We Americans like to think of ourselves as independent thinkers. Each of us has been culturally impacted with the importance of expressing our individuality, or whatever stamp we imagine ourselves to bear, in a way unlike others around us. This is in contrast, I've heard, with the Chinese, who instead pride themselves on how alike they are, how they find power in sameness, in oneness. And yet, I'm not sure how individual we Americans have all learned to be. The teenage years are probably the time of life when one would expect self-expression to be at an all-time high, and yet...don't you see a lot of teens that can be more or less categorized into groups based on appearance? (I know, this is a shallow approach, only skin-deep, and may seem judgmental. I'm only developing a point so far, so bear with me.) Teens (and the rest of us) don't generally want to appear too different, too unique, too without precedent. There is a line most don't dare to cross, and most know exactly where that line is, whether for themselves or those around them. To an extent this effort is conscious, and to an extent it is an unconscious response to the culture. If teens want to be different from anyone, it is likely that they want to be different from their parents--whether to say, perhaps, that they've found the modern look that has eluded their parents, or to say that they are individual and unique, apart from parental influence, or to lash out against their parents' values, teens tend to be the same as others in their age group, or just a few years older, who they admire.
So yes, Americans are individualistic--to a point. To a point, though, we have a herd mentality and like to find similar folk who believe and dress and live in the same way that we do. I've been pondering this in terms of our political parties. There are two strong parties, and a few insignificant parties that don't stand a chance in the elections. The Republicans and the Democrats monopolize the scene, and we voters willingly group ourselves in one camp or the other. As a Christian I've ended up in the Republican camp though I've always said that I vote not Republican per se, but pro-life. That has been the determining factor for me, and if a candidate doesn't state a stance on that issue or says he's pro-choice, he generally doesn't get my vote, even if it means I don't vote at all.
The odd thing is that these two parties tend to swing to one side or the other on various issues. The Republicans tend to have the pro-life candidates, but not all of their candidates are pro-life. The Democrasts tend to have pro-choice candidates, almost without exception. The alignment of issues within the parties doesn't speak to me as being consistent, though. I would think that logically, compassion would rule in the camp that is pro-life, and expediency would rule in the camp that is pro-choice. It seems instead that the opposite is true, and I have a hard time trying to fathom the reasoning behind it.
It would seem that Christians would be not only pro-life, but environmentalist, seeing that God's creation is something over which we are to be good stewards. We should also be concerned about moral and humane issues at home and around the globe. We should be the least concerned about the economy, because as believers we know that God provides for His own, that if we are about His work, He will provide for us (2 Corinthians 9:10-11 Now He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness; you will be enriched in everything for all liberality, which through us is producing thanksgiving to God.). It strikes me that the unbeliever would be the logical one to be concerned most about the economy, about roads, about big business. You would think that the unbeliever would care less about the environment if it takes more effort to do so and is inconveniencing. I truly don't understand this alignment of issues! I wish we had more candidates, more parties if necessary, and could choose someone who would reflect the things that God's word says that we should concern ourselves with.
So whereas I used to find politics a fairly cut-and-dried arena of life, this year I find it confusing, perplexing, disheartening. I can't in good conscience vote for a pro-choice candidate, because I find their hearts to be murderous and bent on expediency in the worst regard; yet how do I vote? What is the right alignment of issues? Why do we so blindly follow these two camps? Why are their stances so strong and yet confusing? This in America, where individualism and independence supposedly reign supreme. It's a scrawny supreme, in my book, where politics is concerned.