It is time to stop talking about the "political spectrum" in this country, and instead talk about the "political circle." If I head to the left or right on a spectrum, I will continue to travel further from my starting point. On a circle, however, if I start to my right and go far enough, I will end up to the left of where I started. This is the best imagery I can use to explain that I am so conservative on some issues that I become a liberal.
Take for example, the supposedly conservative idea that there should be a constitutional amendment defining marriage. This is a wretched notion that would increase federal intrusion into our private lives and create criminals where none existed before. No doubt the punishment for violating the federal marriage law would be covered in a government-mandated marriage course that a couple must pass in order to qualify for a federal marriage license. No true conservative desires that the government should dictate marital customs.
If there is a moral argument to be made against polygamy or gay marriage or any other connubial arrangement, let the church exert its supposed influence and sway people with that moral argument. To borrow from Thomas Jefferson, I don't care whom my neighbor marries - it neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.
No liberal convinced me to think this way; I'm simply applying conservative values.
Nor do I think, for example, that the president of Harvard University should be suppressed for suggesting that boys are better at math and science than girls. Political correctness is neither left nor right. It is Orwellian.
Of course, conservative and liberal are terms that have been so misused, abused and stereotyped in what passes for a national discourse as to render them useless. After all, what a true American conservative attempts to conserve are the principles of the most liberal group of men that the world has ever seen: our Founding Fathers. Is any idea more liberal than that of the uniqueness of the individual? America's founders passionately believed in that idea and worked to ensure freedom for the individual. Yes, they had a limited view as to which individuals should be free to pursue their uniqueness. Nevertheless, because they formalized such principles at America's founding, successive generations have been allowed and even encouraged to expand the definition of who "we the people" are.
Let's stop walking along the political spectrum and start traversing the political circle. Let's look at our country and agree on some basic facts: For starters, I am positive that we can agree that we have lost the war on drugs, we have lost the war on poverty and our schools are malfunctioning. If we can agree on the problems, we have gone a long way to finding solutions.
Traversing a political circle will mean that "we the people" will have to behave as "we the adults." This will not be popular with the cable news pundits whose often-shrill arguments, loaded questions and smirky asides to the camera qualify them as little more than well-dressed monkeys hurling verbal dung at one another. No, we the people need to listen to each other and vote for leaders interested in public solutions and not candidates interested in private successes.
I expect there to be argument - vehement argument - over what constitutes the best solution for a given problem. Once one side or another has carried the argument, however, let the arguing stop. The cable monkeys will find something to do. Let the arguing stop and let the implementation and evaluation begin - and if, for example, we try a "conservative" solution and it fails, then let us conservatives admit that it was wrong and root hard for the "liberal" solution to work. And if that fails, we will be in a good position to put our heads together and create yet a third solution, or a fourth or a fifth, or whatever number is required.
We unique individuals have at least one thing in common: Together, we are the people, and America - still the last great hope of humanity - will not survive if we don't take care of her. Let's form a big circle.
Austin Gisriel is a writer living in Williamsport. His e-mail is agisriel@