One thing I’m not too fond of is blind adherence. I think it’s a good idea to occasionally take a step back from whatever you’re doing and ask “Does this make sense?”

Curiosity can’t be a bad thing, at least not in most cases.

This is why I detest politics. I often get the feeling that politically passionate people don’t think about their view points. Rather it seems like they take whatever ideology they identify with and blindly defend it.

Growing up in a middle-class Texas household, you can guess what my upbringing was like: somewhat socially conservative, very fiscally conservative. So that’s the kind of person I was until I became old enough to think critically, when I started noticing certain bits of hypocrisy in the social side.

So gradually I migrated away from social conservatism, but still held onto my fiscal conservatism.

In my first election I felt firmly Republican, but in subsequent years I didn’t identify with a party. If anything I seemed a bit like a Libertarian, but really I didn’t understand why I had to pick. Of course I realize there are practical benefits to the two-party system, but personally I hate it. The world does not fit into a system of black or white, so why should we shoehorn something as complex as politics into that model?

When I look around at the various issues we debate about, I wonder how it’s possible that they all seem to line up perfectly with political party platforms. Whether we’re talking about global warming or stem cell research or national health care or immigration or economics or whatever, I just don’t understand how it’s possible that all of these issues can somehow line up perfectly on the right and the left.

The answer is: They don’t. It’s us that forces them to, or rather pundits and activists who do it.

And when you begin asking questions about your long-held beliefs, you can easily become the political enemy of those who were previously your allies.

Fiscal conservatism stuck with me for many years because I felt like people ought to earn their own way in life, and if they happened to find success, they shouldn’t be unduly penalized for it. I didn’t really understand why I or anyone else should pay money to subsidize people who didn’t work as hard. I mean, no one gave me a free ride. I worked various jobs since I was 11 to help pay my university tuition, and worked full time in college as well.

Of course, my middle-class upbringing offered me opportunities that were harder to come by for someone who grew up in the projects. But I didn’t really see why that was my fault. But also…I didn’t really see why it was THEIR fault, either. If you’re BORN into poverty, how is that your fault?

I don’t know if there are easy answers for such problems.

On global warming, after watching “An Inconvenient Truth,” I was sold on the idea of humans being the major cause behind rising temperatures. Then I spoke to a few people who disagreed (with reasonable proof to back up their claims), and my position softened. I read a little and I decided it was difficult to know just how much humans were causing global warming. But I also figured I should do things within my power to help, however small they might be, like recycling and using energy efficient appliances, lights, etc. Just because we humans might not be the main cause doesn’t mean we are obligated to be intentionally wasteful.

Recently I spent some time discussing economics with someone more knowledgeable about the subject than me. This person is of the opinion that the United States doesn’t collect enough tax revenue. Our infrastructure is crumbling and our social programs are abysmal because we have the lowest tax burden in the world among industrialized nations, he says.

This, of course, flies in the face of my economic conservatism. But instead of outright rejecting his ideas, I’m trying to understand them. He believes Democrats and Republicans are BOTH conservative and none will raise taxes to an appropriate level because we Americans won’t stand for it. When the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans earn a postwar record 21 percent of all income in the U.S., he says, the only way to protect our country from eventual economic collapse is to make the rich pay more taxes…especially people who were born into wealth, who comprise the majority of the super-rich. The middle class cannot and should not be expected to give more. And he tells me how China and Japan and Europe are eventually going to want changes in government spending if they are going to continue to finance our massive national debt.

I don’t know if this guy is right, but his positions seem well-reasoned enough for me to consider them. The infrastructure here in Oklahoma is downright embarrassing, but in my home state of Texas it’s pretty good. What’s the difference? Also, I’ve never had much of an opinion about health insurance because I have an extremely good plan where I work. But a self-employed friend of mine recently started looking for health insurance, and she was quoted $1250 a month for a pretty basic plan. I mean, come on. That’s a mortgage payment. It’s absurd. But is government-sponsored health care the answer? Or is health care simply too expensive? Will effective health care eventually be feasible only for the rich?

What are the answers? I don’t know. But what I do know is they don’t lie on just one side of the political landscape. Republicans aren’t right about everything, and neither are Democrats. Anyone who believes differently should be given a set of Crayons and sent back to first grade.

Notice how there aren’t just two colors in the box?

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RICHARD COX is the author of The Boys of Summer, Thomas World, The God Particle, and Rift. He can be reached on Facebook or at his personal web site, www.richardcox.net.

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