Monday, October 6, 2008

Issues Spectrum

I am alone on one side of my AP Government classroom. I (and I alone) represent the pro-life contingent in this issues debate. “Debate” is just semantics; what really ensued was a flat-out attack against my political ideals and a patronizing attempt to bring me over from the fundamentalist, brain-washed right-wing conservative quarter to the logical, intelligent, hip, liberal majority.

I am in Spanish class. Speaking has never been my strongest skill, and we are discussing politics. Never mind that I hate discussing politics in English, now I have to do it in my broken fourth-year Spanish. What I actually said is fuzzy; I think we were talking about welfare and I complained that immigrants who are not citizens take “our” social security. I don’t contribute to or receive social security – it’s just what I’ve heard my father say at home. It got around to me later that the whole Spanish class (and as a result much of the Junior class) thought I was an immigrant-hating bigot.

More than three years out of high school, I still don’t discuss politics and loathe “debates” over any issue that causes controversy, political or not, informal or not, “safe” or not. When Dr. Toly announced in class that we were doing an issues spectrum immediately butterflies erupted in my stomach. I was especially wary of such a debate because the issues was – can you guess? – gentrification. The issue over which I have inwardly struggled for the past month and a half, the issue which we never cease to discuss, the issue for which there is no answer, the issue which strikes me deep in my core and causes me to question my identity on so, so many levels.

It turns out than an issues “spectrum” is really that – a line where the nuances between each individual’s position are much more important than the actual position of each person related to a black-and-white stance on an issue. Somehow I ended up three people away from the positive end of gentrification – the thinking that gentrification is more positive than negative. I don’t know if that was really where I stood – that’s just where I ended up after talking to a few people. Honestly, I really wasn’t that into figuring out how I was related to people on either side of me because I didn’t really know what my position was to begin with, let alone how to relate it to the position of others.

As we went down the line and everyone said their thoughts about the issue and why they were standing where they were, I got more and more agitated. The entire situation made me very uncomfortable. I hated that I was so far in the positive direction because I get the feeling that the positive side is really the wrong side to be on in this debate “that has no right answer” (but really that’s just what they say so we will never say we were brainwashed when we reach the right conclusion, they’ll just ever-not-so-slightly hint at the right answer until we feel so utterly uncomfortable in the wrong one that we are forced to admit the right one.) I didn’t like that I had to define my position when I really felt I haven’t had enough time to decide what I really think about it. I didn’t like that I felt so defensive about where I was standing, and that I had a response to everyone’s statement, and that I couldn’t profess those responses and engage in a little debate. (But, even if I had the opportunity to respond to what they said…would I have said anything? Honestly, probably not. Which is another issue in and of itself.)

I thought Dr. Toly had said we couldn’t be ambivalent, or else I would have promptly placed myself in that position. Not because I don’t care about the issue, and not because I haven’t thought about it, but because I am deeply, deeply confused and completely unsure on which side of the issue I fall. I have really NO idea where I stand, what is positive, what is negative, and what is even related to the issue anymore. I don’t regret where I stood, because I still think I am more positive than negative, but I just hated positioning myself in a solid, this is what I think about the issue and I can never change position. I realize I can change my mind, and no one faults me for an opinion that I have right now, and I still have two more months to learn about the issue. It was just an extremely uncomfortable situation at the time.

I learned a lot about myself and what I was thinking about the issues just in listening to everyone talk about their own opinion. But that’s for another entry. Otherwise this one would be ridiculously long. Not that it isn’t already, and not that I haven’t thought about this enough to write enough to slow down the entire network. But, another day.

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