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I’m a liberal.
Just putting it out there.
Politically, I’m a bleeding-heart liberal. I’m sorry if that is offensive to some of you. I understand. But we are who we are, and in an increasingly polarized world—being red or blue, being conservative or liberal—at least politically, these are clear choices we all have to make.
So, when I told my close fellow bleeding-heart liberal friend that I absolutely believe in the death penalty, not always, but that I do actually believe in it, she went from zero degrees of calmness to 100 degrees of screechy high pitch voice.
“Why? How? Do you have any idea what that means? Who are you to play God with someone’s life? Come on, Roopa. I can’t believe you would say something like that.”
My friend was genuinely perturbed and confused. And hassled.
Then she said, “You’re kidding, right? This is you making one of your infamous jokes. Come on, Roop. Just because you’ve started to find some success in the comedy/satire genre of writing (it’s true—I have and I am beyond chuffed about it) you think you should crack jokes? Well, young lady…this isn’t funny.”
Fact is I wasn’t being funny; it wasn’t a joke, and I genuinely meant it.
When I read stories about adults abusing children, when little girls are sold into slavery, when kids who are nine and 10 are made to perform perverse sexual acts on adult men without even knowing what they’re doing, I don’t want to just terminate these adults…I want to slow torture them over a fire and watch as their life leaves their body slowly. Since I cannot do that, I want these monsters dead.
I get it. There are so many scenarios where the wrong person is incarcerated, and tragically, sometimes, even put to death. I get it. My friend genuinely believes that it’s better for every heinous criminal to be alive if it means that no innocent dies. Yes. In principle, I agree with that as well. While I never ever—not ever—want an innocent to be incarcerated or put to death (like, of course not), I’m sorry. I’m happy that the death sentence is still an option for monsters who maybe should die.
I know I disappointed my friend. She looked at me as if she was seeing me for the first time. And maybe she was. I don’t think there was ever a time when I felt differently when it comes to people abusing children. But my friend thought I was pretty black or white about these fundamental issues in my life.
I’m not. And I’m not sorry about it.
Essentially, there are two sets of people in our world. There are ones who think in blacks or whites. For these folks, it is typically their way or the highway. When someone hurts you, you hurt them back. An eye for an eye they insist. Then there are others who think in shades of grey. They try and see the big picture in every scenario. The shades of grey person wants to find out why a person hurts someone else. An abuser becomes one because they were abused. The former thinks the latter is wishy-washy and cannot make up their minds over any issue. The latter thinks the former are too quick to judge.
But there is now a growing number of people, like myself, who are neither black or white or shades of grey. For want of a better term, I’m calling them the in-betweeners. And this is how we’d look at the following example.
Say, a woman robbed a convenience store. A black or white person would want her punished because she broke the law. She stole and her actions need to have consequences. The shades of grey person would try to understand why she stole. Maybe this woman is a poor and hungry mother who robs a convenience store to feed her child. So, they’d argue, is she a thief who should be punished or a victim herself who needs help? And then there are the in-betweeners who would argue that this woman did commit a crime and believe there should be consequences but also understand that she is a victim herself.
The black or white person would hope the woman pays for her crime as the law suggests. The shades of grey person would let her go free and be helped. The in-betweeners, like myself, will fine her one cent for her crime and then give her a bagful of groceries for her and her family.
I know that my example above is probably simplistic. But it gets to the core of the argument I’m making.
We now live in a world where, increasingly, the one-size-fits-all just does not work. At least it doesn’t for me. Sometimes I’m black or white. Sometimes I’m shades of grey. Sometimes I vacillate between the two. Many other times I understand the black or white position and the shades of grey position, and I’m okay with both. I can also be black or white or shades of grey or in-between on different issues and on different days of the week. Confused? Don’t be.
Take coffee. On a normal day, I hate coffee. I think it’s the devil’s brew and should be banished. But when I need that shot in the arm, that extra something to kick-start my day, I cannot fathom a world without coffee. And then there are days I don’t care one way or the other. So, yes. Depending on the day you catch me, I hate or love coffee and want it banished or available everywhere. Or I just don’t care about it.
And in other scenarios, this is me:
“You’re a sexist, racist asshole? I hope you suffer.
Hurt a child, I want you dead. In almost every other scenario, I’d like the criminal to rot in prison.
Green Bay Packers or the San Francisco 49ers? San Francisco 49ers all the way and all the time.
Football or basketball? I’m not sure. Some days it’s football. Some days it’s basketball. I love them both but no real favorite.
Tea or coffee? Tea. Especially Indian chai with milk and sugar. Well, sugar free.
Wheat or rice? Neither. Oats and quinoa for me.
Dogs or cats? Dogs.
Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel? Fallon. Not because of the jokes, but because he just seems like a nice guy. Kimmel is a mean f*ck.
Jimmy Fallon or Seth Meyers? Can’t say. Both. Neither. Both are nice. Both crack good jokes. Meh. I really don’t care. Seth Meyers or Stephen Colbert? Can’t say. Both. Neither. I really don’t care.
Broadway or Hollywood? Hollywood. I’m a film person all the way.”
And so on. You get what I mean, right?
I think that one of the biggest issues facing our world right now is the expectation that we all have to take a stance one way or the other and be on that same side for everything. And that is unrealistic as f*ck. I am a liberal and I still want the death penalty. I absolutely believe in a woman’s right to choose (her life, her body), but I also hope that women will make the right choices in their lives. And no. I don’t see any hypocrisy in this. That’s just how it is.
And I hope that folks like me—the in-betweeners—get their voices heard in the world.
A few minutes after I wrote this article, I started watching this old Wimbledon Finals tennis match between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal. A cousin joined me. When I asked him who he supported, he shrugged and said, “Meh. I don’t care either way. It’s just a game and both these guys…they’re the same.”
Given that I worship on the altar of Federer and that I would change my name to Roopa Federer if I could, I was incensed my cousin was just meh. I just couldn’t figure out how anyone could be so blasé and indifferent in this scenario. Both players are so different. Roger is a grass court player. Rafa excels on clay. (And yes. I call them Roger and Rafa because in my mind we’re all besties.)
Sure, both players are gentlemen, but stylistically, they’re so different. It’s clear. You have to pick one of the two. If you’re Team Nadal, you cannot be Team Federer. If you’re Team Fed, you cannot like Nadal. I was so angry I started yelling at my cousin. The more I yelled the more nonchalant he got.
I screamed, “You’re kidding, right? This is you making one of your infamous jokes. Come on dude…this isn’t funny. You gotta pick a side. You’re either Team Fed or Team Nadal. There are no f*cking shades of grey here. It’s clear. Pick one. Team Fed or Team Nadal.”
My cousin just laughed and ordered pizza.