. My goal with this column is not to conform to normative labels; it is to be unconventional – to present issues in a raw form, unlike other forms of media politicking.

Given our immensely diverse society, I find it disconcerting that our political “spectrum” consists of only two colors: black or white -Republican or Democrat, right or left. Bullshit. I can choose 31 f–ing flavors, but my only choice for President is Tweedle Dumb or Tweedle Dee? And we all know Tweedle Dee didn’t win.

I digress. Since I’m skeptical how well my label fits, it would be unethical to represent myself as something without first evaluating exactly what that something that I claim to represent is.

I found numerous definitions of the terms “liberal” and “conservative,” but none seemed to fit. I then wrote down my strongest political convictions. In my opinion, this is what makes me a … whatever it is that I am: I value individual liberty, limited government, transparent government, equal rights and protection under the law, rule of law, free expression, religious tolerance, personal privacy, universal human rights, sustainable (eco-friendly) practices, fair trade, peace and distrust of the status quo.

In a contemporary perspective, I believe that: We shouldn’t wage unjustified conflicts (I avoid saying “war” because its a misnomer – Congress hasn’t declared war) any president must always obey the laws, especially in times of conflict; it is wrong for the president to spy against his own citizens; the Constitution protects all people (even gay people) equally; our country has adequate places to teach religion and it should be kept in those places, not in public schools; women are not objects – they have the right to do whatever they wish to their bodies, just as men do; people who call themselves “pro-life,” and yet support the death penalty are idiots; all people, even criminals, once born into this world, possess a right to life that should not be cut short by the State.

I’m not sure if I’m a liberal; you can decide for yourself.

But whatever you peg me as, rest assured I will do my best to distance myself from such labels, in my attempt to bring you something fresh and free of conventional norms.

If nothing else, what I want you the to take from this column is this: Don’t trust political labels. Be wary of those who appeal to them. As for your own political persuasions, ask yourself why you possess those views. After all, a life unexamined isn’t worth living.

Jack Ingram is a political science senior and a Mustang Daily staff writer.

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