I vote as an Independent, instead of for a particular party.  This puzzles a lot of people, so let me break it down for you as to why I do it this way, even though as a feminist and gay and civil rights activist (albeit a Buddhist-Christian one) I should probably have registered ages ago as a Democrat.

In my earlier years of college, I took a college-level writing course focusing on rhetoric, politics, and the media.  It was a fascinating class, and one of the things I learned was this: especially when it comes to politics, there is no objective truth.  There is only perspectives.  There’s this person’s perspective, that person’s perspective, etc.

This perspective theory is known as “bias.”  And we all have it.

This means that every person you talk to, every news source you get your news from, and yes, even every party – they are all trying to sell you something.  They may not even be consciously aware of it.  It could be a bias everyone takes for granted, for example a British bias or an American bias.  But everything has a bias.  Everything is slanted toward a certain viewpoint.

This is why I get my news from many different news sources every day.  If you only listen to one party or one news source, you are letting yourself buy into that bias and closing yourself off from listening to everything else.

You can see this reflected in our politics today, particularly during political debates.  You read any philosophical or political history, and the whole original point of the debate was not to “argue” and it was not about “who won.”  It was simply an exchange of ideas, with each person listening to what the other person had to say.  We’ve completely lost sight of that.  If you’re a Democrat, all a Republican has to do is open their mouth to get you angry – and vice versa.  We don’t listen anymore.

Now fast forward to an upper level psychology course I took, back when I thought I was going to make psychology my bachelor’s degree focus.  We talked about many different things, among them brainwashing.  Psychologists have to know how to brainwash people, because they have to know how to undo brainwashing on a victim.  (So don’t piss off a psychologist, is what I’m saying.)

So here’s how brainwashing works:

First, the brainwasher is kind to the victim, giving them gifts and acting the part of the nice person.  They gain the victim’s trust and loyalty.

Once they have this, they start testing the victim in various ways.  Testing their loyalty.  It starts in small ways, but snowballs into increasingly larger ways.

Now here’s the real kicker – whether it’s psychologically or physically, the brainwasher cuts off the victim from all opposing viewpoints for an extended period of time, until the victim believes the brainwasher’s ideology is the only correct way.

And thus, you have been indoctrinated by a brainwasher.  We were taught to recognize these signs, alongside being taught, for example, not to trust someone just because they look like an authority figure.

Here’s how I looked at that.  I realized something – if you cut yourself off from all other parties and news sources, no one is forcefully brainwashing you.  You are letting them do that to yourself.

Now let’s sidestep over to some literature courses I’ve taken.  In literature, there’s something called “reading against the grain.”  Think of wood grains on a table – you can either run your finger along the grains, or push them the opposite way and cause friction, right?  This is called “reading against the grain,” and we were always encouraged to do it.

Here’s the basic system.  It’s the same as with politics.  When you read a book, no matter what the viewpoint is, it has a bias.  First person narrators are notorious for this.  They are notoriously unreliable if you’re looking for an objective viewpoint.  For example, read these two sentences:

“The person sneered and made fun of me.”

“The person smiled and teased me.”

The exact same thing is happening in both sentences.

Reading against the grain tells us not to trust unreliable narrators.  We should be skeptical, and test out the opposite of what they’re saying to see if it aligns more with our beliefs.  In other words, we should explore the possibility that, consciously or unconsciously, they are not telling us the full and objective truth.

Politicians and political rhetoric are the ultimate unreliable narrators.  I am skeptical of everything they say, and I try to keep an open mind and listen to all viewpoints, testing them for truth.

In short, I’m not part of a particular party because I don’t want to close myself off to other ideas or possibilities.  All ideas useful and sensible to me are adopted – it doesn’t matter who put them there.

That’s why I’m an Independent, and that is a hill I am willing to die on.  Freedom of thought and opinion is the one thing no one will ever take away from me.

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