Cultivating Understanding in a Severely Divided Society

Some say that everyone wants to be understood. Whether we all agree or not is secondary, and frankly, not a realistic goal to pursue. Seeking to understand, on the other hand, strengthens relational bonds and breaks down our black-and-white view of the world. At times, however, efforts to bring attention to common ground or highlight shared values often patronize one side and hold up the other, on every issue. An article you may find in a conservative magazine entitled something like “Understanding LGBTQ+ Activism” would no doubt subtly patronize members of that community and assume superiority in this area of disagreement. On the other side, a liberal article about “Understanding the Pro-Life Side” may softly treat members of this community like anti-science, unloving fear-mongers, or perhaps worse, naïve and ignorant children. Before we can seek to understand, we must put aside our differences and our subtle (and not-so-subtle) jabs at what we deem as the wrong side.

“Putting aside our differences” does not mean that we pretend that they are not important. For goodness’ sake, political and personal issues are important. If you’re a believer in global warming, your belief is that we are ruining this planet for the animals today and our great-great-grandchildren tomorrow–that’s not a small issue. If you’re pro-life, you believe that millions of pain-experiencing children, full of potential and innocence, have been killed wrongly in the womb. If you’re a gay rights activist, you believe teens and adults are pointlessly being excluded from their homes and their communities, all for the sake of an archaic value system. If you’re an advocate for religious freedom, you believe that religious adherents are being criticised and often forced to do things they shouldn’t really have to do. If you’re an anti-gun activist, you believe that fewer lives would be lost and this society would be safer if we simply banned (or severely restricted) guns.

Global warming, abortion, LGBTQ+ rights, religious freedom, and the 2nd amendment are all important issues that must be discussed in a functioning society, but when we let these issues divide us, we only create more problems. Anger, mistrust, hatred, and disrespect arise. Instead of a passionate, caring discussion about the topics that matter to us most, we divulge into arguments that (if we’re being honest) never change anyone’s mind. In fact, some say these arguments only cement our preconceived notions into our minds, so what does that help?

A common refrain you may hear from politicians or activists is that we must “find common ground.” I don’t even believe in that, because honestly, it can be quite difficult with some people, and we make a mistake if we believe it’s necessary to love and connect. A staunched pro-gay, pro-abortion, stereotypical liberal can love and appreciate a rigid anti-LGBT, pro-life, stereotypical conservative. All it takes is understanding.

How do we cultivate understanding, even with people whose ideas we are adamantly against? It starts with respect, which is why the aforementioned condescension is so unhelpful. When we acknowledge that others have reached their own separate opinion through (usually) valid thought processes, we take the first step of respect. Instead of writing off our opponents as hateful, ignorant, thoughtless, or idiotic, we see a bigger picture and recognize that justifiable thoughts, past experience, firm convictions, and concern for their world brought about these opinions.

Often, it isn’t enjoyable to see the world in the full color that it is. We would rather see it in black and white, neatly packed into boxes of right and wrong, and good and bad. While I must affirm the existence of right and wrong, and good and bad, I will clarify that mere humans cannot be simplified to such terms. We are not characters in a children’s novel; we are complicated, messy, intricate.

Seeking to understand does not mean downplaying, ignoring, or putting away differences. And it certainly doesn’t mean coming to an agreement. Lots of people feel that to change their opinion on certain issues would sacrifice their belief system, and I don’t believe that’s necessary, because it doesn’t stand in the way of kindness. A Christian can love a gay person, while believing their actions are wrong. A pro-choice advocate can love a Catholic friend, while believing that abortion is not murder. And a gun safety activist can love their gun-toting neighbor, while believing that guns are unwise. We don’t need to hold hands and pretend we all agree, or ignore our convictions. We must only seek to understand by respecting and loving others.

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Star Wars: The Last Jedi, and Why I Despise Republican and Democrat Politicians Alike

From Friday, the 22nd, to Friday, the 29th, I saw Star Wars: The Last Jedi three times. This is quite a feat for me, as this movie makes up about 1/5th of my theater-going, and I’ve never gone to see anything more than once. But this movie was worth each visit. I won’t get into the plot of the movie (or spoil anything for you late-comers), and I won’t defend it. If you’re under the impression that this is a disgrace to the canon, then (for one, you’re absolutely wrong, it’s the best movie so far, and for two,) just read this article.

One major theme of this movie is bringing nuance to the dark-side/light-side plot point that has driven the conflict of the Star Wars universe. This is not to say that the concepts of good and evil are cast out; only to communicate that the establishments of these parties are, perhaps, equally corrupted. And this describes my feeling towards our governmental system today. If you ask me about my views, you’ll find they align quite nicely with what would traditionally be called “Republican values.”

I believe in life, no regards to gender, sexual orientation, skin color, eye color, or current status of growth. No one has the right to take life from an innocent person. There are arguments to be had about how far this should extend, but this, as a basic idea, is what I believe.

I believe in liberty, that everyone should be able to say anything they like, whenever they like. If they spur on violent action, then they should be tried in court. But people get to say whatever they want, and no one gets to shut them up simply because it is controversial. Everyone also has a right to a gun, if their mind is intact and they’re a legal adult. Ultimately, I believe, this will prevent more crime than it creates. These two things are what protect the ability to tear down our government if that must be done, and those are the two things that, if kept, ensure that this territory is still called “The United States of America” in 100 years, even if we undergo a necessary revolution.

Despite this slight resemblance with Republicanism, I do not identify with either party. Now more than ever, we, the people, see clearly the corruption of our governmental system. Politicians, who, perhaps, once cared about the 321 million citizens who make up this great country, spend so much time and money ascending to the top, that by the time they reach any position of power, they are rotten to the bone with corruption. They play with us like pawns. Very few of them truly care about the issues facing us, they only care about the next voting cycle, which is why so little is accomplished. If you don’t believe me, just scroll through this riveting Wikipedia page. Democrats and Republicans alike enjoy pandering to the poor, but once they are elected, they can’t be bothered. Hillary Clinton rose to become the nominee of the Democratic Party by pushing out a shriveled-up socialist (who bears much resemblance in facial features to Yoda, by the way, if we’re keeping this article about Star Wars) who would have easily beaten her out in a fair election process. Don’t believe me? Just ask Donna Brazile–she’s selling a book about it! (Oh and guess what! She’s going to make money off of it. What a surprise.) Not to mention the sexual scandals of our creep-infested Washington, from Bill Clinton to Al Franken and yes, many Republicans as well.

So what are we to do with it? We must harness our liberty, and speak out. So many before have tried to do this, but the trouble comes when we choose a side to speak out against. It’s all rancid, and it must all burn (illustratively and metaphorically, of course, FBI…), and there exists no room for bias when the flames of liberty are let loose.

Don’t buy into the pandering, the hopeful lies, the manipulation, the dogma (of either side). Keep hold of that which you value, and fight until this country manifests it. This is how our country thrived, and this is how it will thrive, for decades to come. May the force be with you.

How to Approach Touchy Subjects with Total Strangers

You have probably heard the common phrase “don’t talk about religion or politics with a stranger.” Often, the only defense given if you question this idea is “people get touchy.” But is that really that great of a reason? If people get touchy when talking about these issues, I don’t think the solution is to stop talking about the issues. The solution is to stop being touchy. Talking about our ideas with others leads to a better understanding of each other and keeps us from believing ridiculous fantasies. So, if you would like to climb over this barrier and begin casually approaching “touchy” subjects with strangers, here is a quick guide.

1. Sneak up to the topic from behind.

Don’t just come right out and say “so, what are your religious beliefs?” Try starting with “what church do you go to?” Once they answer that, you could ask follow-up questions like “do you agree with everything that they teach?” If you’re trying to talk about politics, try starting with “did you ever dream of becoming president someday?” Then you can lead the conversation to “which president do you think you’d be the most like?”

2. Don’t let your own beliefs become known.

This part is extremely important. People are more defensive if they think you disagree with them. At least at the beginning of the conversation, try to be coy and only ask them about their ideas or beliefs before presenting your own. Once you do present your opinions…

3. Be kind.

Always pivot back to kindness. Make it clear that you care about them on a personal level, even if you are total opposites when it comes to politics or religious things. Side note, if you don’t actually care about them, then you might not be the best candidate for influencing their beliefs.

It’s not complicated or hard. You just talk. You don’t have to convince anyone of anything. The main purpose of this exercise is simply to relax barriers and help people become comfortable talking about these issues. One more thing: knowing when and who to talk to  is often the hardest part, but don’t worry about it. The opportunities usually present themselves, you don’t need to go looking for it.

The Media Monopoly

Let me tell you a story. In 1926, NBC (the news network) was founded. Then came CBS in 1927, CNN in 1980, and then… FOX in 1996. The result: immediate uproar. The liberals no longer owned every single news station in the country. Someone was disagreeing with them! And, as we all know, the last thing liberals want is someone contradicting their opinions. They want a vacuum where they can believe whatever they like without consequences. They want to believe every black man is innocent and every white cop is guilty. They want to believe financial aid based on skin tone instead of upbringing is a good idea. They want to ignore a book like the Quran and believe Islam is a religion of peace. They want to believe in “the wage gap” and pretend that the gender scales are horribly unbalanced. But to believe all of these fantastical ideas and promote them for others on national TV, you have to be sure there aren’t people out there saying something different. That, my friends, is why they’re trying to shut down FOX News. Please do not misunderstand me; I’m not saying Bill O’Rielly is a saint (he’s clearly quite the opposite), and I’m not saying that FOX News has the best workplace culture. But this is about more than that. The other networks wouldn’t be trying this hard to bring it down if it weren’t for the simple fact that they disagree.

Then there’s radio. Your tax dollars go to the radio giant NPR that spews whatever liberal nonsense they want to, whenever they like. For goodness sake, they make fun of our president with a sarcastic bitterness that they never had for Obama. So, I’m glad they’re being defunded. You don’t get to spout bias news coverage and ideas and pretend to be the nation’s unbiased reporting.

(You don’t want to get me started on The New York Times and The Washington Post, so we’re just going to skip that part.)

The most important thing we need in our news today is diversity, diversity of thought. We need news anchors that disagree with each other and admit their own biases. We need a surplus of ideas so that people can sort them out on their own. Enough of this media monopoly, liberals. You won’t control our country’s news forever.

An Introduction to Identity Politics

Recently I had a short argument on Twitter with an author who was detailing her experiences with sexism in the writing and publishing sphere. Obviously, I don’t know her specific story and I couldn’t tell you much about her. But what set me off of her hashtag and following was the obsession with identity and sexism. This new brand of feminism that we see today is not about women’s empowerment; it’s about being a victim and punishing those who can be labeled with terms such as “sexist,” “racist,” or “homophobic,” as well as “islamophobic” and many, many others. The one trait that runs through all of this is identity. Liberal politicians are using race, gender, sexual orientation, and religious affiliation to infiltrate the bitterness of people and confirm their vote.

They start off with some minority or marginalized group, say, African Americans. These people have been through a lot. Many are awfully poor, their familial structure isn’t strong, and they’re often victims of racism. Don’t get me wrong, white people can have hard lives too. But here’s the difference: liberals can tell black people that the reason life is hard is because conservatives don’t like them. This is so far from the truth, it’s almost laughable. Conservatives have been the driving force behind civil rights from the very beginning. As I point out in my recent post, “Why I’m a Conservative,” we abolished slavery and desegregated the school system while liberals fought us ‘tooth and nail’. We were for civil rights before it was cool. If anyone has a racist history, it’s liberals. Of course, the moment that standing for the rights of black Americans became something accepted and encouraged in society, liberals rewrote the history books to make themselves out as the heroes. So, every election cycle, you’ll hear comments about “racist conservative ideologies.” Disregard it, especially if you’re black. You can’t let them get a hold on you with lies.

If you are a minority in race, or if you’re a woman, or a Muslim, or you find yourself in the LGBTQRSA2! section of the voting block, don’t let liberals exploit that. They’ll tell you that everyone on the other side wants to take your rights. They’ll tell you that we’re afraid of you. They’ll tell you that all we care about is the white men. But it’s just not true. Give conservatives a chance. We come through. 

Why I’m a Conservative

In the last few decades, liberals have done a pretty good job of making conservatives look bad. It doesn’t matter that we fought against slavery and kept this country unified in the 1800s. It doesn’t matter that we gave women the right to vote in 1872. It doesn’t matter that we elected the first female to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1916. We desegregated schools (1957), killed off the Soviet Union (1991), elected the first black female Secretary of State (2005), and did it all while lowering taxes and helping the economy (1981, 1996). (source)

The Republican party and conservatives in general can be proud of a lot. Despite this, liberals often call every one of our number:

  • Racist
  • Sexist
  • Phobic of everyone different.

So, for some incredibly odd reason, you now must explain yourself when identifying as a conservative, especially in an academic space. Here is my explanation for why I’m a conservative.

Conservatives have a great history.

As listed above, conservatism has done so many wonderful things. Sadly, in most of those instances, we were fighting liberals to do it. The liberals wanted segregation. The liberals wanted higher taxes. The liberals wanted women’s suffrage to die. At this point, you either don’t believe me, or your head is exploding, because the liberals love to paint a picture of “love for all” as if that was their history! We need to set the record straight on these things. Children can’t grow up hearing lies about history like “conservatives hated black people” and “conservatives were afraid of women voting.” It’s just not true! In fact, the total opposite is true.

Conservatives are fighting against abortion.

This is perhaps the greatest reason I am a conservative. I hate abortion. Just like regular murder, it deprives innocent people of the chance to live. I don’t hate women who have had abortions, and I’m not saying they need to be punished for doing it. Their actions are in the past, but we must still stand up for future generations that can’t speak for themselves. If you have more questions about the pro-life cause, here is a list of FAQ and answers.

Conservatives are more logical.

Instead of jabbering on about sexism and racism that is long gone, we fight against real injustice that’s happening today, mainly abortion.

Instead of throwing millions down the drain of global warming to offset a problem by two years, we focus on the economy and the people that need help today. More on that here.

Instead of committing to a scientific idea that is proven wrong over and over, many of us believe an origin story that has stood the test of time and never been disproven.

Despite what you hear from a professor at a liberal college, conservatism just makes more sense.

Conservatives have better ethics.

Yes, I am aware of what our now-president has said, and I know that conservatives have had their share of scandal. But none can outdo the Democrat scandal that came to light in 1998. Not only did Bill Clinton have a long-term affair with a young woman 27 years younger than him, but he was voted back in for a second term by Democrats. If it had just been one man’s error, it really wouldn’t be a big deal (except for him being, you know, president and all). But that fact that a house of Democrats supported him afterward made them all look really bad. Then his wife ran last year and almost became president!

Conservatives are patriotic.

Unpatriotism is just ugly to me. When you live in a country with so much to be proud of, wave the flag! Sing the song! Go to parades! Make red, white, and blue cakes! This self-loathing of liberal citizens is idiocy. When Trump says “America first,” they take that as some kind of insult to other countries. It isn’t. He’s sort of the president, we’d hope he’d put America first, just as we’d expect the leader of any other country to put their country first.

Conservatives have more fun.

Lastly, we just have more fun. Instead of sitting around calculating the most politically correct cabinet pick, we do what makes sense and don’t mind when others make us look bad for it. Instead of being the thought police, we let humor into our dialogue. Today, the tables have turned, and conservatives are becoming the rebels of society.

do you know who your representatives are?

The other day, my writing teacher asked the class “do you know who your representatives are?” I was instantly ashamed of myself, because I love politics and I obviously care about the issues, but I didn’t know any of their names or even parties. (Except the governor. I knew he was a liberal Republican.)

So today, I decided to look up who my representatives were and write them each short notes, pleading for them to have an open ear to the plight of the unborn child. Please, do the same. It doesn’t have to be a long letter, and you don’t need to be fearful of what they’ll think. Just step out “on a limb” and tell them how you feel.

Just go to www.whoismyrepresentative.com and type in your zip code. Then, click on each person’s web page. They’ll have a contact form somewhere. Just look around a bit. Then, fill in the information they ask for and send them your thoughts. Why? Because, as your representative, they need the perspectives of their constituents. They need every one of us to reach out and let them understand how we feel.

If I hear back from any of the people I contacted, I’ll let you all know, and you do the same! Just email me at levipont@gmail.com.

Politics

Yes, politics. I’m going to tell you exactly what I think about our presidential candidates this leap year and who I would vote for if I could vote.

First and foremost: Trump, 2016. Yes. To be honest, I’m incredibly annoyed by how many Christians continue to act is if they don’t know who to vote for (or if they’re going to vote). Hello! Have you seen the democrat this year? Hillary Clinton is quite possibly the worst person we could have for president. Like, I’m not just being dramatic. She is a politician to the bone and the only goal in her mind is to win, whatever that means. She will throw money at the problem, cast aside morals, and say anything she has to.

I think we all know deep down that it’s gonna be Trump or Hillary. Not Gary Johnson (yeah, I bet most of you don’t even know who that is, and yet the man thinks he could actually become president.) And not some other random guy who gets in his head to run against Trump. And so, if you look at those two options, I think it’s utterly obvious who your vote should go to. (And yes, I will tell you who to vote for, because I don’t get a vote yet, and I know that none of you will go someplace and do something just because I told you to do it.) Vote for Trump. Really. If we let Hillary clynch this because of some misgivings we have about Trump, we’re going to be kicking ourselves for eight years.

Here are some frequently asked questions (and answers) you may have about Trump.

1. Isn’t he afraid of or against anyone not like him?

No. He is not racist, sexist, xenophobic, homophobic, islamophobic, or anything else.

  1. Racist? People of every race under the sun support Trump, and the things he says never target a race, but rather a way of life.
  2. Sexist? He has a wife and his daughters run businesses.
  3. Xenophobic? (This means afraid of people from other countries.) His wife is from Slovenia and the Chinese love him.
  4. Homophobic? A huge number of gay people support him and he is the most gay-tolerating republican we’ve had (since I don’t believe it is the job of the president to govern morals, but to simply have good morals themselves, I am not against this.)
  5. Islamophobic? Yes, he is afraid of Isis, and machine guns, and suspicious men muttering ancient texts to themselves, but this is not irrational.

2. Isn’t he unconstitutional?

No. Just… no. When a liberal says “unconstitutional,” they mean “mommy I don’t like this it’s green and shaped like a tree it probably doesn’t have any sugar in it either.” Oh, and here are two words liberals throw around for no reason. Here is what they mean:

Choice=the ability to kill people we don’t like, want, or feel the need for, ie, fogies and fetuses.

Bigoted=doesn’t want to bake a cake or take pictures and celebrate something they believe is evil.

3. Really?

Yes.

  1. He’s gonna be choosin’ a good number of new supreme court justices.
  2. Hillary’s the female incarnate devil/mother of the antichrist. (That’s a joke.)

I know. I hated him when we had the choice of Ben Carson or Kasich. But now he is all we have. So let’s get behind him while we can, or we’ll kick ourselves for eight years while the republican party lies on its deathbed. You know that one son, the libertarians? Yeah, they’re looking to inherit lots of votes from our party if we don’t get our act together. Let’s do this thing. Trump, 2016.

Questions for me? Email me or let me know in the comments.

Diversity

Diversity. It’s a popular word, perhaps even a ‘buzzword’. I hear it on the news, I hear it on podcasts, I read about it in blogs. Apparently, diversity is the next hip thing that we should all embrace. It’s the new-and-improved model for society. But often, when people say diversity, they only mean a higher form of racism, and a higher form of sexism.

Yes. I am white. And male. I understand that. I understand that we never had to fight for equality. Here’s what I mean: The other day I was listening to a podcast about “blind hiring.” In essence, this method makes it easier for companies to go further in the hiring process without knowing the person’s race, gender, and even age. Before, companies could only leave those questions out of preliminary job applications. Now, they can go as far as calling the person, and with this new system, they still won’t know if that person is a black woman, or a white man.

Let me be very clear: I love this. I am not against blind hiring. Here’s where things got weird. The podcast interviewed a person who said something to the effect of “blind hiring is nice, but I don’t want companies to only use it, and then not make strides to being racially diverse.” Read between the lines with me here. The person is saying blind hiring is good. But they also want something else. What is this something else?

“Diversity,” my friend. Many companies who are trying to be hip and new (yes, you, California) are seeking to hire more black people and more women. But really… that’s super sexist and pretty racist. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not sexist towards men somehow, or racist towards white people somehow. It devalues the black woman if she is hired only for her race, and only for her gender.  How would you like to be hired, not because you were the best employee, but because you looked different? How would you like to be some company’s trophy of diversity? It’s not right.

Yes, sometimes the man is hired simply because they are a man, not because they are a better worker. And yes, sometimes the white folks are hired because they are white, not because they are a better worker.

But we need to stop talking about race and gender and just talk about good workers! Hire good workers. To hire someone simply because of the way they look, regardless of the way they look, is not respectful to the person.

I understand racism. I know some people are, well, racist. But we can’t change our politics to counter them. We just need to make small changes in our lives.

Oh, and one last thing that is… basically related. Let’s say that I walk into a fast food place and there’s a white guy walking up behind me ten feet. I probably won’t hold the door open for them. But, if that guy is black? I will totally open the door for them. I would probably do it even if they were fifteen feet away. And so, in my own little way, I am being kind of racist… to white people.

Let’s not try to be diverse. Let’s try to be kind. To all people.

And… If you were impacted by this post, please share it. You can share the post on your Facebook page, or share it on Twitter, or email it. You can even take it all and go print it off. As the bloggers say, “sharing is caring!”