Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Values and Personality: Part I

With all the soapbox speeches on this blog, perhaps I would do well to examine the personal conflicts and influences that produced these convictions. While many essays here are commentary, this site is personal and the essays are personal thoughts.

Political and ethical beliefs are not arrived at in a vacuum with only logical extrapolations from fundamental principles. They arise organically within a mind after mixing with the milieu of experience, emotions, and personality. As Chris often points out the logical arguments for my stances often leave much to be desired. While I must work on more thoughtful reasoning, “one cannot help but believe, that which seems true.” Thus I will try to provide an examination of how these values came to seem true in my mind:

Part I: Pro-Life

I was raised in the Pro-life (anti-abortion) Movement. My mother was a passionate pro-life activist. She had two abortions, before having us, and she had initially scheduled me to be terminated as well. Seeing the wrongness of what had been done, she poured her energy into preventing further killing of innocent fetuses. As long as I can remember there were bumper stickers on the car and we carried signs at rallies. We were taught that if enough people got involved America would come to it's senses and stop the killing. To a child there was an overwhelming sense of optimism and hopefulness in the face of terrible wrong.

The impact of abortion within my family deepened the belief in the rightness of being pro-life, but it also prevented any sense of enmity in my conviction. How could I despise those who have abortions, when my own mother, who raised me to be pro-life and saved me from being aborted, had once done this? I believe this perspective nourished my sense of empathy, and led me to a much more nuanced view of evil. Conservatives often think in terms of good guys and bad guys. Even as a young person I couldn't fully accept such as simplistic explanation.

Being Pro-life and Christian my parents raised me Republican and Conservative. I believe due to this political affiliation I was initially in favor of the death penalty and hawkish about war. I even considered applying for a military academy. While I certainly had a young male bravado, I was never eager for violence, but I was taught it was a necessity for responding to evil in the world. While I couldn't quite accept the conservative concept of bad guys versus the rest of us, I did accept that violence kept order and prevented worse evils. Killing our fellow humans (guilty humans -since I was pro-life) was a necessary evil in this world. I even supported Bush's invasion of Iraq as recently as 2003, but by that time my confidence in the acceptability of violence was already waning.

(for more on becoming a pacifist see Part II)

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