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Stuck Between a Liberal and a Conservative

Every social setting or ideology has its own rules.

For the current media portrayal of the conservative the rules seem clear. If you are a conservative you are for small government, care about religion, look for the legal denial of any form of marriage other than that of a man and a woman, care about the freedom to carry a gun, and want less taxes and bigger businesses. The image is black and white: If you do not fit these criteria, then you are not a “true conservative.”

On the liberal side there is also a set of rules. You support the rights of women to decide if abortion is a suitable or necessary outcome to unwanted pregnancy, look for the day when marriage is no longer limited to a man and a woman, support universal healthcare, and are decidedly anti-gun.

Granted these are extremes, but the media likes extremes. They are well defined and don’t take a lot of thought to understand. Nonetheless these rules, to some degree, are working to define and create social spaces.

Every social group or ideology has a set of rules in discourse. One has to stick to these rules to be fully a part of the group. If I don’t follow the lines set out in front of me to become a part of one of these social and ideological frameworks I am in general going to find it thought to get “inside.” In other words, I can’t support same gender marriage and still be fully included in the conservative community. Nor can I oppose same gender marriage and be fully included in the liberal community.

The entire rhetoric around the word “inclusivity” has a set of requirements to define what being inclusive means. No one can include everyone. To include is to exclude. I guess that’s why that old commandment of “loving thy enemies” is damn near impossible for most of us. Talk about screwing up the rules!

Words and semantics are not just tools we use to communicate. These are tools we use to create social spaces and practices that wield a lot of power. The question is how ignorant we choose to be about the power language actually has over one another. Words hurt, help, give hope, kill, destroy, create, punish, provoke, exclude, include, and fabricate. There is no such thing as “just words.” This is a position of ignorance.

Moving past ignorance requires us to be humble enough to understand what effect language has over another. The question is not the semantics of how we choose to use our words, but on what kind of power we choose to wield over others.

About Andrew Tatusko

I do: faculty development at penn state | I study: higher education and religion | I dig: music | I'm politically: leftist | I'm not: the doc on celebrity rehab

Discussion

2 thoughts on “Stuck Between a Liberal and a Conservative

  1. Drew —
    I too am disturbed by the use of linguistic markers to create simplistic social divisions. I appreciate your thoughtful post, especially your conclusion about the importance of the sort of power we choose to wield. My answer to that question has guided me through my 29 years of teaching.
    One concern. You say “In other words, I can’t be opposed to same gender marriage and still be fully included in the conservative community.” I think you meant to say “I can’t support . . .” (I got to your blog, by the way, from a post you left at the Chronicle)

    Posted by Iam TheKakester | February 11, 2013, 4:38 PM

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