Have you ever asked yourself why some people are liberal and some people are conservative? It seems as if the divide between left and right is pretty wide and many get quite upset with the other side. It’s as if people expect everybody to think and see things the same way. Of course we don’t, but why do we see things differently?
One could likely spend a lifetime studying this dynamic and perhaps still not settle the question. Moreover, we are forced to use generalities when talking about this and so often people don’t fit into such nice generalities. So please forgive me in advance for making generalities, but hopefully there is some truth in them and hopefully they will help us see some of the reasons why people on the left and right see things differently.
No doubt you may not agree with my generalities, and that is fine, but let’s see what parts you do agree with and what parts we can at least achieve clarity on. But first, a little anecdotal story…
My 14 year old son has a Hispanic friend and from his conversations with him, my son heard that some Hispanic kids can’t get drivers licenses because they are here illegally (brought to the U.S. by their parents). After hearing this, all my son could think of was how unfair it is that through no fault of their own, these teenagers can’t get their driver’s license.
He brought this up as we were watching the news about the New York governor giving up on his plan for allowing illegal aliens to get drivers licenses. Because he emotionally related to how unfair all this was, he was very resistant to any augments for why giving illegals driver licenses might not be a good idea. Simply put, my son can relate very well to a teenager who can’t get a drivers license. He can’t relate very well to how the uncontrolled flow of illegals into our country might have some negative consequences.
In my experience, I have found that many liberals feel what they do because they are often directly connected to something that proved to them how unfair or how wrong something is. They may have lived with hypocritical parents and thus they feel Christianity is no better than any other religion. They may have had a friend who accidentally got pregnant and felt the plight of her situation. They may have had a gay friend and had empathy for the pain of not being able to get married.
These issues are clearly real and prove to them that something is wrong and must be changed.
Conservatives, on the other hand, either tend to trust authority figures in their lives and take on their values, or they think things through and realize there are deeper consequences to things than one might realize. Like the effect of affirmative action that actually hurts minorities. Like the effect of government handouts that keep people in poverty and destroy families. Like the effect of legalized same-sex marriage that hurts the development of children.
The trouble is that liberals largely only see the first kind of conservatives who follow authority and don’t seem to feel the unfairnesses all around them (or even think about these matters). They think they must care more and think more about these matters than conservatives do. But there are other conservatives who think and realize there must be reasons why our founding fathers set things up the way they did, there must be reasons why God wrote what He did in the Bible, there must be lessons we can learn from history. And because conservatives see history being repeated, because they see the wisdom of the past, they begin to see the things missed by those focused on the emotions, the unfairness, and the inequalities of the present.
You could say that liberals believe we are finally leaving the ignorance and superstitions of the past behind us, while conservatives see that we are leaving wisdom and understanding behind.
To be a liberal is easy in the sense that all you have to do is feel how unfair something is and want to fix it. To be a conservative is even easier if you are the type that mostly follows authority, but it is harder if you are the type that has to think through why trying the obvious remedy for a given unfairness might actually create a worse situation.
Another way to put this is that people on the left feel things they talk to others about or are directly connected to, people on the right feel things that they think through. Because people on the right don’t seem as connected to the issue, the left assumes it is seeing the issue more clearly. Because people on the left don’t seem to think issues through as well, the right assumes their input is not valid.
My point is that both need to learn from each other and respect each other.
What do you think?