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L.A. Weekly cover George Bush as vampireAs I was painting this weekend and thinking about John’s posts regarding how we should all get along, liberals and conservatives, one thought congealed in my head: Social conservatives are the ones setting up the fortresses and attacking to “protect” a way of life that is not in danger. Giving gays the right to marry, say, will not take away conservatives’ marriages to their opposite-sex spouses. Letting a woman choose will not, say, force conservatives to have to get an abortion.

Coincidentally, this concept was laid out in a funny Op/Ed piece in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday. (It’s remarkable that the same concept was discussed in the column, but also incredibly remarkable that I saw it since I never read the Op/Ed page!)

The article is here. [NOTE: This now links to The Washington Post because the Los Angeles Times makes you pay for anything archived.]

When I then recall an interview from Salon.com last week with an überconservative whose goal is, in fact, to divide the nation, I have to assume that conservatives do not want to get along. My friend Steve even sent an opinion piece from the New York Times discussing the same concept of planned divisiveness.

They do not want to get along.

What conservatives want is not something for which they can be met half-way. How do you meet half-way on gay marriage? Civil unions? I need not point out again that “separate but equal” is not, and never will be, equal. America is better than that.

Social conservatives’ motives go beyond just “protecting marriage,” though. Some of the 11 anti-gay state initiatives that won last Tuesday include additional language to make civil unions unequal to marriage, gay or no. Social conservatives are not afraid of gay marriage, but of “gay” in general. To them it is an abomination, no matter what you say, so they desire nothing less than to remove gays from society. They can’t do this outright, of course, so all they can do is try to “protect marriage” from gays. It is merely one step to them. Removing gays from teaching and from the military (beyond don’t ask, don’t tell), these are next steps.

Liberals, on the other hand, are just asking for equality. Such a request puts no burden on conservatives, it asks them to do nothing they do not already do, and to lose nothing they already have. They can keep living the life they are already living, without detriment. Yet they will not allow it.

Things have changed in this country as far as social equality. But they have changed exactly because people have not backed down, or “calmed down.” The conservatives will, in the end, always lose these battles because I believe we tend to move toward a more accepting and equal society (barring a major dark-ages-type social upheaval in favor of the conservatives, that is). But the conservatives always fight anyway because, as John said, “they” think “they” are right. With the election of Bush, social conservatives will continue to barricade avenues of progress that have yet to be opened to those not subscribing to their ideals. If things go as Viguerie hopes (see Salon.com article above), previously open avenues will be re-barricaded.

Liberals and progressives believe they are right, too! They think their beliefs are better than everyone else’s because these beliefs err on the side of inclusiveness and tolerance. I dare to argue such beliefs ARE better.

My improv buddy Lori, who spent days in Florida working to un-elect Bush, said this to me last Thursday: “There is room in my world for them, but there is not room in their world for me.”

Bush was—is—all about bigotry and divisiveness. Those of us who could not reward such a man and his platform and his cadre of staff who support such notions have every right to be upset and angry that he is remaining in office. If anyone wants to get along with the other side, it’s us, but to them, we should be spat upon. Or, at the very least, we should obey. (Thus the pic for this post!)

That is the crux of it. That is why there is an “us” and a “them.” John is right that we need someone to come along who can speak to everyone. But there is no one right now. In fact, I don’t know how to balance a platform of equal rights and inclusion with a platform of God-given superiority.

3 Comments

John Expounded Thusly:

I’ve no doubt Lori is a wonderful person, and that she believes what she says, but I think her words (forgive me, Lori, who I do not know) are exactly the problem: Neither side believes the other.

The conservatives don’t even TRY to believe that “we” are not out to destroy their way of life, that we are not looking to undermine every tradition and convention they hold dear. Many of “them” absolutely cannot and will not believe that.

On the other hand, I don’t believe (again, not knowing her) that there is room in our world for “them.” I get sick of people I know badmouthing Christian TV when it pops up on the screen, or lambasting Pat Robertson when he rears his head, or even mocking Scientologists for believing what they believe. (The core of that argument, I truly feel, is that most liberals cannot get over the fact that someone who is hip, cool and progressive could be deeply committed to something as “backwards” as a religion, so they try to find ways to knock down those beliefs.) Does Lori believe that if someone moved into her neighborhood/building who had a pickup truck with a gunrack and an anti-abortion bumper sticker, and who carried the Bible with them wherever they went, she’d befriend them and invite them to the movies, shopping and dinner?

Here’s the thing: The media (yes, the horrible, terrible Big Media) represent BOTH sides in the extreme. Want to show what “liberals” are like? Put up a picture of a hairy-legged girl hugging a tree or some images of half-dressed muscleboys parading around as nuns on Halloween and KISSING!

The media are not able to convey lives like mine easily — a life that would be boring for most men married with four kids, uneventful for a preacher from Kansas. The media are also unable to effectively show Christians (or any religious people, really) who believe in tolerance, inclusion and the Golden Rule and live life by those standards. Or Midwesterners who shop at Barney’s.

Everyone today wants things wrapped up in a pretty picture — something they can get in two seconds, and form an instant opinion. It’s kind of like that marketing article you posted, except with real life people.

In the end, I think the Republicans/conservatives are, ironically enough (considering the type who run most marketing and advertising firms) just better at media packaging than we are. To our detriment.

In the end, though, if we’re REALLY serious about “coming together,” then we need to practice what we preach — regardless of whether we think the other side is doing the same. That’s not the point. The point is to put on our best face to the world, no matter what anyone thinks.

Unless Disney HR is involved. In which case it’s OK to be impolite, smug and rude. Because they’re not really human anyway.

Wednesday, November 10th, 2004 • 7:25pm • Permalink

Steve on a Monday Expounded Thusly:

Excellent point about us practicing what we preach. Obviously, I’m one of those people who bashes religion every chance I get. I bash it when I see what it causes people to do to others in its name. I move from bashing to debate when I’m with someone who is religious but does not use it to impose upon others. (Matt and Van and I have all had interesting debates, though they have gotten into realms of personal attack.)

What I wonder, though, is if the gun-rack truck guy with the anti-abortion sticker on the bumper moved in next to me would ever want to know me if he knew I was gay. (My stylish new pad would, I’m sure, give that away immediately. HAR DE HAR HAR!) Or if he knew I was pro-choice. If someone puts an anti-abortion sticker on their car, they are not just anti-abortion, they are pro forcing every woman in America into that belief by banning abortion. (If anyone knows someone with an anti-abortion sticker on their car who just happens to find abortion horrendous but who ALSO believes in a woman’s right to choose, gimme a call.) If I put a pro-choice bumper sticker on my car, I am not doing anything to invade or regulate that anti-abortion person’s life. So the truck guy and I would not be friends. Okay, but there are many liberals with whom I would not be friends, either. If the truck guy were anti-abortion and pro choice (see plea to call me above), then we could have some interesting talks! I do not like abortion either.

I like to think my bad-mouthing pro-lifers and other ultra-conservatives comes from a defensive posture. Of course they think they are being defensive, too. But their defense against what they truly believe is an attack on morals interferes with other peoples’ lives who are not living the way they think they should. They might have a perceived notion that “non-traditional” lifestyles injure them, but I KNOW you know that is simply not true. Really. They might think a gay teacher will harm their child, but thoughtful people know that the sexuality of the teacher is irrelevant. It’s the person that matters. Thus the likelihood that a child will be abused by a straight, gun-rack-truck-driving, anti-abortion believer is just as possible as the child being abused by a gay guy.

Okay, I know what you’ll say to that. “But they believe in their hearts that being gay is a character weakness and is a sign of a weak moral character, a sign that this person could be more prone to raping young boys.” If you’re going to argue that that’s a valid point, and that that viewpoint is harmless and worthy of my respect on a par with the view that being gay is not a moral flaw, then you’re just arguing for argument’s sake. If we really want someone like that to not be challenged, then that’s just as dangerous a viewpoint.

Of course they don’t believe us. We don’t believe them. Am I supposed to be the one who lies down and says, “Okay, you come make laws making me illegal, and you come beat me up in alleyways, and you come taking away my dignity and pride with hate. I will accept it in my world in the name of tolerance toward your beliefs”? They might ask, “Am I supposed to be the one who lies down and says, ‘Okay, you come make it okay for perverts and sickos like you to have the same rights as me and my wife, and you come flaunt your faggot lifestyle in front of my children, and you make America morally weaker’?”

Which one is the more negative? Which one is the more intolerant? Which one is based on a dangerous skewing of the word moral? Which one is based on a misconception bred in society for centuries?

Lori’s words are still fantastic and true. There is room in our world for those who think abortion is wrong, who do not seek to impose that will on others. There is room in my world for religious people , who would force me to observer their religion when or where I do not want to. There is room in our world for people who do not agree with homosexuality, who would tolerate and live with it instead of seeking to bury it or hide it from sight. That is what she means. There is no room on either side, I would hope, for anyone who is so cruel to others, liberal or conservative.

We do have to put our best face to the world, but we can not be complacent when the “other side” works to remove us from society.

Monday, November 15th, 2004 • 11:43am • Permalink

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