As much as it causes me at times great consternation and mental implosion, I do think a lot about American politics, especially in this Presidential election year. For as complex and frustrating as such mulling can be, I get personal satisfaction from trying my best to be an involved and informed citizen, and trying to align the things that are important to me with the things that are also important for my American brethren, and the world's other inhabitants, too. I like digging, reading, synthesizing, working through things, remembering historical patterns of the past and applying everything I know towards future outcomes. It's like a great big puzzle, with pieces that morph into different shapes each time you go back to work on it. There is never any one perfect road to walk nor assured outcome, but I know that my participation is valuable, even though many Americans -- or maybe most -- would cynically disagree with me. The process, the effort, the striving, is good.

Thinking and analyzing and reasoning are the finest assets that humans possess over other species, other than opposable thumbs. I believe this, which is why steam starts to foof out of my ears when I come across conservatives -- sometimes people I like just fine, and whom I think are smart, interesting, and generous -- who put on metaphorical horse blinders when it comes to politics and the choices they make at the voting booth that are often contradictory to their best interests. The "single-issue" conservatives vex me more than those folks who don't think about the issues at all, like the woman who once sincerely said to me, "I don't want to know anything about politics. I'll just vote for any Republican, I don't care who it is."

Before getting into some of the single-issue types, a note: the conservative is often someone who feels most comfortable with the authoritarian model (which, I might add, often clashes completely with a libertarian/rightist desire for small or limited government and claims of individual liberty). In short, they wish for strong, absolute leaders, seen as their superiors in moral fitness and personal power. It's one of the big reasons most people follow a religion: there is a comfort in trusting your fate in a crazy world to someone who seems to have all the right answers. Authoritarian model followers often repeat the pattern in their own homes, where a single family member essentially rules the roost with "because I told you to" and "my way or the highway" philosophies. It's extremely effective...but also doesn't foster the development of higher-level thinking skills. Without those who are willing, able, and allowed to think critically, we cannot move forward to attempt to solve the problems that increasingly threaten the well-being of us all. Now that's something to think about, hmm?

But perhaps the single-issue conservative can be reasoned with. It's worth a shot.

THE FISCAL CONSERVATIVE says: "Why should I work hard just to give away all my money to the government?" "We can't spend more than we earn." "It's a free country; I should be able to spend my money how I want to." "It takes money to make money, so allot our resources to already-successful business job creators." "We cannot increase the nation's debt; it destabilizes us and puts the burden on our children and their children."

YOU say: "First, our country isn't broke in the least. We ran up a horrendous debt very quickly via expensive oil wars and Wall Street bailouts, yes, but we are also continuing to give stunning tax credits to the very wealthiest businesses and individuals. Instead of "trickle-down economics" materializing, those folks have taken the money for personal gains, and have invested in employees outside of the U.S. who will work for far less and have few to no health or safety guarantees afforded to them. Our debt can never be paid off by balancing it on the backs of the middle- and working-class. It can be paid off by insisting that the wealthiest 1% pay the same tax rate as the rest of us. Making the tax code less complicated and less skewed to favor the powerful rich will still leave the rich plenty rich, will stabilize our economy, and end up putting more money back into the pockets of the vast majority of Americans."

THE SOCIAL CONSERVATIVE says: "Why should government be in the business of things that families should be responsible for? Save up your money for health care and a nursing home, send your child to private school if you don't like your public school, save up for college." "Don't give special protections to gays and non-whites; it's not fair to straight white people." "I don't want any government telling me that I have to ignore my religious beliefs; it's persecution to deny me the expression of my values."

YOU say: "Even the wealthiest among us could be bankrupted by one serious illness; the astronomical costs of even basic health care much less advanced or long-term care is beyond the means of us all. Our entire country suffers when we have an unhealthy population with people who choose to feed their family for a month rather than check out a lingering cough. We suffer when hard-working people lose their homes because they cannot pay their medical bills. We suffer when children aren't able to equally access quality education. We suffer when to better yourself through college, you must take a terrible risk of taking on tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of debt, with no guarantee of ever being able to pay it back. Our nation cannot survive with ignorant, sick, fearful, poor, broken people becoming greater in number every day." "If there weren't racists and homophobes by the score still determined to make life difficult or worse for some Americans, then protections wouldn't be needed. Until that time, the government must step in to protect the rights of all our citizens." "Your religious beliefs cannot steamroll anyone else's beliefs or lack of religious beliefs. That's called fairness. It's a general tenet of decent human interaction."

THE 9/11 + ANTI-IMMIGRANT PERSON says: "Islamists will try to take over/kill us all if we don't take severe steps to counteract terrorism." "Illegal aliens are a security threat." "Illegal aliens take jobs away from legal citizens." "All illegal aliens are drug-running, gun-blasting criminals."

YOU say: "Unless you are Native American, consider yourself and all your ancestors immigrants. Immigrants, legal or illegal, often take jobs that no one else will take, and our economy depends on their labor. Almost all of them are peaceful and want nothing more than to earn a living, often impossible in their own countries." "Being a Muslim is not a crime, and most Muslims do not align with Islamic extremists, any more than all gun owners align with serial killer snipers." "9/11 paranoia has led to invasive searches of babies, old women in wheelchairs, your clothes being digitally stripped off your body in order to get on a plane, and laws now allowing the U.S. government to completely override all of your Constitutional rights if someone in the Department of Homeland Security feels like it. The price is too high, and we quickly are becoming the police state that is no better than the regimes of the countries we fear the most."

THE RACIST/HOMOPHOBE says: "(Any ethnicity other than white) and (any other sexual orientation other than straight) are ruining our country with their filthy, abnormal practices and low cultures."

YOU say: Nothing. Just let them hang out and get to know and like some of your friends who are not white and/or not heterosexual. Strongest medicine against prejudice.

THE "BOOTSTRAPS" PERSON says: "No one ever helped me coming up; why should I help someone else who is too lazy to work hard?" "You can't ever learn responsibility if the government gives you a handout." "Why should unions be allowed to have so much power? Why should those people in unions get better stuff than I do at my job?"

YOU say: "There's honor and worth in hard work, and most people do work hard and want to contribute. Providing opportunities for others to succeed, or even get back on their feet, is compassionate and smart." "Realistically, there will always be a small subsection of the population who will not be willing or able to work. Judging them does little to improve anyone's lot. This isn't the Wild West. We don't let people die on the streets...or do we?" "The mid-20th century 'American Dream' of home ownership, cars, college, travel, material goods, increased access to medical care was, in fact, largely fueled by the gains made by unions, forming a comfortable, healthy middle-class. Without the protections that unions provide workers, most of whom earn less than 50K a year, there would be little to protect them from powerful corporate profiteers, where abuses are still seen in developing countries."

THE NRA GUNS ARE GOD'S GIFT PERSON says: "It's our Constitutional right to bear arms, you can't argue with that! I have a right to protect myself! If you take away my guns, only the bad guys will have guns! If everyone carried a gun, everyone would be safer!"

YOU say: "The 2nd Amendment citing 'A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed' to me, as well as many actual real legal scholars over the years, doesn't mean that every nutjob in the country should be allowed to buy a handgun to shove in his pocket and bring along to the mall. Do you really trust people that much? I don't, because statistics show over and over again that if you own a gun, it is far more likely to be used against you or a member of your own family than any 'bad guy' or intruder. A loud barking dog is a better deterrent to a burglar than the idea that Joe Schmoe might have a gun and might be able to get at it and might be able to actually use it competently. Our gun-death rate in this country is an abomination, and concealed carry a serious public threat. George Zimmerman was just itching to use his gun, went looking for trouble, and a teenager carrying Skittles and an iced tea is dead, and Zimmerman, to the day of this writing, is a free man. We will see more of this, and I really don't want to see where it will lead."

THE EVANGELICAL ANTI-ABORTION, ANTI-CONTRACEPTION PERSON says: "All life is sacred and begins at conception! Sex is for martial conception only! All abortions are a sin against God and nature! Abortion is murder! Contraceptives encourage promiscuity, immorality, and are responsible for the destruction of the family!"

YOU say: The toughest one to counter, because none of this is based on reason. "You have a right in America to your religious beliefs, which is what these are. In this country, we also have a commitment to uphold the separation of church and state. Allowing any religious beliefs to infiltrate the law is denying other citizens their own personal choices and beliefs. America was formed as a place to respect the individual and to protect each person from religious tyranny. Zygotes and fetuses cannot supersede the rights of women to control what happens to their own bodies. To deny women this choice is to clearly assign them to lesser human status, based on biology. If you insist that your beliefs are to be sanctioned by the government, you must recognize there would be little difference between America and Iran."

THE GLOBAL WARMING IS A HOAX PERSON says: "It's all crap, no such thing, liberal conspiracy, anti-business! There's scientists who prove it's a hoax!"

YOU say: "There's science, and science paid-for by the oil industries. Every credible research scientist, all of them far smarter than you or I, show us over and over that if we don't make immediate changes in our use of fossil fuels and chemical waste, our planet may not be able to support us within a few short decades. That's going to affect you and your kids directly, and we've done such a hideous job of dealing with this that it might even be too late. It is the single greatest threat to continued life there is. All of us should be panicking in the streets NOW, demanding our government put in place and enforce severe restrictions -- period. The profiteers won't change."

You may disagree with me, or YOU, but what I hope you do agree with here is that we have a lot of thinking -- and talking -- to do.