Washington Crossing the Delaware – before political parties could lift up “the unprincipled…”
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I had an interesting conversation last May 2d, at a Saturday-afternoon soccer game. My Georgia niece’s husband – “nephew by marriage” – was sounding out my political views.
He’d been goaded by having read – under protest no doubt – the paperback version of my just-published e-book, No such thing as a Conservative Christian. (I’d given the two a copy of the paperback version for Christmas.) He asked if I was conservative or liberal, and I gave him my standard answer – at the time. I said I was a “Contrarian,” which translates to something like “pissed-off moderate.”
Then just the other day someone on Facebook called me a “liberal.”
Which again threw me for a loop, temporarily. Being out of practice – away from home for three weeks in Israel, then two weeks on the road trip to Massachusetts – I was tempted to respond that I was a Moderate. The problem is that these days that sounds wishy-washy. I also thought of pointing out that I’m a fiscal conservative but a social liberal. (“Like most real Americans,” I added. It seems you have to be a bit “over the top” on Facebook these days.) Then too – somewhere between last May and now – I toyed with the idea of calling myself a “seeker-after-truth.” But that sounds a bit pompous.
So as it turns out, none of the three answers I toyed with sounded right, until I remembered a post that I did two years ago – for July 4th – called The Independent Voter. That post noted the growing number of Independent Voters in this country. That is, “those voters who don’t align with either major political party, Republican or Democrat:”
An independent is variously defined as a voter who votes for candidates and issues rather than on the basis of a political ideology or partisanship; a voter who does not have long-standing loyalty to, or identification with, a political party; a voter who does not usually vote for the same political party from election to election; or a voter who self-describes as an independent.
To me, the problem with both Conservatives and Liberals is that they both have a “one size fits all” set of standard answers for all of life’s problems. They each have a preconceived notion of “What is Truth.” And so – rather than digging out the real Truth – they try ever so hard to find answers to all of life’s problems in a pre-boxed set of canned answers.
On the other hand, there is that quote from Virgil, “Fortunate is he who understands the cause of things.” In other words, the one who understands why things happen. In that way he is much better prepared to keep Reality from coming up and biting him on the ass! (Metaphorically or otherwise.) And that – to me – is the big difference between an Independent and either a Conservative or Liberal. An Independent wants to find the real truth…
Then too there was my post from June 2017, Last year at this time. It noted that Independent Voters – “who don’t align with either major political party” – could well have taken their cue from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist.”
Which also makes for the biggest problem we Independents Voters always face:
“One must always choose the lesser of two weevils!”
The point is: Life isn’t “black and white,” the way ardent liberals and conservatives alike believe. Everyday life is full or gray areas, as noted in Learning to see things grey:
Turns out that life is full of grey situations. Life is full of uncertainty. Full of situations that are neither “Yes” nor “No,” but subject to one of the endless variables in that grey area between black and white. As humans, we are limited by our subjective perspectives… Given this limitation, not everything can fit into one of our neat little boxes that we have in our minds and with which we would like to interpret all the situations we encounter in our lives.
And it’s those “neat little boxes” that Conservatives and Liberals alike turn to, for solutions to all of life’s problems. Or maybe I just don’t trust canned responses, “predetermined responses to common questions.” Which is why – at one point over the past few years – I considered “Contrarian” to be the best label for me and what I believe.
See for example, ‘Mi Dulce’ – and Donald Trump – made me a Contrarian:
I think I was pre-disposed to become a Contrarian. For one thing, I was a public defender for 24 years – before I retired – so I got used to saying things people didn’t like to hear. For another, I like the idea of a “Devil’s advocate,” which is one of the “see alsos” in the Wikipedia article on Contrarians…
But as I found out, in its original meaning a “Devil’s advocate” did holy work. He too was a “seeker after truth,” albeit with a much more memorable title. See for example Contrarian – Wikipedia, with a link included therein on “Devil’s advocate:”
The Advocatus Diaboli … was formerly an official position within the Catholic Church; one who “argued against the canonization (sainthood) of a candidate in order to uncover any character flaws or misrepresentation evidence favoring canonization.”
The problem is, going after the real truth – the “whole truth and nothing but the truth” – can often get you into a lot of trouble. For example, there’s the Social gadfly concept. That term refers to a person “who interferes with the status quo of a society or community by posing novel, potentially upsetting questions, usually directed at authorities.”
Then too finding the truth is just half the problem. Then you have to make it comprehensible. There’s a lot of “truth” that’s largely beyond the comprehension of many Americans. (Especially those who need persuading that Donald Trump is “less than meets the eye.”)
Which is – as it turns out – just the problem that Moses, Paul and Jesus all had to face. (And Socrates as well, as shown at right.) They all had to “dumb it down” and – in my view – do so mostly for the more conservative among us, then and now. Or as Colin Powell put it: “Great leaders are almost always great simplifiers, who can cut through argument, debate and doubt, to offer a solution everybody can understand.”
So anyway, Plato used the term “gadfly” to describe Socrates‘s relationship with the people around him and of his time. He was an “uncomfortable goad* to the Athenian political scene, which he compared to a slow and dimwitted horse.”
Which sounds pretty appropriate these days as well.
And that brings up another problem. We know what happened to Socrates, “in his defense when on trial for his life.*” For that matter, something similar happened to Jesus when He too tried to “shake things up” and help His disciples resist the ongoing temptation to turn too conservative. The point is, if you are neither a conservative nor a liberal, you don’t have a ready-made set of allies to back you up in a bar fight, metaphoric or otherwise.
“It’s a tough job, but somebody’s got to do it.”
But at the very least I have this: If anybody asks, I now know what to call myself…
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Daniel Webster argues against the Devil…
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The upper image is courtesy of Washington Crossing the Delaware – Wikipedia. The quote is from Quote by Washington: “However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely … to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.” (Can you say prescient?) Then too, Washington could well be the first “independent voter.”
The “No conservative Christian” image is from Amazon.com: Kindle eBooks: Kindle Store. The link in the text will take you to the paperback version.
Re: The Virgil quote. See Felix, qui potuit rerum cognoscere causas – Wikipedia. From Verse 490 of Book 2 of the “Georgics” (29 BC), by the Latin poet Virgil (70 – 19 BC), the phrase is variously translated. For example, John Dryden – (1631-1700) the English poet, literary critic, translator, and playwright who became England’s first Poet Laureate – translated it: “Happy the Man, who, studying Nature’s Laws, / Thro’ known Effects can trace the secret Cause.” (In other words, the direct opposite of the person who says “fake news” at every bit of information he or she can’t handle…)
The “lesser of two weevils” image is courtesy of pinterest.com. See also Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – YouTube, Lesser of Two Evils – TV Tropes, Reader Opinion: Clinton v Trump and “the lesser of two weevils, Master and Commander: A Movie Review – Maccabee Society, and/or Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World – Wikipedia.
Re: “Mi Dulce” and me being a Contrarian. I must admit that there was also a bit of “getting her goat” with such a label, as explained in Phrase Finder:
A commonly repeated story … is that goats were placed with racehorses to keep them calm. When ne’er-do-wells who wanted the horse to race badly removed it, that is, they ‘got someone’s goat,’ [and] the horse became unsettled and ran badly.
For an alternate theory, see Definition of get (one’s) goat – Online Slang Dictionary.
As to the grey – or gray – areas in life, I Googled “real life gray areas” and got almost 11 million results. Of related interest see Debate Quotes – BrainyQuote, and/or Quote by René Descartes: “If you would be a real seeker: “If you would be a real seeker after truth, it is necessary that at least once in your life you doubt, as far as possible, all things.”
Re: Truth, justice and the American way. An opposing view, Truth, Justice, or the American Way – LELA. Or for a very long and convoluted – but intriguing – analysis, Truth, Justice, and the American Way | Alternative to AARP. Among other things, it noted, “After World War II, Superman’s foster Dad reminded his son that he must use his super powers ‘in the interest of truth, tolerance, and justice,’ and also that “personal liberty demands personal responsibility. Liberty and Responsibility go hand in hand.” From a rough reading I’d say that author too is a bit of Contrarian…
Re: Socrates, and how he ended up. He was tried and convicted of “both corrupting the minds of the youth of Athens and of impiety (asebeia, ‘not believing in the gods of the state’), and as a punishment sentenced to death, caused by the drinking of a mixture containing poison hemlock.”
One of Socrates’s purported offenses to the city was his position as a social and moral critic. Rather than upholding a status quo and accepting the development of what he perceived as immorality … Socrates questioned the collective notion of “might makes right…” Plato refers to Socrates as the “gadfly” of the state (as the gadfly stings the horse into action, so Socrates stung various Athenians), insofar as he irritated some people with considerations of justice and the pursuit of goodness. His attempts to improve the Athenians’s sense of justice may have been the cause of his execution.