Monday, February 18, 2002 Volume 67, Issue 95



Politics aren't just black and white

Richard W. Whitrock

The great dilemma of American life is surprisingly simple. Homework or movie? No. Right or wrong? Nope. Peanut butter or jelly? Wrong still.

The question with an answer sought by all is much simpler than that, and has been touched on by the most unassuming American journalists: liberal or conservative. After all, there is no middle ground.

This label and one-word definition of one's beliefs is not enough, however. That one word, that single multi-syllable brand, determines the fate for the hides of America's political
souls. Its belief system must also define the way Americans think. To some in the media, it all boils down to this: Republican or Democrat, conservative or liberal, cow or sheep.

Not everyone thinks in terms of black and white, and not everyone is so brainwashed by political orientation as to completely and blindly subscribe to that brand's drivel; but
some journalists are not concerned with that fact, preferring to lump hatred instead of target criticism.

But what makes one "liberal" or "conservative"? Perhaps it would be easier to examine the question with an example. How about Bill O'Reilly of Fox News? Hands down, most
people would consider him to reside in the "conservative" category.

According to his latest book, The No Spin Zone, however, his status as "conservative" is questionable. O'Reilly writes statements like "I believe that global warming is real; I don't
believe in the death penalty; I believe in stringent drug control, but I would decriminalize marijuana use," and, "I would have the federal government negotiate discounted drug
prices with pharmaceutical companies so that there could be an affordable Medicare drug benefit."

Are these the hallmarks of conservatism? Hardly. Two specific examples are often given to illustrate the difference between conservatives and liberals: the issues of taxes and
the death penalty.

O'Reilly writes, "I believe that the federal government wastes a huge amount of the people's money and that most politicians buy votes with entitlement promises." His implied
meaning that the government does not need all the tax dollars that are given to it is a decidedly conservative stance, according to a simple litmus test.

O'Reilly, however, does not believe in the death penalty. How can this be? If he is for lowered taxes, he has to be conservative, but if he is conservative he must believe in the
death penalty. Obviously, O'Reilly is confused. How dare he not fit the mold?

The issue of the death penalty is extremely touchy. The Andrea Yates case, for example, has many different facets that should be considered.

Andrea Yates suffered from postpartum depression. "Liberals" apparently believe that is enough reason to excuse the methodical murder of her five children. Temporary insanity
is the only possible explanation. In researching postpartum depression, there is still no excuse.

She drowned her children in order of youngest to oldest, chasing the kids around the house to catch them. It was a methodical mass murder. Was it sane? Every bit as sane as
Charles Manson. Does the fact that she committed a reprehensible and irrational act excuse the murder of five children? Absolutely not. 

Her depression caused her to kill five innocent human children. What happens if she gets depressed in prison?

The difference between liberal and conservative here is moot. What's important is the difference of opinion in whether or not we should allow her the opportunity to kill again
(even those in jail) simply because she was depressed. Liberal or conservative has nothing to do with it.

The second part of the litmus test is taxes. All conservatives want lowered taxes because they don't care about their fellow man, and only liberals support those kind of helpful
programs out of the money from their own pockets.

Tell that to Jesse Jackson. How much of his personal fortune went to the "needy people" toward whom his programs are geared? His Citizenship Education Fund raised $12
million in two years, and only $47,000 went to education. Jackson's salary from his tax-exempt organizations (like CEP) adds up to $120,000. Sounds to me like the money was
going in his pocket, not out of it.

Furthermore, the idea that because "conservatives" don't support tax programs they do not wish to help their fellow man is absurd. Giving money to the government to give to
charities means less money and more red tape; it is simply more effective to give the money directly to the charity.

Perhaps a little tolerance and the realization that one's political orientation does not govern God-given free thinking would make for more effective communication in the media. 

People are not livestock, and the rhetoric some in the media use to perpetuate such stereotypes sounds remarkably like "moo" to me. Maybe they should jump off the bandwagon
and deal with an issue instead of lumping it in with a political myth.

Whitrock, a freshman university 
studies major, can be reached at

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