The Eclectic One

…Because labels are a poor substitute for thinking

Can we please stop trying to label people?

Posted by Bill Nance on August 26, 2008

Andrew Sullivan posted some thoughts last night in which he states the following:

There’s no question that if you judge the candidates on their actual lives, rather than mythologies, the Obamas are extremely mainstream and conservative. Married for life, great parents, very humble beginnings, driven meritocrats. No divorce or adultery – and regular religious attendance and faith. And yet they are tagged as elitists and radicals. Yes, they’re liberals in policy, although not radically so. But they’re conservatives in their lives.

The same paradox can be seen in Obama himself: a policy liberal but a temperamental conservative. To see the Obamas as they are requires us to see them in these paradoxes. And to recognize that they may not be paradoxes at all.

How does Andrew label the Obamas? Let me count the ways.

Meritocrats, Elitists, Radicals, Liberals, Conservatives…and that’s just the one-word labels.

Don’t get me wrong, I think he’s on the right track, but sadly he, like so many people is so habituated to painting people into their tiny little boxes that he’s reduced to calling them paradoxes when they fail to fit a simplistic mold.

This is the inherent problem with labels; they’re misleading and often drive us to a complete misunderstanding of people, ideas and principles.

We all use them, even I, your humble servant and opponent of labels. We can’t help but do it. But in this campaign season more than any other time, it’s time for us to stop trying to characterize people and parties with one-word descriptions. No one can be reduced to two syllables, and trying to do so is self-deception.


One Response to “Can we please stop trying to label people?”

  1. […] written somewhat extensively on the utter idiocy of labels. Progressive, liberal, conservative, etc. mean […]

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