Thursday, May 22, 2008

Where I Am I Not Liberal?

Here in the soaked-red state of North Dakota, I am basically considered to be a hippy/ liberal freak. My friends, mainly moderate, apathetic, or conservative basically think I'm just a little bit to the right of Karl Marx. However, there are some places that I split with liberals, and join in with my conservative brethren.

1) Gun Rights
While it is true that I do believe in reasonable restrictions, generally I do believe that gun rights are an individual rights issue. Guns are a tool, like anything, can be used to harm....or they can be used for fun, like most gun-users do. I flinch every time a fellow liberal brings up the stereotype of the racist, sexist, ridiculously macho, mistakes-his-guns-for-his-penis gun owners. While it is true that I have met gun-owners that do fulfill parts or all of that stereotypes (I worked as a puller in a gun range for chrissake: you see all kinds), most (I would say the vast majority) of gun-owners are normal people. My friend PE likes Soviet rifles, because he likes the history of them. Hubby and I have grown up our entire lives with hunting rifles and shotguns. I have a few outliers: my friend Grunt has a weird fascination with his AR, and my friends WA, A, and B have a little bit too much paranoia that the government/robbers are out to get them, but that's rather harmless, really.

I am to the left of my friends on this one, however slightly, on what constitutes "reasonable restrictions". Pretty much everyone agrees with the background check, and the three day waiting period, but I also want a mandatory gun safety class for every licence. I also don't think the right to bear arms encompasses fully automatic weapons, and I think there is a strong enough argument to make that banning them constitutes a compelling state interest (which is the standard a state would be held to if the 2nd Amendment was incorporated). I also would like gun registration, but I wouldn't actually advocate for it, because I have never seen a government capable of registering that wouldn't also use this information to take it. Finally, I'd like to see strict enforcement of gun laws: if you commit a crime with a gun, you get lose that right.

Honestly, this is one of those things that I don't understand the left's position at all. It feels ideologically inconsistent. If I had to sum the left's philosophy, it would be "individual liberty, collective responsibility". Restricting an individual from participating in a harmless pastime seems like something that conservatives would worry about, not progressives. And, at it's root, target shooting and hunting are no more dangerous that any other sports. Which brings me to...

2) Animal rights
When it comes to treating anything that can feel pain with respect, I'm right there. Torturing animals is cruel in and of itself, and often times rings serious warning bells for larger psychological problems. But, where I draw the line is with PETA, vegans, and other animal-rights activists. I wear dead animals, I eat dead animals, and use the products of animals. Silk is my favorite fabric, fur is the warmest thing I can wear, leather is great for hiking, and you can take my meat when you pry it from my cold dead hands. I do support organic meats: I think factory farming is cruel (going back to point one) and when you kill an animal, it should be done so that it does not feel any pain. But seriously: a cow or a chicken has no purpose other than to feed or cloth humans. They are the most thoroughly domesticated, ridiculously stupid creatures on the planet. You don't exactly see herds of cows roaming in the wild; if we did not have ranchers, we would not have cows. The only way to keep them from going extinct is by using them. As with hunting, I support that for the same reason that I support voluntary childlessness: there is only so many resources to go around. Deer hunting is a great example of it: if left to propagate, deer become a danger to themselves and others. When it comes down between car vs. deer, both always lose. And a quick shot through the head is much better than dying of starvation.

Those of you reading might notice a common thread: I seem to value the lives of humans more than the lives of animals. And you would be right: I absolutely do. Human beings are sentient: we are self-aware, we have emotions, we know we are going to die. I do not believe that this is an insignificant trait, and I do believe that it means that we are more important than animals. This is a major shift from most progressives.

Important note: because I am not vegan or vegetarian does not mean that I don't support that decision for all who make it. Each person has to decide what they need to do for him/herself. I respect it as a valid and a legitimate choice.

There are smaller points of policy that I shift rightwards from the average progressive, and others where I shift leftwards from the average progressive, but those are the two main ones.