Thursday, March 08, 2007

Editorial Statment for March 2007: Be Yourself

Last year when the Fort Worth ISD had announced that it was going with uniforms in all its schools, the expected outcry came from the students about the uniform policy “stifling their individuality and creativity” and other such blather. I say “blather” because these teens were all expressing their individuality in exactly the same way: They’d all wear tattoos, body piercings, pants that were several sizes too big so that half their underwear showed and a tennis visor that they’d wear upside down and either to the side or backwards. Had they really given it any thought, they’d see that they were dressing pretty uniformly already.

To be fair, teenagers have always expressed their creativity through dressing exactly like their peers, so their outcry was hardly unexpected. But the pressure to conform is very strong, even when one moves from adolescence and into adulthood. After graduation, we all have to go to the right college, get the right job, find the right person to marry, get the right house, the right car, the latest tech, and so forth and so on. While the call to be yourself is still out there, it takes a strong person to do just that.

Most of us outgrow the need to “express individuality by dressing like everyone else”. However, one of the outgrowths of our increasingly politically ideological society is that the pressure to conform is probably stronger than even the legendary 1950's era of conformity, which is a tad ironic given that it was followed by the 1960's era of "fight the establishment". It's even more ironic in that these 1960's non-conformists then became the establishment, and are currently trying to institutionalize their form of rebellion, ignoring the fact that institutionalizing and rebelling are opposite concepts. Their ignorance - or apathy - of this dichotomy means that the onus is on us to be the ones who rebel against the ones who once were the rebels.

This is where "be yourself" comes in. We also arrive at one of the reasons that I started this blog. I hope to be setting an example for others to follow that it's not only okay to rebel when "our betters" are wrong, it's actually expected (and many times, required) that we rebel. It's easy to rebel when we have nothing to lose - it's much harder when we have a good paying job, a family and kids, house, car, etc. that we could stand to lose if we rebel. I can't provide a matrix to say when to rebel and when not to rebel - that has to come from you. However, what I CAN do is to explain how I got to be where I am today in regards to holding the views that I hold, and perhaps from that you can find the strength to also be yourself.

My main objective for this blog is to at least make you think whether there is a better way of doing things. Almost always, there is, but we lack the courage to do the right thing. Early on when I got into this opinionating thing, I was made to feel that I either had to be a liberal or a conservative, and whichever side I chose, I had to also agree to the usual slate of views that goes along with that side. My response was: Why? Why do I have to choose just one side? A third alternative was to take the middle ground between them, often referred to as "moderate". On the surface, finding a middle ground betweend the two sides sounds like a reasonable compromise, but below the surface it becomes obvious that "moderate" is basically another way of saying "indecisive".

The fourth alternative is the one I ended up choosing, and that's to basically ignore the labels usually attached to the various stands on issues and to take those stands, regardless of where on the ideological divide they happen to fall on. That's how I can be both anti-death penalty (a "liberal" view) and anti-legalized abortion (a "conservative" view). The term I chose for my way of thinking is "independent". I was hesitant to say "independent" because that's often considered another way of saying "liberal" - a lot like when a liberal will instead call himself "progressive" rather than liberal (which fools no one but the liberal). However, "independent" comes closest to describing my way of thinking, because it's independent of the liberal, conservative, OR the moderate point of view.

So that's my challenge to you folks: Be independent as described above by being yourself. After all, it takes no courage to think like everyone else. Teenagers do as much, so what credit is there for you if you still do the same thing as an adult that you used to do as a teenager?

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