Pots Clanging in a Dark Drawer

I’m unapologetically liberal – well, moderate, actually, but in today’s political climate, that’s what passes for liberal. I was reading Peter Wright’s post, “Why you should worry about Bernard Eich’s persecution,” this morning, and it seems as good a springboard as any for some of the things that have been bothering me, lately.

My lack of sympathy for Mr. Eich’s career problems stems not from my support of same-sex marriage and his opposition of it, per se, but from the fact that I believe human rights should trump personal opinions every time. What sympathy I have for Eich, though, stems from the fact that I believe every human being has the right to express an unpopular opinion, so long as their behavior and their direction of a public company, should they happen to have such power, are informed by the laws and by the legitimate interests of their customers. Imagine this were another country, in another time, and in order to do business there, one had to advocate the jailing of people who owned “canine slaves” (dogs), or people who forgot to turn their lights off after 10 PM (because obviously, they don’t care about climate change and waste of limited resources we all depend on)? It’s one thing to debate and form good or bad opinions of each other, but when we call for punitive actions – such as boycotts or  firings or demanding resignations and public apologies – it should be tied to behavior. We seem willing to allow corporations and other people a stunning amount of power over us that we are wise enough not to grant to our government.

The only State interest in marriage or sexual activity that I see as legitimate – that is, worthy of legislative interference –  has to do with consent of one of the parties to it. In other words, I’m fine with laws that prohibit things like twelve year marrying, anyone being forced to have sex, and people having sex with bunny rabbits – because we deem children and animals incapable of giving meaningful consent to things, and we rightfully protect them and punish people who hurt them. This should be common sense. The law, in the U.S., is not meant to be based on religion or mere opinion. In fact, one of the founding principles of this country is that the government had no business telling people what, when, or how they should worship or what to think.

It is irrelevant, under law, that you believe a book written by people – inspired, perhaps, by God or their faith in God – 2000+ years ago, said homosexuality was a bad thing according to their particular belief about what “God said.” There are billions of people in the world who don’t believe God said anything of the sort – or that, perhaps, over the years, God’s stance has mellowed on certain issues (like whether it’s okay for us to wear wool and cotton and polyester in a blend, or hold slaves, or beat our children when they misbehave). There are people who believe God commanded them to kill those who believe differently than they believe, and I daresay those in opposition to gay marriage might be horrified to find themselves on the sharp end of a pointy stick. The only thing the State should care about is whether someone else’s behavior is hurting you, here and now, in some tangible way, and whether yours is causing a public safety hazard. Your “freedom of religion” ends when you make a pointy stick.

Being deeply offended doesn’t count, and the US is very specifically not a theocracy, by careful design of its founders. 

I’m deeply offended by people who make crude and nasty jokes about women or minorities, but I have never suggested they ought to be fired, jailed, or put into the public stocks so that we could humiliate them and use them as target practice with rotten produce or bricks while their families struggle to pay the mortgage and put food on the table. Unless their humor is merely the icing on an misogynistic, hate-filled cake of bad behavior towards women and minorities, why hurt their spouses and their children? I don’t think they should be allowed more than one vote, nor do I want them “representing me” in public office – I do believe they should not hold positions of authority and power over others. But unless they’re engaging in discriminatory hiring practices or creating a hostile work environment, I support their right to earn a living and to take care of their families. I support everyone’s right to be a jackass, until it becomes tangibly hurtful or interferes with the rights of others.

I don’t understand the implications, either, that just because I support someone’s right to do a thing means I condone it or want to do it, myself. And you don’t need my approval to exercise a human right, so long as it’s not violating mine. For example, I am not pro-abortion. I have never had an abortion, but the women I know who did didn’t do it as a form of “convenient birth control,” and the notion that they did just sickens me. But it doesn’t matter; absent a compelling state interest to the contrary – one I can’t even imagine, at the moment: A woman’s right to choose whether to be pregnant or not is rightfully hers – and hers alone.

To prohibit or restrict access to birth control, and then argue that a woman should have no  choice but to continue an unwanted pregnancy, is just an added bit of cruelty. I can’t limit that right of choice to “in cases of rape or incest,” because then, any “sanctity of life” rationale completely falls apart – those cases are no more the fetus’s “fault” than cases of accidental pregnancy from consensual love-making. This is simply one of those cases where we have to weigh the state’s legitimate interests against those of the individual.

If you believe abortion is wrong, teach your children that and don’t have one under any circumstances. But don’t tell me you’re “pro-life” and imply I’m in league with baby killers because I’m “pro-choice,” particularly if, in the next breath, you’re arguing for cutting funding to social programs and education, while opposing gun control and supporting the death penalty. Because there’s a name for that: hypocrisy.

We no longer live in a democracy – we live in an oligarchy. I’m pretty sure that folks who hold the purse-strings don’t give a rat’s whiskers about gay marriage or a woman’s right to…well, anything. What happens when these people, their monopolies, and their purchased politicians openly refuse to be held socially and ethically accountable and truly run roughshod over those who depend on them for their basic needs?

Obviously, we have bigger problems than mere “liberal” vs. “conservative” ideologies. What we have is two pots banging each other in a dark drawer, calling each other black. Both are somewhat right; both are horribly wrong. It’s the hand that keeps opening and slamming shut that drawer that is to blame for encouraging the conflict between us pots. My dilemma is that we have a conflict between two things I, personally, hold sacred: human rights and free speech. Democracy vs. oligarchy. People vs. money. (Nothing wrong with money, but it’s a tool for commerce and it shouldn’t have a vote or power over human rights.) These are pitted against propaganda, uninformed opinion, religion, lobbyists, and obviously partisan politics. Which really is B.S. when it comes to human rights and free speech, neither of which should be dependent on any of those things. Not in the U.S., at any rate – this is what, perhaps, distinguished us from other, older nations. This notion that we would not tolerate persecution over certain things, mainly personal things, such as our chosen relationship (and, by extension, lack thereof) with God and with each other and with our government (which, in principle, derives from the consent of the governed). That means we must tolerate some distasteful-to-us things, but it seems people have lost sense of where that line can be drawn – some thinking it can’t be drawn at all, and that we must tolerate all things, even when they are so diametrically opposed that those things are clearly locked in a fight to the death. Meanwhile, we’ve let ourselves be distracted by the nonsense and allowed the fox into the henhouse.

I’m really tired of the people who do the most persecuting of others pretending to be the persecuted. It’s an old, tired, pathetic act that has to stop. Next time you are tempted to say, “Oh, woe is me, those damned [insert ideology here]’s are at it again!” try to focus on specific issues and changes you want to see happen. Find out the facts – the provable facts, not the anecdotal tales of similar woe.

I suspect that the ones who most readily invoke the spectre of Hitler (on both sides of the aisle!) have studied history the least; they use symbols and propaganda easily, but accord and peace and a reclaiming of our democracy – our power as both individuals and people with a common interest in the common good – demand deeper thought and dialogue. And we have to figure out how to like each other better again. I do have serious concerns that we are – in some ways – headed down a similarly dark path to the ones that led to our past “world wars,” but it’s a different path in a different era.

Is it really too much to ask that we all reach out and resolve to work together towards peace and our pressing common needs and interests – and stop focusing on ways to deprive one another of rights and liberties – before it’s just too late?

 

HollyJahangiri

Holly Jahangiri is the author of Trockle; A Puppy, Not a Guppy; Innocents & Demons; and A New Leaf for Lyle. You can find her books on Amazon at http://amazon.com/author/hollyjahangiri. For more information on her children's books, please visit http://jahangiri.us/books.
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8 thoughts on “Pots Clanging in a Dark Drawer”

  1. What, I’m the first to comment? That’s it, everyone else is scared! lol

    First, we haven’t really ever lived in a democracy; it’s just easy for people to spout that type of thing. I also don’t know that I quite believe we live in an oligarchy either; we’d have never gotten Obama elected, let alone Clinton the first time, if that were true.

    Second, you know where I stand in general on the topic of freedom of speech/expression vs consequences. With that said, I also believe that sometimes people go too far in the course of trying to enact punitive measures against someone for what I consider a “slip” here and there.

    Paula Deen is a great example; of all things, for people to be shocked that a 60-something woman who grew up in the deep south during Jim Crow had uttered the n-word, let alone had certain types of thoughts carried over from her childhood, was naivete at its peak. To me, this was one of those times where overreaction was media driven and things just took off. I was more appalled by the Duck Dynasty guy, but for whatever reason people were ready to support him, even though his words were “present” as opposed to Paula’s; so be it.

    When the New York congress passed a law okaying gay marriage, it took a few Republicans to cross the line, with one of them saying his religion (Catholic) was opposed to it but his sense of honor couldn’t be. That was a brave stance but, for someone like us, the only real stance that should have counted.

    Personally, I think we need more brave men and women who are willing to consider what’s right vs. what’s easy. But as big money starts to get deeper into it after the most recent Supreme Court decision, we may get to that oligarchy you fear for real and… well, it won’t bode well for liberal thinking.
    Mitch Mitchell recently posted…Sometimes You Don’t Have Control Over The Goals You’ve Set For YourselfMy Profile

    1. Mitch, I disagree with your logic. I think that the election of Obama fits right in with an oligarchy – because it distracts people from other things. It divides us, as do some of these issues and non-issues that Americans have been fighting bitterly over for the past few Administrations. We’ve proven just how easily we can be sidetracked by stupidity – I mean, seriously, doesn’t our government have much better things to do than to police the marital fidelity of the President? (Or to enjoy the scandal when those most eager to beat the “family values” and “homosexuality is EVIL!!” drum are caught cheating on their wives with their gay lovers?) Good God, the world’s watching – surely we have more pressing issues.

      With all respect to people of faith:

      If your religion forbids a thing, don’t do it. But if your religion demands you trample all over people who don’t share your beliefs, find a small island and buy it… live there with like minded people… let the rest of us get on with living.

      I believe that a great deal of real harm has been done to people in the name of “conversion.” Religion by force isn’t faith. The best way to convert people is to live your life as a shining example of what you believe in, and if people are attracted to that, share your beliefs and invite them to join in your religious community. If God wanted people forced into submission, why give them free will in the first place?

      People shouldn’t impose their own neuroses on others. I’m thinking specifically of religions that DEMAND women cover their bodies lest they tempt MEN to sin – from the protestants in Polynesia to the Muslims in the middle east. MEN: Grow up and be men. Control your own impulses. It’s not women’s faults if you sin. Unless Adam was mentally challenged and Eve was his mother, he shares full responsibility for that whole thing with the apple – so you can just stop trying to blame us for getting kicked out of the Garden.

      That said, if a woman dresses modestly because the sight of her hair or her body is something only God and her chosen husband are worthy to see – and it’s HER choice – that’s absolutely fine. I WISH more people dressed modestly (well, you know my taste in fashion – not going to laugh about it here and now, but I’m still tempted to shop there). I wouldn’t LEGISLATE it, though, or BERATE them for not doing it. I wouldn’t fire them for it unless it violated a written dress code for my business.

      And that leads me to free speech: What someone says as a private individual, when they are not acting in their capacity as a company representative, should not be their employer’s business. I have, in the past, worked with people whose personal views I do not share and (in rare cases) have found mildly repulsive – but if they do a good job and keep those views to themselves during working hours, treat everyone around them decently and civilly, I’m not interested in hurting them. I would expand free speech protections, not narrow them. But I think you and I are in agreement on this: the appropriate consequences of what you say, versus what you do, ought to be the good or bad opinion of others. It doesn’t normally have to be more “punitive” than that unless you’re in a position of leadership or authority OVER others, and therefore in a position to do real harm when you’re entrusted with doing good for all.

      We only get one planet. If you could walk into a rain forest, you might appreciate the great diversity of the planet and wonder why humans are so determined to make it a bland, homogenous place where only “folks just like us” are allowed to fully enjoy it.

      Spoiler alert: the bacteria win in the end. We should all enjoy the years we’ve got, and let others do the same.

      1. And of course I’d have to disagree with yours. lol I think the last thing a potential oligarchy wants is “the people” deciding on someone they seriously hate. Sure, it gives them an open forum to show how mean spirited and spoiled they are, but it also leaves them vulnerable to verbal faux pas’ that could cost them elections, like Romney’s 47% comment. I don’t think they like their hate being on display so visibly, and if they were in power it would be easier for them to hide.

        As to the rest… we pretty much agree there, so nothing more to add. 🙂
        Mitch Mitchell recently posted…10 More Writing Tips, This Time In Three MinutesMy Profile

      2. Follow the links in the post and consider what I said the other day. I think we’ve passed “potential,” and I’m talking about people who don’t need or want a public forum for their ugly opinions, but rather people who have enough money and political influence to rightfully believe that the world is THEIR oyster – the people enjoying the show. They don’t hate. They want power. Hate is something that keeps US from uniting to protect our common interests, and THAT is in their interests. Romney? He may feel that way – or he may simply have been playing to his audience, his financial backers.

  2. Speaking as a Canadian, I am honestly taken aback at the amount of vitriol being spouted in the U.S. against gay marriage. As stated, it is a human right and has been legal here in Canada for several years; basically a non-issue, except among a small minority of religious zealots. My hope is that your country will adhere to “separation of church and state” as professed and follow suit.
    Debbie recently posted…#AtoZChallenge: “Q” is for QUEBEC CITYMy Profile

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