Thursday, January 19, 2017

Compassionate liberalism

"All of us, regardless of party, should throw ourselves into that work – the joyous work of citizenship. Not just when there's an election, not just when our own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime." Barack Obama, 44th President of the United States
This is my first, and probably last, political post - at least recently, and for a while. It's also not completely political.

I stopped having political conversations a while ago, even online. Most people don't agree with me, and seem uninterested in giving me a chance to explain. Even more seem to take it as an opportunity to condescend to me, explaining why I'm obviously wrong, as if my opinions are the product of a privileged background and an out-of-touch life. It mostly just leads to conflict, which I already have more than enough of in my life, so I try to stick to conversations about sports, TV, or my cat.

Much of what I believe politically is described as "liberal elitism." Since I had absolutely no idea what that means, I did what any self-respecting person would do - I asked Google. 
Liberal elite (also metropolitan elite in the United Kingdom) is a term used to describe politically left-leaning people, whose education had traditionally opened the doors to affluence and power and form a managerial elite.
Digging further, what I've found is that "liberal elites" seem to be people who come from well-educated backgrounds, which led to affluence and power, that dip their toes in the fountain of activism because it's the "cool" thing to do. They throw their money issues and get grants for mission trips to help the needy in other countries because it sounds better, and allows them to "help" while still ignoring realities in their own backyard. They police others behavior, lecturing on the importance of tolerance and inclusion and acceptance, all the while remaining intolerant of those who they lecture.

OK, so that's not cool.

I'm definitely liberal, though it's not a label I like to use, since my views are my own and are not defined by political agendas. I do come from a background of some privilege, and it did allow me access to a good, debt-free education, which could have led to a very lucrative career, had I made different choices. While I wouldn't call my current job "lucrative," I am certainly not underpaid, nor am I suffering. My spouse-less, child-less, house-less lifestyle allows for a lot of comfort. 

I suppose you could argue that I am "elite," though I have very little affluence, even less influence, and, like really no power at all. 

I do like to help - and I try not to offer based on race or nationality (or any other criteria such as gender, orientation, religion, or whatever). I try to offer both my money and time. I'm not trying to ignore reality, but a girl can't live through volunteerism alone, ya know? I try to keep it local, though sometimes a cause just grabs me. I also believe we are all a part of a larger community, and firmly believe that help anywhere helps to make the world a better place. 

I do believe in tolerance - but I believe it goes both ways. I have tried, and continue to try, to understand other people's point of view. I admittedly have a lot to learn, but I want to listen and understand, and not ignore realities outside of my own. 

I'd like to think my desire to help, to listen, to understand, to support, and to include is compassionate, and not elitist. I'd like to think that those who don't agree would start giving liberals like me the benefit of the doubt, before just assuming they know our thoughts and motivation. I'd also like to think that we could all step outside our own reality and look at how everyone is affected in different ways. I do not think lecturing helps, though I understand the impulse, and know I am guilty from time to time. 

I also don't think we can all continue to take in only one side of any issue, and expect that others will just find their way to agree with us "because we are right." "Right" looks different depending on where you stand. On many issues, there truly is no right or wrong answer. When there is, it still doesn't help to be right, if you don't understand how others got their answer. What good does it do to know better if you can't share what you know? 

Working together to make the world a better, richer, more understanding and supportive place can only help all of us. We may all be in different places, but we are all in this together.