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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Changes ...

Neo-neocon has a good series of essays on changing - in particular, political change post 9/11.

I think that 9/11 didn't change me so much as bring a slew of societal non-discussions into such stark relief. Personally, it was a decisive blow to a world-view that was suffering a long slow death by a thousand cuts.

One of those non-discussions - is America (the Idea, the nation, its people), on balance, good or bad? Radical-chic cocktail party blather could no longer be merely comical. Archly suggesting that the human and moral devastation of 9/11 was causally explained by past egregious American domestic or foreign policy wasn't just a sneering, simpering lecture hall exercise, it was an affront to basic humanity.

That affront wasn't limited to the left. When the "Rev." Falwell said that God had lifted the veil of protection to punish America for its sins, he referred to that statement as "part of a larger theological discussion" (if you define "theology" as the worship of one's own cruel, weak mind and calling that God).

Sins, according to Rev. Falwell & Co. (abortion, pre-marital sex) and Prof. Churchill & Co. (US foreign policy, institutional racism), require that many innocent people be killed. The comparison between these two world-views couldn't be clearer - God and al'Qaeda simply have different criteria.

This "same difference" helps explain why so many "liberals" (i.e., liberal from the eyebrows up) exhibit behavior that can only be understood as obdurate, parochial "worldliness", a chronic validation that won't allow for questioning self/group orthodoxy - the very qualities that they claim make "Jesusland" so detestable to them.

As a lapsed atheist (by the third generation, the catechism had weakened), my understanding is that atheism can be practiced in a hell-fire fashion - the basic tenets are:
  • people are religious because they lack the intellect not to be.
  • there's no Heaven, only Hell.
  • spirituality is treacle - everything has a perfectly deterministic explanation, especially if we can't even form the question, let alone answer it.
The anger and frustration (challenged sense-of-life) of many self-called atheists/fundamentalist secularists is similar to a racist's plight when he can no longer use his epithets freely. It isn't that they don't believe in God - they hate God.

Like Neo-neocon, I also grew up in a liberal/Democrat family. Life was "simple" - liberals were good because we (uniquely) were:
  • intelligent
  • open-minded
  • just
  • thoughtful and caring
Of course, there were some people (of certain religions, nationalities, and opinions) who were held in unwavering contempt but, it was made clear, they had earned it.

But this essay is about change. What I was taught isn't the issue. Change can be about doing something new but, for me at least, more often it's about facing down the "wannabe" - not necessarily to be brave, but to avoid acting (and feeling) like a coward.

I agree with Neo-neocon 's approach - not from liberal to conservative (I've seen that, and visa-versa; take one set of rants, turn them inside out, and presto-chango, shiny new rants - and settle some old scores) but from liberal to ... well, herself. I'm sure there are conservatives doing the same thing.

I'm old enough to remember when Democrats and Republicans could have principled disagreements without carpet-bombing each other. Something has happened since then - I'm not sure we can (or should) return to whatever the basis of that back-then relationship was; comity isn't necessarily an absolute good.

Our national debates need to return to the understanding that liberals and conservatives are two halves of the working center, not extremes trying to garrot one another. There can't be a useful debate between the adherents of "Bu$h=Hitler" and "God hates fags".

In future posts, I'll try to delineate incidents (probably anecdotal), thoughts, and actions that moved me from there to here to ...