While convenient for casual use, the simplicity of Left and Right is inherently limited and fails to tap into the far greater complexity represented by those within them. If you dig deeper, you will find people identifying themselves as moderates. Usually these are people with beliefs of both sides, somewhere in the middle. Yet this too fails to really take much into account. Two or three groups is a gross oversimplification for the sheer variety of individual opinions and beliefs. This also becomes troublesome when those engaging in debate use examples of extremists to paint the whole as flawed. This inevitably results in everyone within a broad belief being painted with the same brush of guilt. Those on the Left are accused of all being Communists and those on the Right of being intolerant religious bigots.
Yet despite sharing similar beliefs, these people may in fact disagree heartily with the extreme elements.
It is for this reason that I hope to delve deeper into these intricacies and shed light on a new perspective that might help in the current political environment. I will start simple, but slowly show more complex examples.
First, imagine a square. Now imagine a line drawn down the middle from top to bottom. You then of course have the Left and the Right. For simplicity's sake, let us say there is no Moderate. Now, on both sides you have good and bad people. Some are tolerant of those who disagree with them, others react with open hostility. But how to tell one from the other? Negativity grabs attention far more than positivity. If one does something wrong, it is seemingly shared collectively across the board. They are on the same side, and thus tar the whole with their bad deeds, whether it is an action, statement or belief.
But now imagine another line, one drawn from the sides horizontally. Now instead of two rectangles, the Left and Right, you now have four squares, Up and Down. Imagine now that the Down is for those who represent hostility, violence, intolerance and in general behavior considered uncivilized or dangerous. Up represents those who are tolerant, kind, helpful, and even extend generosity to those on the opposite side of the square.
This introduces a very different dynamic. Left Down can be considered extremists you see on TV who blacklist their opponents or call for the silencing or deaths of others. But Left Up consists of those who disagree with those on the Right, but hold no ill will towards them and respect their beliefs and standings. The same with the Right. There is the Right Down which includes those who wish to harm Leftists, both Up and Down, who take extreme positions and are openly hostile to those who disagree. But there is also the Right Up. Like the Left Up, they are tolerant, enjoy political debate, and don't shy from interacting with those different from them.
Now suddenly we can view things with greater precision. Instead of now identifying Leftists or Rightists as inherently bad based on the actions of a minority from their half of the square, now we can divide them based not just on beliefs, but on behaviors and most importantly, actions. This also allows us to fight against disagreeable elements that are technically on the sides we are on. For the Left, this could be classical liberals debating with hard core communists or fascist socialists. For the Right it could be classic conservatives arguing against extreme anarchists or fanatical Trump supporters. Despite technically sharing the same inherent base beliefs, the degree to which they hold to them and how they treat others as a result shows a great deal of difference.
Often in this heated political climate we are somehow forced to defend those who are deplorable by the simple virtue that they technically are on our side. I find this unacceptable.
Political beliefs come in degrees, not in absolutes.
Continuing with the example of the squares within squares, let us get much more complex. What many don't seem to be willing to acknowledge is that there are those considered to be on one political side that share some beliefs of the other. There are Leftists who support gun ownership rights, capitalism and religious freedom. There are Rightists who support gay rights, immigration and some level of government assistance.
Let us take the view of government assistance with personal lives as an example. Let us start with the with the middle and go Right. The middle would be some level of government assistance in the lives of citizens. Social Security cards, the DMV, various licensing, stuff that you most likely see as reasonable for everyday use. There are taxes and fees for small processes undergone. We nudge to the Right and see the desire for less government involvement in say, welfare. At first it's just a gradual reduction. Perhaps those on welfare have a slightly reduced volume of benefits. A little less in the welfare checks, a little less Medicare, etc, in the hopes of saving tax money from those who aren't on welfare and prompt those who are into improving their situation. Nothing drastic.
Take a step further. Some programs will be greatly reduced. Those who milk the system will be up in arms, but there are even some on the Left who can acknowledge that some such steps are necessary. After all, if someone has the physical means to work and simply chooses not to, should he or she really receive benefits? This falls within the Moderate Right. But then let us get more extreme. You find those who not only want to reduce programs, but get rid of many altogether. Eliminate Affirmative Action, Medicare, Medicade, and a host of other programs. This is opposed vehemently by many on the Left, but most on the Right support.
Take it to the hard core extreme, and introduce the idea of no government assistance whatsoever for anyone. This will make even most Rightists pause. After all, some will argue, correctly, that there are some who do need help. What if someone is crippled in an accident and unable to care for themselves, but are not affiliated with any church to help them or have no family. What then? Obviously, such a person needs help. What about the man trying to support his family, but has been laid off through no fault of his own? Times can be bad, and purely through circumstance be in a very bad spot. But this man seeks only to have enough help to get him through this bad patch until he can get back on his feet. A temporary boost. This is something that we can all clearly sympathize with and acknowledge as a case where some help is necessary. After all, if a mother is widowed and she has children who need to be fed, but she can't find a job because she must watch them, what else is to be done? Suddenly most Rightists sound like Leftists! In such an event many Rightists would acknowledge that there need to be cuts, certainly, but would equally acknowledge the need to help those who are simply beyond normal help. They first advocate receiving help from friends, family and church, with government help as a last resort. But it is still a resort that may be reached, and thus there must be some level of government assistance for those who truly need it. To forego any and all help entirely, to the point that it is more akin to anarchy where everyone must fend for themselves, would be more than most could stand.
The lines blur, don't they? Now lets go to the Left and see the layers there.
On the Moderate Left you have those who believe many are in very difficult circumstances that need help from the government first and foremost. After all, not everyone has reliable friends, family or other organizations to help them where they live. These people are to receive help in the form of food stamps, government housing and medical help. Those on the Moderate Right can see this point of view and sympathize with it, but disagree on terms of how much of these things are received.
Go further Left. We see those who believe that government should not only supply the basics of life, but provide help with continued schooling and college. After all, college is a very important means of acquiring knowledge and securing a firm career with high pay to support ones self and family. Most of the Left agree with this. It requires raised taxes, but they see that as a duty and a privilege for the community as a whole.
Further still and we find the advocacy for government not only having a hand in many facets of life, but controlling them. They see the mistakes widely made by citizens and believe that control should be transferred to those in government and have a much larger hand in how people conduct their lives. Here we come to socialism. But you will find some Leftists a little worried when they learn that they will be taxed much more heavily for programs that do what they can do by themselves. After all, they are happy to help others by paying taxes, but not at the cost of being plunged into poverty themselves through taxes too heavy to be sustained.
Jump to the extreme of the Left and you find people advocating the confiscation of not just money through taxes, but personal property, cars and even homes! Here many Leftists will openly oppose such measures. It's one thing to help someone find a home, but to provide it by robbing others and throwing them on the street is another matter altogether. They find their pockets emptied through taxes, their purchases confiscated as being a waste of money and turned over to others, and most facets of their lives intruded upon. In fact some Leftists might eagerly assist this process through vandalizing and robbery. Other Leftists would be horrified as they see citizens and businesses pillaged and openly condemn such behavior. Others on their same side will suggest that those being robbed deserve it. It would be contested that yes, there are perhaps those who must give up some of what they own to help others, but to carry out such action through violence and destruction is unacceptable. Here it will be widely acknowledged that this is too far, and we see the elements of the same side divided amongst themselves.
See how the pendulum can swing so far from one side to the other, yet be pulled back by the side it is swinging towards? The extreme sides of both exist and must be reined in. Nor is this behavior limited only to government assistance. It applies to each and every issue we discuss politically.
In fact, far from being simple Left or Right, there is a field of overlap and varying degrees of political belief. It comes in degrees, not absolutes. To visualize this concept, now look at what we have.
Here we have a vast and wide color gradient. Now imagine that this represents all political leanings of different degrees from Left to Right, Up and Down, and you have a very real idea of what actual political leanings are like for individuals, not just groups. It is a vast spectrum. The further to the sides you get, the more extreme the belief. The closer to the middle, the more moderate. Now when you hear that someone considers themselves a Leftist, ask yourself, what kind of Leftist? How extreme or moderate are their beliefs? Same for the Rightists.
People are infinitely more complex than one simple word. In fact, even in the examples I've given of ever growing complexity, it's possible that it might become more complex still. This I can't illustrate. Perhaps I haven't even thought of it yet. These show only political leanings. But there is so much more outside of those. What is the mentality of the individual? Their upbringing? Their family? Friends? What are they afraid of? What do they like? What do they hate? Such things are all pieces of what makes up an individual person and can't be captured in any sort of graph or model.
Often in the brutal political climate today we divide ourselves on very simplistic and limiting criteria. We grow more and more aggressive towards those we perceive to be our enemies from the simple virtue of the fact that they are on a different side. It is a very dangerous thing to stray towards any extreme. Not only does it dehumanize others, but it will force your opponents to take equally extreme positions. A universal law of physics is that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Politics is no exception.
I noticed this especially in the last election. I'd always considered myself very far on the Right. But then suddenly strange extremists came about and I found myself identifying as a moderate. Likewise there were many on the Left who found the continuing extremes of their side becoming distasteful and frightening. In fact, the majority of the country didn't vote for either candidate.
Through this article I hope to emphasize the humanity of all sides. Don't look at others as less than human because they believe differently from you. Don't brand all with the stamp of one side or the other. They may in fact have much more in common with you than you realize.