Differences

me at 13?I don’t look like this any more, but I like to remember a time when I was handsome.

Let’s talk about differences. Recently I said on a Facebook comment that I am *not* a conservative, to which someone replied, and I quote, “then your bad”.

I think I should explain myself, for those of you who even care about such labels. I am also *not* a liberal.

The words “liberal” and “conservative” can be deceptive, since they oversimplify.  It is pretty ridiculous to try to sum up a human being in one word, since we tend to have different takes on different issues. To some people, “liberals” are always in favor of change (even if it doesn’t help), and “conservatives” are always against change (even if it is needed).  Personally I cannot identify with either of those definitions. Though some deny it, there are good and decent human beings on both sides of politics. The terms imply more of a difference than there usually is.

For an example, take my father.  He was born in 1926 and served over 20 years in the U.S. Navy.  He was married to only one woman, for 54 years until he died. He also sang in the church choir, taught Sunday school, and was a Scoutmaster.  Add up all of these, and many would conclude he was a real conservative (definitely more conservative than me).

Oh, really?  Some of you might think that meant he must have also been a racist.  But you didn’t know him, and I did.  My father taught NJROTC at Crystal River High School in Florida, where I grew up after we moved there in 1971.  I was in his class for three years.  Would you like to know what I saw?

I’ll tell you anyway.  CRHS is in the Deep South, and had only recently been integrated when we got there.  There were a large number of African-American students.  When the school year was about to begin, a couple of these hesitantly entered his classroom to see what it was about, and if they could sign up for the class. As a result of what they encountered (my Dad), this trickle soon became a flood! He didn’t care what color a car was painted.

We had a drill team, and I was in it.  Was I the first commander of the drill team?  Nope. I barely got to do that before I graduated, three years later.  Before I got command, the CRHS drill team was commanded by Jack Hudson (the assistant NJROTC instructor’s son), Steve Hudson, Lemuel Watkins (an African-American), Cathy MacRae (a female student) and so on. You get the picture.  To my father we were all simply students, and he didn’t want to put me as commander of the team first because (a) I was only a sophomore, (b) he wanted older students to have a chance before they graduated, and (c) he was not going to show me favoritism — it would have been a bad example. So was he conservative or liberal? The answer is yes.

My father was fiscally conservative; the mortgage on our house was paid off early. But although he was a church-going man, you might be surprised at some of his attitudes.  When my older brother James once asked him “Do you believe we are living in the End Times (is the end of the world coming soon)?” My father answered simply, “No” — surprising my mother. Many of his beliefs and behaviors were not exactly what somepeople would consider to be truly “conservative” — he didn’t necessarily think all customs and beliefs should be conserved simply because they are old.

I am not the great man my father was, but I’d like to think I share some of his beliefs and nuanced stances.  Like many Americans, I am fiscally conservative — I hate to waste money.  I don’t buy things just because they are new. I drive a 2000 Honda because it still runs. When it starts dying, then I’ll look for another car. My computer runs Windows XP Professional.  I have paid extra to have Windows XP put on my computers instead of the newer versions Microsoft keeps churning out.  Why?  Because it still works and it does everything I need to do.

So I’m an old fogey, right? Think again.  I like MMO gaming, Trance music, and organic food.  Oh, so I’m a hippy, right?  Think again.  I also like Beethoven, Bach, Jazz…and Jethro Tull. Like most people, I’m complicated.

I have always parted my hair on the left.  It’s not a political statement, I’m just used to it. If I found a practical reason to change, I would.  I don’t change myself just to be different.  I change when I need to, when new information makes me realize that sometimes different is better. I believe in love and commitment.  I also believe in evolution, because of all the evidence for it. If scientific measurements told me that all the rocks in the Earth were less than 10,000 years old, then I would believe that. They don’t. I believe that a blip on the radar usually means that an object has reflected the microwaves.  I believe that radioactive decay really is a consistent process, and it doesn’t act weirdly just to fit Biblical notions of how old our planet is.

I believe there are good and honest people in ALL political parties, religions, and so-called “races” (there is only one human race, people!).

Let’s all grow up and stop using simplistic words and knee-jerk politics and religion to classify people as friend or foe.  People are people. Period.

Oh I am such a windbag!  Enough sermonizing. Let’s get back to more practical subjects.

—MRK

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