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Don’t let yourself be defined

April 15th, 2010

So the JCU Tea Party is today. Hopefully you’re planning on going. If not, you have until 3 p.m. to change your mind. And I have about 500 words that may change your mind for you.

The goal of today’s Tea Party is to promote a grassroots effort that gives a voice to the common person that is sick of high taxes and wasteful spending. Even though that’s a message that probably resonates with many ordinary Americans, people often identify the Tea Party as a conservative political movement.

But the words “conservative” and “liberal” should be completely removed from the country’s political dialogue. Why? Because they prevent Americans from thinking for themselves.

Often times, when a person labels himself as a “liberal” or “conservative,” it’s because a few of his or her most important views correspond with the stance of a certain ideology. For example, pro-life supporters often identify themselves as conservative, while supporters of gay marriage usually identify themselves as liberal.

What ends up happening, however, is that a person’s ideology will then determine the rest of his or her political views. The pro-life supporter who labels himself a conservative will automatically adopt the rest of the conservative platform.

What’s even worse is that since Americans identify the conservative ideology with the Republican Party and the liberal ideology with the Democratic Party, ideology also often determines who Americans vote for.

Furthermore, the ideologies of liberalism and conservatism in the United States are significantly inconsistent. How can conservatives be pro-life while supporting the death penalty, or advocate for small government while pushing for massive armed forces? And how can liberals argue for “freedom of choice” in the abortion and gay marriage debates and yet continually deny Americans the right to own a gun?

It’s almost as if the term “liberal” and “conservative” are nothing more than labels for arbitrary combinations of policy views.

So here’s a word of advice: don’t let yourself be defined by ideology. Instead, confront each issue individually and try to come up with a stance that’s consistent with your own principles.

The Tea Party will focus primarily on economic issues, specifically taxes and government spending. It will apply a consistent set of principles to these issues to derive its policy positions.

Even if its principles are different than yours, keep an open mind and remember that your principles are not set in stone but are constantly evolving – especially while you’re in college.

And whatever you do, don’t let the labels of “conservative” or “liberal” keep you from experiencing an opportunity to define yourself.