It is sad how easy it is to create division through the use of labels and how quickly some people attach them to their enemies and then use them as weapons in their ideological battles — particularly when it comes to political discussions.

Labeling someone this, that or the other thing in the midst of an argument, disagreement or debate and lumping them into a bundle of whatever group they disagree with is a tool of the weak-minded usually worded like this: You and you’re (insert political party here) friends.

It’s a be-all, end-all grenade launched to put an exclamation point on whatever point is being made and it seems like all of us are guilty of using it at one time or another.

If Jack believes this, he must be a liberal or a Democrat. If Jill believes that, she must be a conservative or a Republican.

In realty, I like to believe most people sit somewhere in the middle and at the end of the day they are mostly focused on what is best for themselves, their friends and their families regardless of party platform.

Sure, there are those who bleed blue and those who bleed red. I find they are the type of people who find a single issue or two that they agree with — emotionally charged topics like abortion rights or gun rights — and then toe the party line regardless.

They disregard the idea that maybe everything isn’t black and white or red and blue and, in the process, fail to understand there are other shades involved that influence what a person says or does.

Until we all realize that this is possible and — gasp — OK to disagree about some things and agree on others, we are never going to get together as a nation. We are going to continue to drift apart.

Since I started down the political column road a few years ago, I’ve found myself staring down the barrel of many label grenades even though I’m not loyal to any political party, politician, association or stance.

I do have a tendency to appear to lean in one direction more than the other based on what I have written, but I would counter that most times I point out flaws on both sides of the aisle while calling out the hypocrisy I see in the media, in Washington, D.C., and in St. Paul.

One problem is when we fire off the labels and lump people into neat little piles of liberals or conservatives, democrats or republicans, we often don’t know the individuals they are targeting and don’t bother to get to know them.

And so brick by brick we put up a wall between each other through because we either lack the skills necessary to communicate, or we just don’t want to for fear we might actually be closer in thought then we even realized.

Finger pointing and name calling is much easier, especially for those who believe they are intellectually superior to the rest of the world.

The other thing I’ve learned over the past four years is people see what they want to see — or in this case read what they want to read — and when they are stuck in their own little political bubble it is difficult for them to see through the haze. Knowing that, I can understand why some assume — wrongly most times — that I am a card-carrying member of one particular party.

And while it shouldn’t matter how I vote, or what my personal feelings are on any given issue, for the sake of clarity and in an attempt to teach by example, I’m going to lay it out there for all to read.

The goal here is to promote the idea that we can have differing viewpoints from each other but at the end of the day we are not all that different, or at least not different enough to take every perceived slight via opinion offered so personal as to illicit the type of highly charged emotional reactions we’ve seen become the norm.

I’m not going to get too personal here: Some things are none of your business. And I don’t want to know how you feel about them either.

But I’ll touch on some quick ones.

For example, I hunt and believe in the Right to Bear Arms but I’m not a member of the National Rifle Association. I joined once, because it was a requirement to become a member of a local shooting range and it came with a duffel bag and a magazine subscription.

I let the membership expire at the end of a year.

On the blue side I think all college loans should be forgiven immediately regardless of income. It’s highway robbery and the debt incurred by students to get a piece of paper is crushing our Middle Class and the future of this country.

I voted for Bill Clinton. Twice.

The first governor I voted for was Arne Carlson.

I did not vote for Tim Pawlenty, who hated the Iron Range, but I did go door-to-door campaigning for the late Tom Rukavina (a man who battled Pawlenty at every turn) the first couple of times he ran for office.

He was as blue as blue gets, a Democrat through thick and thin, and he was also a man I called a friend.

He did wonderful things for the Iron Range and his legacy will live forever and although we didn’t always see eye-to-eye on all things politics, I cast my vote for him without hesitation time and time again because at the end of the day he represented me, my family and my friends, in a way that I felt worked best for us regardless of party.

No labels needed.

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