Liberal or conservative. Left and right winger. Progressive or status quo. People like labels. They like to place them, they like to give them and the like to be able to have a nice orderly world where everyone fits into a category.
While it's true some people, particularly various public figures, can be placed into these kinds of categories, and most of them like being in those places, the average person often doesn't even realize what genre he or she belongs in, largely because of his or her own surroundings. It seems what you grow up with is what you believe in until your world gets turned upside down.
Take Utah for example. When I was younger I believed a liberal in Utah was someone who drank coffee and didn't belong to the predominant religion. Later in life I learned there was a little more to it than that. But, as simplistic and certainly untrue as that belief was, I still see people categorize others based on a couple of assumptions they draw from barely knowing someone.
I remember one time when I was in a meeting with the personnel manager of a large organization I worked for as a department supervisor. I said something about workers rights. The personnel manager, who had worked closely with me and known me for many years said, "You're really a liberal aren't you?" like it was unbelievable anyone with a social concious could be anything but. I just told him I was who I was and that labels were often inadequate to describe people.
I think the way a person sees the world certainly goes through many stages as their life progresses. When you are young you listen to your parents and often have the same views on the world they do. My father was a died-in-the-elephant-hide Republican and I remember how crushed I was when John F. Kennedy was elected president, because of my dads disappointment. At eight years old, I couldn't imagine feeling any different from my father about many things.
But people change and by the time I was 19 I was heavily involved in supporting George McGovern for president, who was running against the man my father so strongly backed in 1960, Richard Nixon.
In my early thirties, while still considering myself leaning on the left side of things, I found myself becoming one of those "Reagan Democrats." Yes the great communicator had swayed my vote to his side, because I felt the Democratic party had abandoned it's roots.
It was also during this time that I began to change my views on the world quite significantly. It's funny how adulthood and responsibilities finally wear down the idealism of youth, when all things are possible, regardless of political views or realities. I found my reaction to political movements and issues became family and business centered rather than ideologically or ideally based.
My youngest sister and I still have some pretty heavy discussions about politics sometimes; she having been on the right side of things for many years and me on the left. But either I have mellowed or she has, because we find ourselves agreeing more and more about issues that once set us on fire with each other. I always did recognize she was a compassionate conservative long before the term was popularized.
In many ways Utahn's have much more in common with their in state political rivals than they do with their own national party leaders. After many years of traveling in business and living in places other than Utah, I learned that Utah Republicans and Utah Democrats are a different breed from their national counterparts. Beehive state Democrats, with a few notable exceptions, are somewhat like the old conservative Democrats that dominated the south many years ago. They believe strongly in state and individual rights. Utah Republicans are, with a few exceptions, for the small businessman and do care a great deal about their fellow man. As for the religion factor, it is there, but to be honest, some of the best and strongest Democrats I have known in my life were also very good Latter Day Saints. And some of the most intelligent, make sense Republicans I have ever met were not.
Let's face it the political landscape is changing all the time, and so are we.
And so much for national political labels when it comes to inter-Utah politics..