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

Sunday, July 12, 2009

An Aside: Why I'm Liberal #1a

The difference between liberals and conservatives, inherent in the words themselves, is that conservatives stand to preserve the good that exists; liberals stand to make things better. Conservatism is by nature reactive; liberalism is proactive. Both have a place in the political order, and both are important in reaching a positive political outcome in most cases. Liberals have a tendency to overreach, to toss the good with the bad in their zeal for improvement, while conservatives tend to cling to social conditions that cause great damage in their zeal to preserve the positive conditions.

The interplay between these forces can, at its best, synthesize unforeseen solutions through respectful, compassionate communication. Such discourse generates new ideas as each side listens to the other. The liberal points out the need for improvement, or the damage the current conditions cause; the conservative then resists this presentation, pointing out how damage will result from the proposed change, or how positive conditions will be lost. In the continuing dialogue, the social needs that are or are not being met become clear, and, from that clarity, new solutions that can meet the needs of society present themselves – often with amazing ease.

It’s rather like a football team, with conservatives playing defense and liberals offense. With the shared goal of creating and maintaining the best society we can be, conservatives and liberals would play different roles on the same team, with respectful dialogue chasing positive solutions down the field.

Unfortunately, I rarely see this in our political discourse. Mostly I see people pushing their particular strategy for social preservation or reform, and when resistance comes from the other side, rather than listening and clarifying those needs that are/aren’t met, and the damage/good because of it, each side starts digging trenches and lobbing missiles. We play on opposite teams, and the goal becomes defeating the opposing team and winning the game. The chosen strategy becomes the need, rather than the means to meet the need. As the attacks escalate, each side grows more determined in promoting their chosen strategy, and the possibility of finding solutions that meet everyone’s needs go unexplored.

A case in point is marriage equality/defense of marriage. The presentation of allowing gays to marry as a solution to the problems of social inequity is resisted by people who value the concept of marriage as it has traditionally been applied through the Protestant establishment of our nation’s laws. I believe that a solution that both reduces or eliminates that social inequity, and strengthens families and communities (including “traditional” marriage), can be found. However, I have almost given up on finding it. The discourse has become so violent, and each side has become so defensive of their own position, that alienation becomes inevitable, and force becomes the means to end to the debate. When I hear conservatives suggest that we address the inequities through other means than changing marriage, it rings hollow; I have not heard them actually listen to us, and I have not seen any sign from any one of them that they would actually support any social action that may improve the lives of LGBT people. Every aspect, even our own natures, is opposed. How then do I find common ground?

To communicate, both sides must be willing to listen, and to respect, believe, and recognize the sincerity of the other side. Both sides must recognize that the other is not trying to destroy society, but to make it better – whether we realize it or not, our ultimate goals are the same. Only then will the possibility of conservatives and liberals working together to create the best society that we can be, be realized.

*Standard note: I value dissenting opinions as crucial to the maintenance of freedom and democracy. While I would like to write convincingly, to influence opinion and sway the balance of power my way, I also consider the conservative viewpoint to be important and meaningful. I do, however, believe that political discourse does not have to be nasty and vicious. I prefer to listen to and respect my political opponents. I ask the same from them.

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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