A few weeks ago, I hit on what bugs me about the usual liberal vs. conservative arguments as we have them today. I will use abortion as an example.
With the abortion issue, you are either “pro-life” or “pro-choice”. Pro-lifers see the issue as black/white. All abortions are bad. Period. No one should ever, ever, ever have an abortion. No discussion, no exceptions. They paint pro-choicers as their polar opposite when the two “sides” are not opposites at all. The opposite of the pro-life stance would be: All abortions are good. Every woman who ever gets pregnant should have an abortion. Clearly, that’s not what pro-choicers believe. Yet, that is what “pro-life” implies. It also implies that pro-lifers believe in the sanctity of all life, however, I’ve noticed that the most fanatical anti-abortionists also tend to be pro-death penalty. How do they reconcile that?
Anyhow, pro-choice is not the opposite of pro-life. It encompasses the pro-life view. It allows for it. A person who is pro-choice could be personally for, against, or undecided about abortion, but irrespective of her personal views, she respects the rights of others to make their own decisions about the matter. A person who is pro-choice doesn’t think, “abortion! yay!” She understands that a pregnancy is more often than not a gray issue. A baby could be much-wanted but endanger the health of the mother, or have a severe genetic defect. A pregnancy could be the result of rape. A family could already have more children than they can support. A pro-choicer understands that there may be situations when abortion is the best—not the easiest—choice for all concerned.
This is where the true meat of the argument lies: In what situations do you think it would be appropriate to have an abortion? When would it not be okay? If everyone could accede that people have the right to hold their own opinions on the matter, then we could have a true, rich, nuanced debate on the moral, medical, philosophical, etc. implications. Instead we just have two factions yelling at each other.
So that’s what bugs me. It seems no matter what the issue, you’re “conservative” if you have your opinion and you’re sticking to it and goddamn it so should everyone else, and you’re “liberal” if you allow for the fact that everyone has opinion and that there is a whole spectrum of ways to look at an issue not just two (see: “you’re either with us or against us”). It’s just impossible to have a real debate on anything if that’s what the two “sides” are.