Monday, October 22, 2012

Symbolatry

So despite numerous and nearly ongoing protestations about voting for Obama, I finally did vote today. And,  in spite of my disappointments with his first term and skepticism about his second, I really hope he wins. The thing is, the issues that really interest me: enthusiastic involvement in endless and unwinnable wars, terrifying power to kill anyone - even American citizens - without any kind of due process, the no longer gradual spiral into irreversible climate change, Romney and Obama are, for all intents and purposes, identical on the subject. In fact, in the category of war, Obama is hyped as having an advantage. He is more qualified than Romney specifically because of all the reasons that I am unhappy/terrified with/of the government.

Despite my misgivings, I voted for Obama because he is a symbol. Despite the fact that he's basically doubld down on a lot of Bush's policies, he's a symbol of progress, hope and change. He's living proof that a black man, believed to be a Muslim by a significant portion of the voting public can be elected President. He's a symbol of social progress, a notable benchmark in the (often shameful) history of the United States.

I voted for Barack Obama because I am pro-choice, for same-sex marriage, anti-racism, anti-sexism. I voted for him because I believe in hope and change, even if he doesn't. I know how paranoia sounds, and I am afraid that I might sound a little paranoid. I don't mean to, but I do mean to sound disillusioned and dismayed that the world is decaying right in front of my face.

The generation before mine grew up with the threat - the reality, even - of imminent nuclear war. And although that is still a possibility, it isn't a huge concern for most of us. What is a concern is a rapidly warming planet and shifting social order and erosion of civil liberties. I don't have children, so I have the luxury of taking the long view, of imagining that this too, like so many Cuban Missile Crises, will pass. Fifty years from now, perhaps the climate will have stabilized and world economies will balance out. Maybe polar bears and the island nation of Kiribati will still exist. Maybe our absurd and unblinking allegiance to Israel won't shove us into another war with far more dangerous implications and outcomes.

If the world I hope for is around in fifty years, then voting for Obama will be historically significant. It will indicate the direction I want our country to move. It will be another step in the slow trudge of social progress.

And all things being equal, I have to give credit to Republicans that they are willing to overlook the fact that Romney is a Mormon. There are three possibilities: 1) religion no longer matters, 2) they don't know that he's Mormon or 3) they hate Muslims so much that they would prefer a Mormon.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Let's All Make Snap Judgements About Each Other!

Apologies for covering the same territory, but I still feel as though I haven't been able to fully and clearly state my position.

Facebook is representative of a social change that may be difficult to overstate. Although, since I am not a sociologist, I may well have overstated it with no effort at all. But social media has irrevocably changed my view of boundaries and privacy and what information is appropriate to share. I am an atheist, and this fact can provide context for discussion with my friends, but in another reality, I would likely never mention it to certain (very religious) members of my family. It isn't that I'm ashamed of it, or even afraid of what they think of me, but it provides unnecessary conflict. The age-old warning to stay away from topics like religion and politics is becoming irrelevant.

I know that there are ways to keep your social circles segregated, and maybe I should have been more vigilant, but that ship has sailed. Besides, people like to share their likes. I do too. But I hate seeing cousins and aunts and uncles and friends thumbing Romney/Ryan.

So this is my point about politics. I hate that it makes me dislike people for a reason as silly and abstract as an election. Yet again, I feel the need to insist that I am not drawing false equivalencies. Romney is absolutely not simply a Republican version of Obama. The Republican party itself is an absurd parody of itself; one of the comments I got from my last post on this subject was that the Democrats have women's rights and the rights of homosexuals and other minorities in their agenda and the Republicans do not. I just want to point out that this is true, but it is also an extremely low bar. We should not congratulate Democrats for recognizing women's rights; Republicans should be ashamed of their regressive social policies. But that might just be my perspective, and that of the liberal echo chamber to which I glue my ear.

Here's the interactive part.

Conservatives: I really want to know how you are processing these foundational differences in policy and philosophy. How is socialized medicine anything but good? How is same-sex marriage a threat to you or anyone else? How is it right (much less good social policy) that 1% of US citizens own 43% of the wealth? I'm not really looking for specific answers here; I really want impressions. What do conservatives think of liberals?

I'll go first.

I can distill conservative politics down to selfishness and just being an asshole. So when I find that you as a friend or coworker or family member is voting for Romney, I just assume that you are selfish and a bigger asshole than I had originally thought.

You are reading my blog, so you know where I stand on multiple issues. What do you think about me?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

My Tribe

I really hate sports. I don't hate athleticism and teamwork, but I really hate the blind and frothy loyalty that arbitrary distinctions generate. One football team is no better or worse than another (speaking in terms of value, not ability) and while many fans understand it as entertainment, you don't have to dig very far to find violent and aggressive hostility.

I've written about my distaste for American politics before; numerous times, in fact. It isn't that I inherently hate politics. I actually love politics. Politics are a fascinating blend of philosophy, economics and ethics. And while I really want to avoid sounding like a hyperventilating conspiracy lunatic, I do think that modern American politics is primarily political theater. It's entertainment and we all just play along. We wear our team colors and boo the other guys.

This isn't about to turn into a false equivalency where I compare Jon Stewart to Rush Limbaugh or Michelle Bachmann to Dennis Kucinich and say "see? Both sides have equally crazy people." Because they don't. This is in large part due to the fact that I am a progressive and I can't see Bachmann and Limbaugh as anything other than liars and idiots. I truly believe that the facts of the world bear me out on that. Likewise, Al Gore, Dennis Kucinich and Barney Frank are right when they talk about their projects and causes. I also think that there are some fundamental differences between the driving philosophies between self-identified Republicans and Democrats, and some of these differences are significant and can lead to real consequential policy shifts.

But I don't want to get distracted by all of that. The simple fact that some politicians are right and some are wrong beyond the realm of personal opinion does not change the fact that American political theater is corrosive and purposely divisive. Again, I don't actually mean to suggest that there is a shadow government or reclusive cabal who distracts us with this simulation of control. When I say that it is purposely divisive, I mean that our political system has evolved in this way. No one is in control, in fact. Some people like to point out that big corporations and extremely wealthy interest groups are influencing our government. Kleptocracy and Oligarchy are terms that I hear used frequently on left-wing media (full disclosure: this is the only news I actually consume) but I don't think that these things are accurate. The Koch brothers, reprehensible as they may be, are not interested in controlling the government any further than the edge of their own interests.

I'll grant that the Obama administration has done some fantastic things in the past three and a half years. They have also done some terrible things. Would a Romney administration really be that much worse than a second term for Obama? From my perspective, based on things that actually matter, it would probably be nearly identical (and neither one would be good). In truth, I don't really care who wins in November.

But the thing is that I am going to vote for Obama. Despite myself, regardless of all of the truths that I am conscious of telling me that the current Democratic party and the current Republican party are nearly identical in their assholery and ineptitude and greed, I will cheer if Obama wins. I will be depressed for days if Romney wins.

I may be an independent, left-of-the-left voter, but I am also a Democrat. These are my colors. This is my tribe. I can't stand it when the other team wins. And I hate that about myself.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Abortion in cases of rape

I've said it before, but I think I'll just say it again. I'm not outraged by anti-choice/pro-life people denying abortion even in cases of rape (I'll just set aside incest as a reasonable condition, since it would either qualify as rape or it wouldn't, in which case no abortion is needed). In fact, I find that it is morally consistent with their entire view on the subject and I completely agree with them. If abortion is, in fact, an act of murder, then it makes two wrongs out of one. Simply because it is an inconvenience to the woman (however great) is not an acceptable excuse. In fact, if abortion truly is murder, then the only acceptable circumstance is a case where the life of the mother or child (or both) is in jeopardy.

On top of this, if abortion is murder, then not only should it be illegal, but it should be punishable as first degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder, warranting the death penalty that pro-life activists love so much. It is completely inconsistent to consider the child/fetus a victim except in certain circumstances completely beyond its own control.

When I see a pro-lifer allowing abortions in cases of rape, it tells me that they have not thought critically about the issue. It may be a step in the right direction, but it is still an inconsistent and illogical position.

Of course, I don't consider abortion to be murder. That needs to be made clear. And if it isn't murder, then abortion should be legal and safe and affordable to anyone, regardless of the circumstances of conception.