08/20/2013 05:26 EDT | Updated 10/20/2013 05:12 EDT

I'm Politically Confused, and You Might Be Too

Shortly after 9/11, an acquaintance confessed that he thought Islamic extremists had some "good ideas" about female modesty. Oh, he was quick to add, he didn't agree with forced face -- or even hair -- covering, just that women should dress more modestly and wouldn't it be nice if girls in free countries would stop being all up in one's face with their female-ness. He was a conservative fellow I had, prior to that conversation, thought to be sensible and moderate and as he spoke, I found myself thinking, "Dear Lord, make it stop!"

I remembered that post-9/11 exchange when Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird was catching heck from REAL Women of Canada for his criticism of Russia's disturbing anti-gay policies. Some of us identify as conservatives because we believe in realistic foreign policy, personal freedom, equality under the law, trying to prevent the government from coercing us into subsidizing all manner of unnecessary stuff, and in guarding the traditions that have kept us more or less free, lo, these many decades.

Gosh, you might be saying, what you've described sounds an awful lot like the libertarian viewpoint. Well no, it doesn't, because extreme libertarians very rarely support realistic foreign policy, preferring a reactionary, isolationist bubble (see Ron and Rand Paul).

It may be fair to call what I've described a classical liberal view, or -- for Canadians -- Red Tory-ism, or even "neo-con", a word people throw around as being interchangeable with "far right", though it certainly isn't. Christopher Hitchens was called a neo-con, or "right-wing" when he supported the 2003 invasion of Iraq, when in reality he was -- unlike so many on the left -- a consistent leftist; ditto Michael Ignatieff and many others who later signed the Euston Manifesto.

Labels, obviously, are inadequate, though there is something to be said for simplicity. I can't imagine my idea for a "Military action is sometimes necessary, mind your own beeswax, don't spend stupidly, support civil society and to thine own self be true" party would get very far. We'd run out of room on our banners.

And, come to think of it, I'd want to add animal rights to the platform. Sometimes I sit in horrified awe as otherwise sane conservative people I know try to defend, say, chuck-wagon races or the seal "hunt". It's another "Dear Lord, make it stop" moment.

I can't be the only one who feels politically conflicted. At least I hope I'm not, because that would indicate that most people vote or argue reflexively. And that is...very easy to believe.

It isn't, of course, only individuals on the right who fail to remove their blinkers -- far from it. I spend an awful lot of time working in animal rescue where, you won't be surprised to hear, many identify as leftists. And many of my colleagues in the field insist -- not in an attempt to be hyperbolic -- that Stephen Harper is a "fascist". When I hear that I want to wave a magic wand and send them through a time portal to experience life under actual fascists; reflexive anti-Western and anti-American views have so permeated segments of the left that powerful words lose their meaning.

As do powerful principles. Whatever one's views on Wikileaks, I was puzzled to see so many feminists oppose the extradition of Julian Assange to infamous-police-state Sweden to face questioning over sexual assault charges. Similarly, I wanted to scream at the hypocrisy of UN delegates cheering Malala Yousafzai's impressive speech about the importance of education, when their standard operating procedure is to oppose actions that would bring about the kind of world for which Malala makes such a compelling case.

Which brings me back to Baird and his condemnation of Russia's anti-gay policies -- condemnation I fully support, for the record: it would be interesting to know how many of the people intent on boycotting Sochi also support Queers Against Israeli "Apartheid", de facto offering support to regimes and groups whose anti-gay policies make Vladimir Putin look like a potential Pride Parade Grand Marshal. My guess is that their numbers are not negligible.

My other guess is that none of them will join my political party.

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