I think one of the most enjoyable, and every now and again unsatisfying, things about writing is watching yourself evolve. The internet never goes away so every last thought is somewhere, floating. As a blogger, you grow and in politics you evolve, too. Or shrink, or die.
But evolution is slow and happens over time. If it isn’t slow, it’s just inconsistency. Sometimes inconsistency can be espoused by the carrier of legislation, by someone else supporting it, or a personal reason that’s changed your perspective. Sometimes things just bring about emotion in us. Context.
I offer an example.I saw this photo on the internet about a week ago.
When I saw it, it was tied to an “opt-in truth-in-labeling” group about food product transparency. It had no words of commentary, just the photo. I thought to myself, “I like that! And heck yes I agree!!” ::air fist bump:: I took a screenshot and went about my merry way.
Last night, I was scrolling the ‘Ferguson’ hashtag and saw the same image. It irritated me. I took a screenshot again- not knowing it was the same thing- but I thought in my head “What IS this? We don’t know what exactly happened. People are acting ridiculous” and I actually said aloud, “We will never really know.” Again with no commentary, just the photo. Set my phone down and that was that.
Later last night, I noticed a double in photos on my phone. I remembered that the exact same photo, both without additional commentary other than a hashtag identifying the topic, brought about entirely different perspectives about the same words. ONE word of context.
In politics, context is everything. I don’t like grey area but it all falls in there. There is no black and white. In fact, without context, politics is nothing. Nonexistent. Just a bunch of angry, opinionated people having breakfast once a month.
Those of us who like to label ourselves as most consistent probably struggle with this the most but have to acknowledge that context is the basis of the process.
What is most terrifying: Our principles can be contextual, too. Consider some of the following:
- Ethics legislation
Principle: We MUST have ethics reform. At any cost.
Context: The legislation was ineffective and messy. But who votes against ethics? Only a fool, right? Unless, of course, the legislation is poorly written and a baseless campaign stunt to say, “Look what I did!” But who votes against ethics?
- The Marketplace Fairness Act (or E-Fairness)
Principle: I’ll never vote for a tax increase.
Context: It’s a tax increase. And without said tax increase, you’re technically allowing some businesses to operate in a different tax bracket. Small , local businesses can suffer with the additional burden others don’t – especially in more rural counties. Sure, the movement should be to zero and not upward, but if we can’t have it our way, should it at least be just?
- Or a bill that allows cross-county warrants for wiretapping. Said legislation is an expansion of the police state and hovers over that line of our 4th amendment rights.
Principle: I’m against any/further infringements on the 4th Amendment.
Context: It’s actually a bill that returns the control to local departments. This allows local agencies to operate, not just the huge statewide organizations, over their jurisdiction which can double up (often in metro ATL). The wiretap warrants are already allowable under law, so if THAT won’t be repealed, what’s the next option? Local or large force?
**not advocating for or against any of the above, simply recognizing the different light that context sheds on various things. I repeat, no advocating.
- Farm subsidies
Principles: I am against subsidies in any capacity
Context: Our agricultural system is so broken and the government has such a choke hold over the entire industry that farmers cannot survive without being submissive. Unless the system is completely overhauled, without subsidies, nothing will be locally grown.
^^Actually advocating there
These are just a few examples and the list goes on. It’s also true that (more than likely) context is used to deceive us. Using the death of a child to expand the reach of government and regulate businesses or the use of fear of your church becoming a war zone with “guns everywhere” generalizations is wildly inappropriate, too. Context to tug on those heart-strings and make you feel like government will put a big ‘ol Band-Aid over the hearts of those grieving mothers or protect you from the dangerous drivers of Uber only exacerbates the distrust in government. Using the love of a certain football player to sanction, fine, and criminalize something that is legal in the real world reminds us that people often times can’t see past the end zone.
It’s not often that government has good intentions. They rush. They mess up. A lot. But I think it’s important to recognize not only the legislation and repercussions during analysis but also the intent. WHY is this proposed? WHO is it benefiting? From WHERE did it arise? WHY does this legislation need context at all?
We are just as ineffective as some of those who represent us if we don’t remember context. This is a reminder to myself as much as it is to everyone else. We shouldn’t consider anything at face value… regardless of the source. Because even sources have context.