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Since our local air waves, in particular the AM radio stations, seem to spend most of their airtime trying to convince listeners that liberals are the enemy and conservatives are their friends I decided to see how Webster defines them.

Accordingly, a conservative is one who is averse to change and holds traditional values. In addition they favor free enterprise, private ownership and socially conservative ideas … and are mostly considered Republican.

On the other hand, liberals are willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own, they are open to new ideas, regard many traditional beliefs as invalidated by modern thought and liable to change. Liberals favor individual liberty, free trade and moderate political or social reform … and they are mostly considered Democrats.

Together these two ideologies presently create the tugs and pulls of our free society. It seems to me that all of us lean to one side or another. Some of us are stuck on the outer wings, but my math indicates that most of us see ourselves in the middle with a preferred lean. I considered myself in the radical middle with a solid lean to the left. Yes, I have a bleeding heart when it comes human issues and most likely I could speak for hours about how many traditional values have destroyed lives or created incredible barriers that needed removal (think slavery, segregation, gay marriage, etc.).

As well, the only way to move things forward is if people are willing to accept/respect folks who see the world differently than they do. After all, it’s the opposing wind that makes the kite fly high. Thus liberals are known for their staunch support of individual liberty even if that means moderate social or political reform. The saying “each to their own” is not a conservative ideal, rather it’s liberal.

Conservatives are noted for their fiscal responsibility along with their desire to maintain the “status quo,” thus their adversity to change probably defines them best. Conservatives staunchly defend the free enterprise system (business) along with private ownership, which means most of them do all they can to keep government out of business under the mantra that government can’t do anything right but private businesses can. Most folks, including me, become more conservative with age as their private ownership/wealth accumulates and do all they can to preserve it. Along with this comes the notion that we all had to work hard for our money therefore those who have been handed less fortunate lives should have to do the same.

So after a modicum of ruminating I’ve once again concluded that I’m in the radical middle with a slight lean to the left on some issues and a slight lean to the right on others. Both sides have their wild-eyed crazies on their outer edges but I’d like to think that those of us somewhere in the middle will win in the end.

Extremists on either end of the political spectrum seem to be too willing to sacrifice not only themselves but the world around them by pounding their opponents’ views into oblivion. In the past the type of nasty polarization we find ourselves in today has caused folks to take up arms and it seems to me that’s why you and I need to stay in the middle and weigh both sides before deciding which way we lean on any given issue. Good luck and peace.

Dan Ulmer is a parent, grandparent, as well as a retired teacher, counselor, politician, lobbyist, public employee, nonprofit executive and opinionated citizen who believes that we need to do what we can to leave the world better off than we found it.

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