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The Politically Incorrect Guide to Being Against Things

You have to be careful what you say you are against these days. It is okay to be against sugar, but not against vaccines. You can be against guns, but not against police using them. You can be against world hunger, but not against governmental control over employment opportunities. In other words, if you against certain things, you are automatically ignorant, lacking compassion, or intolerant. At least according to those who have designated themselves guardians over acceptable thought.

To be against something is not an arrogant stance. Sure, some people are arrogant no matter which solution to an issue they advocate. But too many times a thoughtful conviction or knowledgeable confidence are described as arrogant because it makes the hearer uncomfortable in some way. This could be due to misunderstandings, or assumptions, or defensiveness. It could also be the affect of propaganda or willful refusal to recognize key principles at stake.

In most cases, being against something also means being for something. Sometimes people don’t admit this or take time to articulate it, but that doesn’t negate it. I am for personal freedom in eating and drinking, so I am against laws stipulating what is legal to ingest. I am against compulsory education because I am for parents having more authority over their children than anyone else.

As implied by the above examples, being against something does not have to mean controlling other people’s decisions. I am for avoiding contagions, and thus against spreading sickness, but I don’t think that gives me any sort of moral right to violently insist everyone wash their hands. I may try to share my point of view about it, suggest cooperation, and take personal action to avoid disease, but I should let others make their own decisions based on their own information and priorities.

I can even think that some choices are unwise or bad, without necessarily morally condemning them. While there are a few things everyone will agree are dead wrong, especially if you try to do it to them, things can be not-best without crossing moral boundaries. People may disagree on what age children should be allowed to play at the park by themselves or how much money is reasonable to spend on a blouse, but trying to pin an exact moral value on these choices is usually misdirected, at best.

On the other hand, there is frequently some degree of not-best that yields undesirable results. Eating too much junk food or spending hours playing video games will probably affect health and relationships poorly. Separating children from parents for hours each day will very likely weaken family bonds. Still, we have to let people make their own mistakes, partly because we are pretty busy making our own. If someone has so much time to run someone else’s life, something in their’s is probably going unattended.

Unfortunately, people often want to validate their own choices by requiring others to do the same things. Sometimes, they even want to forbid discussion of the alternatives. They are for forcing people to act and speak a certain way, thus against open debate. They are against listening to other people, and for limiting ideas and options.

A false defense of many choices is that the option is unacceptable. This is because there is often a misrepresentation of what the opposite of being for or against a certain thing really is. I, for example, am for freedom of speech, but against being rude. I am for being kind, but against lying to make people feel better. I am for honesty, but I am against exposing people’s private affairs without their consent. I am for individual choice, but against letting a choice to be offended dictate how others must behave.

Or to take it to the broader world, I am for teaching children, but against government being in charge of education. I am for building a house soundly, but against a bureaucracy overseeing that. I am for healthy food, but against laws deciding for me what that is.

Each of these for or against stances, has to, by nature, lead to action. We have to make decisions about many things every day and we do this based on whether we are for or against something. Even if we say we are avoiding decisions, we are still making the decision to do things a certain way. And we are for or against thing based on our actions. As your mother may have told you, “Actions speak louder than words.” Or, a friend may have challenged, “Put your money where your mouth is.” By the way, I am for each person using his own money, and against confiscation of another person’s money because someone has some really good ideas for how they could use a lot of money.

I am for everyone getting along, but I am against using force to make everyone do things in a way that I think is comfortable or best. Why? Because I can’t come up with any good reason why some people should be able to do that to others.  We are all just people, here for a limited time. We could all benefit from from everyone being more humble about what we are for or against. Especially if it requires forcing others to do things our way.