Why I’m a Conservative Fundamentalist Liberal Progressive

    I’m a conservative in that I know the world is complex, and I know that simplistic and feel-good solutions don't often fix things. I look for the mechanisms that make the world go. I know there is a deep wisdom in the way things are, and I’m skeptical of efforts to overthrow and replace things haphazardly or willy-nilly.

    I’m a fundamentalist in that I look for absolute principles upon which I can base my life and my action. Like axioms in geometry, I eliminate any principles that are not absolute or that do not scale. And then I try to live by those principles, as consistently as I possibly can.

    I’m a liberal in that I care deeply about humanity and the world and life in general. Compassion is my highest value, and I see no justification for the vast amount of violence still lingering in the world, nor for the needless deaths that happen every year due to political machinations and corruption. I cannot justify laws that sacrifice lives to enforce some arbitrary value system or code.

    I’m a progressive in that I believe in the advancement of human equality, human rights, and human freedom. I believe humanity must move forward, and neither tradition nor vested power should stand in its way.

    Why did I write this? You might think it is because I believe there should be no differences between us — that, really, all of these categories are the same. But that’s incorrect — I think legitimate and healthy disagreement is essential.

    But disagreement only works when it is real, when there are different viewpoints being presented in a robust and thorough way. And unfortunately, the vast majority of debate and argument I see in the world is not that.

    Instead, I see caricatures of opposing viewpoints. I see people mocking the other side. I see people comparing each other to Hitler, or implying some connection between a sincere expression of opinion and all the murders committed in history.

    That helps nobody. We only learn from each other when we are open to seeing the value in other viewpoints. We only learn from each other when we are open to being challenged. We only learn from each other when we can say:

    “Here’s my viewpoint. It probably sounds crazy, and I understand why you would reject it. But here are the reasons it makes sense to me.”

    Or even better:

    “I don’t agree with your viewpoint, and that might mean I don’t understand it well enough. Can you explain more?”

    When we’re able to do that — to have open and honest discussion, debate, disagreement — then we will grow as individuals, as a culture, as a society. We will all benefit, ideas will flow freely, and people will be willing to listen to what we have to say.

    Agree or disagree? :)