Don't let your schooling interfere with your education.
~ Pete Seeger

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Original Sin Redux

Yesterday I quoted John Taylor Gatto: “What constitutes a good life is clearly spelled out: self-knowledge, duty, responsibility, compassion, acceptance of loss, preparation for death.” Continuing my discussion from that post, I find it interesting that although Gatto writes in a conservative context when he talks about what constitutes the “good life,” I would call these liberal values. Conservatives feed on television and mindless religion, while liberals meditate and do yoga and dig deep for the Truth. Conservatives drive Hummers and Sequoias and buy slave-labor-made clothes at Walmart, liberals drive Priuses and bicycles and buy from local, independent stores. Conservatives contribute to libertarian think tanks that justify and promote the deregulation that unleashes corporate greed that hurts everyone, liberals contribute to food banks and the homeless. I see lots of old hippies wearing grey hair and wrinkles with pride, and Republican women coloring their hair and trying to look young. On and on.

It’s even worse at the social level. Republicans still refuse to take responsibility for torture, the invasion of Iraq, and the unregulated greed of the CEO’s (who are almost all Republican). They expressed their contempt for life and death by trying to keep Terry Schiavo’s body alive long after her brain had died. They refuse to accept the loss of our place in the world, and our duty to dismantle our empire.

And then I think that that assessment is simplistic – and that in practice, plenty of liberals share the same foibles. Really bad laws, like “No Child Left Behind” and the Patriot Act and the authorization to invade Iraq, received bipartisan support with the “liberal” side fully as enthusiastic as the conservative. It was the “liberal” justices who sided with the big corporation in saying that a private company could claim “eminent domain” and seize other private property from small owners – a travesty of justice in which it was actually Thomas and Scalia who dissented. Despite the actions and policies of Republicans and the consequences of their personal choices, conservatives do frequently claim those values – and sometimes live them. And liberals often do not live them.

Further, though I find the terms “good” and “evil” to be vague, evaluative, and more harmful than constructive, the basis on which Gatto speaks of them makes sense and translates into more useful and clear terms, such as “harmful” and “constructive.”

So I think the line between liberal and conservative is actually not narrow and clear, but wide and fuzzy – a vast grey area with personal choices that end up the same from either side. The reasoning and motivation may be different, but the values are often identical. The seeming wide gulf between us is a construct of the corporate media, which finds great value in keeping the American people divided, our energy wasted in battling against our neighbors rather than in working together to reestablish social equity and make sure our “leaders” are held accountable.

Perhaps one lesson is that integrity is the same, no matter what the religious or political philosophy behind it. Liberals and conservatives are the same: they either express integrity, wisdom, and compassion in each circumstance, or they don’t. And nobody gets it right – or wrong – every time.

3 comments:

Black Diaspora said...

"So I think the line between liberal and conservative is actually not narrow and clear, but wide and fuzzy – a vast grey area with personal choices that end up the same from either side." Seda

I agree.

Strangely, conservatives find it hard to believe that liberals don't see things their way, and liberals find it hard to believe that conservatives don't see things their way.

Their competing world views wouldn't be so bad, but for the attempts of both sides to minimize the other.

At times, the dialog becomes downright hostile, rather than civil, further insulating the two mindsets.

At what is at the heart of it all: survival.

Survival and the threat of loss, whether of a political office, or political power and muscle, is what drives both sides to vanquish the other.

Yet, I see this drive in recent days become something else among Republicans--especially now that they have lost the presidency, and both houses of congress--it has become more vicious, a desire not only to supplant the other party, but to destroy it.

Liberals and conservatives are the same: they either express integrity, wisdom, and compassion in each circumstance, or they don’t. And nobody gets it right – or wrong – every time.

I agree as long as both are operating ethically, but too often the expediency of politics, and the desire to advance, cloud thinking, and lead to claims that elevate the lie at the expense of truth.

Consider Gov. Bobby Jindal's(R) recent claims that didn't hold up under scrutiny.

His lie was a convenient lie, and it went to the heart of his character--a desire to impress and enhance his resume, no matter what.

It's particularly disturbing, because, although he had a national stage and wanted to impress, it wasn't necessary.

Seda said...

Yes, BD, well put. I think the threat of loss is a big one, especially among politicians. Seems to me that most people operate pretty ethically, and then there are politicians and lawyers, and most of them do the opposite. Probably the threat of loss is a big part of that choice.

The best way I've found to deal with the threat of loss is to give everything away in my heart. To embrace the sense that I own nothing. My house, my car, even my computer and the art and designs I've done, the writing I've created, none of it is mine. Only my own life is mine - my responsibility, my honor, my integrity. Then, I can lose everything, and yet nothing.

Black Diaspora said...

"Only my own life is mine - my responsibility, my honor, my integrity. Then, I can lose everything, and yet nothing.

Seda, beautifully, and wisely stated.

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing. To keep our faces toward change and behave like free spirits in the presence of fate is strength undefeatable.
~Helen Keller

Reading List for Information about Transpeople

  • Becoming a Visible Man, by Jamison Green
  • Conundrum, by Jan Morris
  • Gender Outlaw, by Kate Bornstein
  • My Husband Betty, by Helen Boyd
  • Right Side Out, by Annah Moore
  • She's Not There, by Jennifer Boylan
  • The Riddle of Gender, by Deborah Rudacille
  • Trans Liberation, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transgender Emergence, by Arlene Istar Lev
  • Transgender Warriors, by Leslie Feinberg
  • Transition and Beyond, by Reid Vanderburgh
  • True Selves, by Mildred Brown
  • What Becomes You, by Aaron Link Raz and Hilda Raz
  • Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano
I have come into this world to see this:
the sword drop from men's hands even at the height
of their arc of anger
because we have finally realized there is just one flesh to wound
and it is His - the Christ's, our
Beloved's.
~Hafiz