I have to confess. I am almost totally confused by the different labels ascribed to people today. What is the difference between conservative and liberal, socialist and capitalist, left and right, supporters of law enforcement versus supporters of protesters?
Understanding the difference between pro-life and pro-choice is simpler, but even these labels are confusing today. For instance, while the Roman Catholic Church clearly comes down on the side of pro-life, I now understand that a provision has been made for a Catholic woman to be pro-choice under certain circumstances. Single issues people usually decide left or right on the basis of this particular issue alone.
We currently are in the heat of a presidential race (now complicated by a replacement for Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the U.S. Supreme Court), and it is increasingly apparent that there is little that is being said by any of the candidates that has any resemblance to the truth. In addition, candidates have the tendency to claim they will offer up anything in order to become president.
So, the answer to my confusion cannot be found within the presidential debate (especially the debate held on Sept. 29). The only way to discover the truth about presidential candidates is to go back and check their track records, something that is not always easy. If something is repeated enough times, even if it is untrue, people have a tendency to believe it, especially if it is something they want to believe anyway.
It appears to me that the difference between various labels today has become very muddy. The Supreme Court is a case in point. Republicans and Democrats are up in arms about who should replace Ginsburg. They are worried about the court being too conservative or too liberal. Well, what about interpreting and upholding the law? The two Supreme Court justices appointed by our current president and confirmed by the Senate were supposed to be conservative, but several decisions have revealed that they are more concerned about supporting the law rather than a certain label. Does that make them more liberal?
I always thought I was a conservative, because of my stance on claiming the Bible as the Word of God, but now I find that when I utilize good exegetical methods to interpret the Bible, I get called a liberal. Apparently, this is more because I disagreed with someone rather than some particular life stance.
Certain labels tend to have the "kiss of death." Thus, if you call someone a liberal or socialist, or too far to the right, people tend to immediately get up in arms about the person. The labels of conservatism and right-wing sound more positive. But what do they mean? If socialism is having the United States government assume more control over the country, then what parts are we to throw out or ignore? On a basic level, I suppose, if someone is opposed to socialism, he or she should immediately return his stimulus check. Yes, Social Security and Medicare are basically entitlements, but they are still operated by the government. Should we throw them out and turn the money over to private enterprise? In addition, one has to look at the huge number of laws and regulations that allow us to live together in harmony with justice. If one throws out socialism, do all of these also disappear? States' rights are important, but it is wrong to have states fighting one another in a "United" States.
Or, suppose we happen to like capitalism. That sounds good until you consider that the difference between the rich and the poor is constantly increasing. The pandemic economy has been devastating to most poor people, but it has been enriching to rich people. They have seen double-digit increases in their investments. As one golfing friend recently pointed out to me: "There is a big difference between the stock market and the marketplace."
I suspect that while labels arouse our emotions, they have become almost worthless to a lot of people. Yes, without a doubt, a particular issue, no matter how it is labeled, may cause someone to vote a particular way. Many people will vote yes or no on a candidate on the pro-life versus pro-choice issue alone. But is that single issue so large everything else has to be ignored?
As we go to the polls this year, we would do well to remember to forget about all of the rhetoric espoused by various candidates and to remember their track record. Does a candidate's life really reflect what he or she is saying? Again, if a candidate claims to be pro-life in order to obtain particular votes, has his or her life journey really been pro-life, or has he or she actually been pro-choice until it was convenient to switch sides during an election? Checking a candidate's track record seems more reliable to me than all of the verbiage being tossed about just to win someone's vote.
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Robert Box is the former chaplain for the Bella Vista Police Department and is currently the Fire Department chaplain. Opinions expressed are those of the author.