In an article in the latest issue of The Atlantic the author laments the lost of American conservatism that has accompanied Trump’s rise and takeover of the Republican party. He writes that liberalism is the celebration of reason over emotion while conservatism is the celebration of emotion over reason. My question is, why do we have to choose? What can’t we have both reason and emotion?
This made me think of what to me is behind our great divide politically. On one side we have the cause of individual liberty which says that as long as I don’t hurt others I should be able to do whatever I want. Whatever is mine is mine and no one has any claim on it. On the other side we have the cause of what I would call community. This argument stresses the responsibility we have to each other. It says that we are indeed our brother’s keeper. The extremes in our US politics have taken this up as an “either/or” choice. You are either for individual liberty or community responsibility. As before, why is it a choice? We need both individual liberty and community responsibility. In fact, I would argue that they are two sides of the same coin and are thus inseparable.
I used to consider myself a libertarian. In fact, I am registered to vote in my state as a libertarian. However, I no longer am one in the strictest sense. Libertarians come down strongly on the side of individual liberty. I have come to see the need not only for individual liberty but also for individual responsibility, to oneself and others. In what has become a binary world, we feel we have to choose ourselves or the other. Well, I choose both. Yes, I need to take care of myself, but I also have to help my neighbor. I don’t live in isolation. What I do affects others and vice versa. I am looking for a balance between individuality and community. In our two-party political system, it is the job of those two parties to work together, to argue and debate together, to find the proper balance between these two positions. It is not to advocate absolutely for one side or the other. That is dysfunctional. And that dysfunction is the partisanship and extremism we are experiencing now.