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November 22, 2004

"You Keep Using That Word. I Do Not Think it Means What You Think It Means." « Politics As Usual »

I was thinking about the word "Choice" this morning.

I was exercising at the gym, and a friend/co-worker was complaining about the Air Force physical fitness test. He said he pretty much liked it, but hated the 'waist measurement' portion, because he was never going to get back down to a 32-inch waist. I murmured something polite and vague to imply agreement, but even though I'll probably never see a 32-inch waist on my body again, either, I recognize that is the result of my choices. From there, I thought of all the arguments I've had about weight. Look, I'm no svelte, sleek athletic type with thin hips and rippling muscles, but at least I recognize that the shape I'm in is the result of choices I've made. Just as everyone is. Sure, there might be a somewhat smaller than 1% portion of the population with actual glandular problems, but the rest of us choose our weight.
We choose it through a complex process of deciding what we put in our mouth, when we eat, what settings we choose in which to eat, what kind of exercise we do, how much physical pain we are willing to endure to lose weight. It may be easier for some, harder for others, but everyone is potentially capable of losing weight.
In the same way, we choose our circumstances. We might not "choose" to be friendless and alone in old age or at a certain crisis point, but we surely chose it by not taking the time to be nice and friendly when needing a friend wasn't so vital, by being impatient with someone who we didn't need, by failing to cultivate bonds of loyalty with people.
I've tried to explain why I am 99% that even sexuality is a choice in most (if not all) of the cases, and I don't really want to get into that again. It has never gone over well, as you may expect.
And I think the problem comes back to the word "choice" again.

I'm now convinced that the word means entirely different things to liberals and conservatives.

Should we blame Abortion Activists who were looking for a nice euphemism so they would have to say "kill babies"?

Because all the arguments I've had on these issues come back to one point: to liberals, "choice" implies control. To them, if you have "a choice", you can control the circumstances. To tell a liberal their circumstance is the result of their "choice", they feel offended, because one can't simply wake up and "choose" to not be gay, or "choose" to not be female, or pregnant, or fat, or rich, and by the process of "choosing" make it happen.

Well, of course not.

To me, "choice" implies opportunity only, not control. You cannot actually control whether or not sexual intercourse results in conception. You can try to limit the chance, but failure is always a possibility. Thus, by having sex, you choose the possible circumstances by allowing an opportunity for you or your partner to get pregnant.

You can't simply "choose" to get rich, no, but you can choose to avoid debt, to save for things that you need, and spend money only on the things you really need, and eliminate wasteful desires like eating out or seeing movies, and investigating to find good careers and inexpensive places to get the education you need and choosing a good partner to help you be successful and applying to the right company and developing your abilities to make yourself an attractive applicant...

See, "choice" implies that you are an active participant in your life, that you are capable of learning from the mistakes and choices of others, and capable of acting to bring about the circumstances you want. That doesn't mean it won't be hard. The one choice that none of us ever have is to make something easy. In fact, the easy way always has lots of competition...if it were truly easy, everyone would be doing it.

And this dichotomy of connotation between the two political ideologies is very revealing, I think.

Liberals do tend to think of everything in terms of "control." They will force people to pay taxes to make the poor have a better life, eliminate racism, enact affirmative action (itself racism) to make up for past inequities, etc, etc, and it will all be imposed from the top down with plenty of safety nets and extra spending and programs to control the whole situation and make sure that no one ever slips through cracks (although they still do).

Conservatives, on the other hand, do tend to think of everything in terms of "opportunity." We will dismantle barriers and limits and let people vote with their feet and dollars whenever possible.

It's an interesting theory, one I will be testing out and probably referring back to often.

One rabbit-hole I'd like to chase down right away, however, is that idea that if each choice we make has consequences (and they do), then there are some that are clearly harmful and others that are clearly helpful. One of the problems with liberal ideology these days in regards to "values" and "morals" leading to losses in the most recent election is that, just like McQ of Q and O blog, I think the majority of Americans are seeing that the choices that liberals encourage tend to be harmful to both the nation and individuals. I don't think we've seen the end of this realization. If I'm correct, even less people will self-identify as or vote Democrat in the 2006 election, and Republicans will win in a landslide in 2008 no matter who the candidates are.

If all this is true, it explains why liberals have stepped up attacks on Christianity over the last few years. Right along with the idea of "choice" meaning "control", liberals want the government to reduce the visibility of Christian faith as a choice to compete with the values of Sexual Freedom (with abortion as a safety net) and Financial Irresponsibility (with welfare as a safety net) they promote.

What I find most inexplicable is the number of Christians that have no problem with it, and often support it.

See, Christianity is not of this world. "Render unto Caeser what is Caesar's, and render unto God what is God's." By quoting this, what I mean is that arguments over whether Jesus would Democrat or Republican or if he'd drive an SUV are ridiculous. "Politics" as a whole are exactly what you turn to when Christianity doesn't apply. Christianity is what I use as my guide for my own actions, "politics" is what I get involved with as a way of promulgating and establishing my views and values as the ground rules for the way people interact on this earth. Get that? If I comport myself within the values of Christianity, it doesn't matter what political system I work under, and the rewards will not be seen in this lifetime. If my values are established in our political system, no one will be forced to be religious or even Christian, because my political opinions are formed, not by my religion, but according to my understanding of human nuture. Which, of course, is influenced by what the Bible and my faith tell me about human nature, but that's already at least one degree removed.

Thus, if we are to maintain a proper separation between Church and State, it is absolutely boneheaded to bring that about by government fiat preventing and imposing rules and guidelines. Government control is about as effective and precise as using a sledgehammer to do brain surgery. Rather, if you are a Christian who believes in separation of Church and State, you should work within your church to make sure that it doesn't get involved in politics. Shame in religious circles is much more likely to bring about the proper detachment than governmental control.

Choices, you know?

Posted by Nathan at 11:03 AM | Comments (0)
» Accidental Verbosity links with: Today's Top Nine
» Curmudgeonry links with: Choices
» Brain Shavings links with: Meandering thru the Marsupials
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