Doing things differently since 1984

Us vs. Them (Why I’m Politically Agnostic)

I must start off by apologizing for my virtual absence here lately.  I could come up with all sorts of excuses, but to be honest… I just couldn’t think of anything good to write.  Do you ever have weeks like that?  Uninspired… unmotivated… blasé… had too many other things to worry about.

But this is all coming to an end now, as I have run into enough reasons to go into my discourse on why I’m politically agnostic.

Firstly, a refresher on the alternate definitions of “Agnostic” (these are taken from dictionary.reference.com):

2. a person who denies or doubts the possibility of ultimate knowledge in some area of study.

3. a person who holds neither of two opposing positions on a topic

In summary: I don’t think anyone has all the answers.

Now, in my experience, when I present this opinion to anyone on either side of “the fence”, I get a response somewhat like these: “Oh, sure, of course, but you’ve got to choose a side.” “Of course [my party] doesn’t have ‘all’ the answers, but we’re closer to it than [other party]!”  “I’m only with [my party] because of [political issue].  And I’m definitely right about [political issue].”

I don’t know if I’ve actually yet met one person who, when asked, is truly convinced that his or her political party has all the answers.

Which makes me wonder… why, then, is everyone so battle-ready when it comes to their political party or ideology?  And I’m not just talking about fun little fandom debates, like rooting for your local sports team, except it’s a political team.   I’m talking about families and marriages torn apart; old friendships ended; possible new friendships shattered; hatred for massive groups of people without ever actually talking or listening to them.  I’m not kidding or exaggerating.  It’s “us” vs “them”. 

People move to certain parts of town, tune in to certain channels (radio or tv), frequent certain websites, attend certain churches, and associate with certain groups of people, all for the sake of not hearing the voices from “the other side” or associating themselves with “those people”.   If they accidentally stumble into one of these places, they don a look of fear, anger, and disgust, and turn around as quickly as possible, thankful that they know better than those misled lowlifes, but wishing they’d just go away and stop destroying the country. 

And then it gets funny: you go to a different country and find that they think you’re all the same.  The “us” and “them” are completely redefined in an instant. 

As it turns out, we all are actually kind of the same.  We all think we’re right.  And, for too many of us, we need to make our opinions heard, by as many as possible, no matter the cost.  I’ve seen far too many memes, badges, bumper stickers, and t-shirts that say something to the effect of, “I’m me and these are my opinions and if you don’t agree, then screw you!”  Like it makes the wearer cool or something.

To truly sum up why I am politically agnostic, I will defer to the book of Proverbs, which bears amazing real-life wisdom that proves itself useful for people of all religions:

The way of fools seems right to them, but the wise listen to advice.”

Do you see a person wise in their own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than for them.”

Fools give full vent to their rage, but the wise bring calm in the end.”

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.”

Politics is divisive.  I see both sides disproving their rightness with their blind arrogance.  Sometimes you just have to keep your mouth shut, your opinions to yourself, and listen.  Listen to them.  Hold yourself accountable for causing unnecessary division and strife.  Make your pride and “being right” less important than your relationships and love.  After all, you don’t want to be a fool… because fools are never right.

DISCLAIMER: This post was not intended to be directed toward any one person, group, or ideology.  The pronoun “you” is meant only to cause introspection on the part of the reader.  I am not advocating the abolishment of all political parties, an abandonment of any political opinion, or voter non-participation.  I am advocating that we all admit we’re not omniscient, and act like it toward our fellow human beings.

25 comments on “Us vs. Them (Why I’m Politically Agnostic)

  1. lbtk
    May 2, 2012

    You have just defined what I am: politically agnostic. My husband is registered in one arena and I in another. (We do not argue about this…it’s not worth harming our marriage over.) It’s not that I don’t see his “side” and sometimes believe that what his party believes doesn’t have merit. But I see my “side” (for lack of a better term) and some of its beliefs also have merit. Politicians from all parties make me cringe. I was even told once that unless I was affiliated with a particular party, I wasn’t a real Christian! Didn’t Jesus tell us to give unto Caesar what is Caesar’s and unto God what is God’s? I don’t talk politics. And right now, I don’t know what I’ll do come November, but the choices that are being presented aren’t much of a choice. I’m still praying hard for an answer. Sandy

    • abtwixt
      May 2, 2012

      Thanks for your comment Sandy, and I’m glad to hear that you’re putting your marriage first! You of course are entitled to your opinions, as is your husband, but your willingness to see both “sides” I’m sure have blessed your whole family. I too have heard some people press hard on Christians to get politically involved… from my perspective it’s a whole mess where patriotism has somehow become a tenet of Christianity to some people that I won’t go into in this short space. Thanks for the read!

  2. Swirling Turnip
    May 2, 2012

    You hit my personal nail on the head! I couldn’t have said it better, thank you for putting it in words.

    • abtwixt
      May 3, 2012

      Thanks for the compliment! I have now been a long-time fan of your writing which also encourages us all to make peace with everyone who lets us, and to look down on no one.

  3. Randel
    May 2, 2012

    Thomas Paine in “Common Sense” had it right over 200 years ago, no human institution or political party can have a monopoly on the truth.

    Plus these days as for Democrats and Republicans, the two parties are not that far apart. Both will throw the military into the Middle East to protect Israel, Saudi Arabia, oil. Both parties are pro free trade and embrace China trade no matter what it does to our jobs. Look at Wall Street reform, neither party has cleaned up the mess on Wall Street–Wall Street is both parties biggest givers and has bought off both the D’s and the R’s. Both practice massive deficit spending just on different things. And then on immigration we get bipartisan standoff that benefits both parties but not the country. The Republicans like the cheap labor, and the Democrats the potential for new voters, so the D’s and R’s deliberately never reach solution. The truth is out political system is a Political Duopoly sharing many similar features, yet both will spend billions highlighting minor issues to make themselves seem different. I am like you sick of it and now right on the barbed wire of the fence.

    • abtwixt
      May 3, 2012

      Thanks Randel, and I must say I think you summed that up quite well! And to follow up your excellent quote, I shall add my own:

      “If more politicians in this country were thinking about the next generation instead of the next election, it might be better for the United States and the world.” – Claude Pepper

  4. hunterhawke
    May 2, 2012

    Amen sista! I think the other comments here are demonstrating a trend in American politics. I do believe that more and more people are waking up and realizing that standing blindly on one side or the other isn’t beneficial to anyone. Both sides have serious flaws – that’s nothing new. Both sides also have a measure of merit in their ideals. I personally think the best answer lies somewhere between the two. Or perhaps, radically outside of both of them. I’m not totally sure, to be honest. However, I’m quite certain that buying wholly into one ideal or the other without giving due thought to contending ideas is foolish, as you (and the Bible) wisely pointed out.

    • abtwixt
      May 3, 2012

      Thanks for your support, hunterhawke! I too am actually fairly [pleasantly] surprised at the volume of agreement that I’ve gotten from this post. Perhaps we will see in the next generation a change in the way politics is (are?) conducted in this country. That is certainly the trend that we are seeing worldwide — it is becoming harder and harder to keep yourself, and especially your kids, in a bubble, and those who keep their power through ignorance are finding it harder to maintain.

  5. aFrankAngle
    May 3, 2012

    I’m not a political agnostic, although as an independent moderate, you hit it more than once. Interestingly, I have used the sports analogy more than once … yet amazingly, what is best for the country is well done the list – therefore the current partisan environment promotes bully pulpits and political agnostics. Well done Alisha!

    • abtwixt
      May 3, 2012

      Thanks for your thoughts Frank! I can see why an independent moderate and a politically agnostic would find very much common ground. I do believe that many politicians start their path with pure and good intentions to do what they feel is best for the country. However, the job description makes it necessary that they pander to the immediate and obvious to get votes, and to pander to the highest bidder to compete in the next election year. This goes for parties as well as individuals. It seems to me that too often this country and its voters don’t always really want what’s best for them :-/

      • aFrankAngle
        May 3, 2012

        I’m not convinced about starting with good intentions. Much starts at the local level by receiving a party endorsement – thus if elected and one goes against the party, the party can pull the plug. The more one does for the party, such as raise money, the more leeway the candidate could get. Therefore I’ve been saying they are “party first candidates.” Interesting how we have the similar outcomes from different perspectives.

        • abtwixt
          May 3, 2012

          You’re right, though I still like to think that, even within the party system, there are still individuals who start out with good intentions. To be fair, I am a walking paradox — a cynical optimist. If anyone was ever able to match both my perspective and outcome thereof, I’d be shocked 🙂

          • aFrankAngle
            May 3, 2012

            Alright – I give you that one – yes – many start with good intentions. Meanwhile, Love the “cynical optimist” description.

  6. gordoncstewart
    May 3, 2012

    Very interesting piece. I write and preach about this all the time: the great “unrighteousness” is the presumption of “righteousness.” Your use of Proverbs re-enforces your view with the wisdom of the ages. One comment I would add for further reflection is that everything is politics. There is no way to avoid politics. The word derives from the Greek word “polis” (“people”). Whenever we engage in actions or conversations that affect “the people” we are engaged in politics – the haunting questions of the principles and values of what we see, however cautiously, as the good/healthy society. In that sense every one of us is political, in the non-pejorative sense of the word. Yet, as you say so well, none of us “has ultimate knowlege,” in the matter of human affairs. We all do well to listen before we speak lest all we hear is the strident echo of our own voice. For myself, Micah’s terse statement (Micah 6:8) is the rudder that steers the ship on the poltiical seas: “do justice; love mercy/compassion; and walk humbly…very, very humbly with your God. In other words, the criteria to guide the search of unknowing are justice, kindness/mercy/compassion, and humility. That’s about all I know or need to know to engage the bigger questions. Thanks so much for this thoughtful post.

  7. abtwixt
    May 3, 2012

    Thanks for your insight and input! You are right in saying that we all engage in politics, in more than one sense of the word. With this in mind, the definition of “politically agnostic” would have to expand beyond the denial of absolute rightness of the political parties, to the denial of absolute rightness of any one person — including myself. Here, too, both myself and Proverbs would stand our ground.

    Though, of course, a philosopher or logician could have a heyday with the paradox that one would have to claim “absolute rightness” in order to declare absolutely that no one has “absolute rightness”. So for this, I would have to step aside from this outlook being my own, to it actually being that of an omniscient God, who is the only one who is allowed to absolutely proclaim that no one else has all the answers. 🙂

    • gordoncstewart
      May 3, 2012

      Man, you’re quick. Didn’t expect a reply, let alone get it so soon. I’m with you. This is tough for me personally. My interpretations of Micah 6:8 lead me to positions and advocacy for economic justice (a critique, especially, of corporate capitalism), personal and institutional racism, xenophobia (the idolization of one’s own “people”), GLBT rights, including the right to marry, etc. I feel strongly about these matters. And sometimes I get self-righteous, In advocating for those viewed as “the other” I turn those who make others “the other” into “others” myself. There is no way out of this box except compassion and humility. The biblical call for justice (primarily economic) is qualified by mercy/compassion, and humility. A healthy political agnosticism has a grand tradition in those who live in “the cloud of unknowing.” The theological tradition of via negativa honors God’s prerogative as the Ultimate Other, Whose ultimate knowledge is hid from our eyes.

      There’s a great hymn called “Be Thou My Vision” that seems to reflect this combination of humility and awe: “Be Thou my vision, O Lord of my heart; Naught be all else to me, save taht Thou art – Thou my best thought, by day or by night, Waking or sleeping, Thy presence my light. Riches I heed not, nor man’s empty praise, Thou mine inheritance, nowe and always; Thou and Thou only, first in my heart, Great God of heaven, my treasure Thou art.”

      • abtwixt
        May 3, 2012

        Haha, you just happened to catch me at a good time — don’t expect it to happen every time 😉

        In my experience, Christians can use the Bible to back just about every political party, idea, and philosophy that there is. I love your comparison to the words of “Be Thou My Vision”… one of my favorite hymns, and I didn’t even think of it! Indeed, if Christians on every part of the political spectrum could truly humble themselves — and I think many would find their self-justified opinions the hardest to give up — we would see a radical transformation not only in the politics of this country, but in the country’s and the world’s perception of Christianity and Christ.

        • gordoncstewart
          May 3, 2012

          Yes. Jim Wallis posted a very fine piece today on his Sojourner’s blog on faith and politics. BTW, it lightens my load to know your quick response was an aberration. 🙂 Thanks.

  8. Pingback: Opinions in the Shorts: Vol. 138 « A Frank Angle

  9. consentient
    June 8, 2012

    Nice article but I was a little bit disappointed that you stopped short of advocating the eschewal of political parties.

    There are two main reasons why I DO advocate not only the eschewal of parties, but of electoral politics altogether:

    Firstly, elections are processes whereby individuals enter into a position of heteronomy (public office) over other people, which unavoidably moral, regardless of how minimal or ‘liberal’ that office makes itself.

    Secondly, for those seeking to establish non-violent and rational paradigms of social relations, trying to ‘change the system from within’ plays right into the hands of the incumbent establishment and power elites.

    Have you looked into the concepts of ‘voluntaryism’ or ‘the parallel polis’, abtwixt?

    • abtwixt
      June 8, 2012

      Thanks for the comment and introduction of some new ideas! I had not heard of voluntaryism or of the parallel polis before you mentioned them. I think the idea is interesting, though perhaps when put into practice would leave us vulnerable to a dictator seizing the opportunity of a power vacuum.

      Regardless, I would always encourage people to branch out and explore alternatives to our current political system… so long as they don’t use it as an opportunity to, yet again, divide the country into “the right ones” and “the wrong ones”.

      • consentient
        June 8, 2012

        You’re welcome! I hope you continue to explore voluntary and consentient philosophies and inform yourself as to what are and are not viable methods for cooperating with other people and improving your life.

        Regarding the power vacuum, the fact is that if a group of people want to protect their selves from baddies who might infilitrate their community of non-violence, then there are two essential facts to consider:

        1. If those people are sufficiently dedicated to non-aggression, then there IS no power to seize! Some guys can install their selves in a prominent building and declare a dictatorship, but if the rest of the people are deeply committed to voluntaryism, they will just make a mental note to ostracise him, and carry on with their free lives. Dictators need armies, and armies need brainwashed fools to carry on fighting for them. The more would-be soldiers that are ‘converted’ to voluntaryism (and this is happening much more than you think, even now!) the ‘power’ available to dictators becomes smaller and smaller. Which leads me nicely onto…

        2. Let us properly consider the argument that “government is necessary for the defence” of the aforementioned group of people. Let’s say that our test group of 1000 people have, on a philosophical level, understood and committed their selves to the principles of voluntaryism. Then one person puts their hand up and says “To protect us non-violent people against potential violent interlopers, we should create an institution that has a monopoly over the MEANS of violence”. What does this person ignore? i.e. what are the flaws of this argument.

        a. If you create such an institution, the FIRST place those interlopers are gonna run to is that institution. At this point, and this point only, it represents a threat to their existence, being the predators they have come to be. They need only gain control of the institution and they are no longer at much threat at all. They have all the means of violence at their disposal, and the host populace to their parasitism will have a hard time redressing this imbalance of power.

        b. The institution must, in order to maintain monopoly, allow for no distinction between retaliatory and initiating forms of violence. This is why, in all ‘Western’ polities, increasing controls have been rolled out to control the ownership of arms and the ‘rights’ of families and communities to their own defence (as an aside, note this has not been the same case with corporate interests).

        I’ve articulated these arguments before in a variety of different ways, but thought I would lay them out again, since you mentioned power vacuums.

        A last, shorter point on what you wrote about the ‘right ones’ and the ‘wrong ones’, I agree that any ideology that creates arbitrary divisions of this sort are not going to have a positive effect on the people that come into contact with it. However, on the issue of non-violence, and reason (two sides of the same coin, btw), there CAN BE ‘wrong ones’, and those are the people that CHOOSE not to abide by the principles of non-violence. Their philosophy is wrong since the initiation of violence is completely indefensible by any consistent and reasonable argument, and they will, eventually, find their selves on the wrong side of history.

        One can only hope that this ‘philosophical revolution’, if you will, happens sooner rather than later.

        May voluntary cooperation come to a neighborhood near you soon!

        Thanks for reading!

  10. tlarremore
    January 27, 2014

    Reblogged this on Head Space and commented:
    Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).
    Ayn Rand

  11. M@$$hole
    June 16, 2015

    …. loved the article! ,.. I agreed with pretty much most of it. Funny, my understanding of what an Agnostic was is basically someone who does believe in the existence of God but does not believe in (established) religion. For myself, my personal definition of ‘political Agnosticism’ is that though I do believe in the concept/idea of ‘Government’ , I do not believe in the present political system/Parties! .. I’m registered as a NON-PARTY voter!!.. fiercely so!!!… they ALL have an “agenda”!, they ALL have their own flavor of “kool-aid” that they mix up in their basements!,.. they ALL hype out their agenda and get people agitated, and when a person is freaked out, they pop up and say, “here, drink THIS” !!!… they ALL say the same thing about each other! , they ALL use the same tactics!!.. it reminds me of the old Lite beer from Miller commercial!!.. ( “tastes great!,.. no. It’s less filling”!!..*commence entire bar getting into an argument*. .!!!)… I do find myself, admittedly, agreeing with certain things when it comes issues. .. but it has nothing to do with taking sides politically!..

    • abtwixt
      June 21, 2015

      M@$$hole… love the name… and glad you enjoyed the article! And don’t worry, we all find ourselves agreeing with certain things when it comes to certain issues. In the end, I hope that people can weigh which candidate that happens with more than the others, and vote for him/her. It’s “drinking the kool-aid”, like you say, that gets to me — or, more specifically, becoming so sold-out that we agree (or disagree) with a candidate before they even open their mouth. As with everything, if we could all keep our brains turned on, we’d probably end up making m@$$holes of ourselves a lot less often! 😉

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