Musings from Rochester, New York - or, "how I avoided studying this morning."
You know, all this lunacy about Republicans and the Christian Right is driving me to distraction: The Noo-Q-Lar option. Darwin in the courts in Kansas with the goal being Creationism in the Classroom. Creationism already implemented in Ohio. Non-Christian, Non-Traditional folk relegated to official second-class status with the blessing of various agencies and officials . . . while the officials themselves are either guilty of buggery ( John Aravosis catches Republican Mayor cruising for sex with men ; New York Times reports Spokane Republican Mayor crusing for sex on gay.com, giving jobs for hush-hush ) or pay their own wives to allow sodomy in the Christian Marital Bedroom ( Jesus-based FDA/Health & Human Services MD-Type Doctor pays own good Christian Wife for hot Anal and Blowjobs ). Meanwhile, all poor Congressman Sherwood (R - Pervert) wants is a back-rub and he wants it so badly he is willing to wring your neck to get it . . . while his friends at the Family Research Council claim that religious bias DOES make a good Federal Judge. Oh - if you don't know those two references? You damn well better start reading a bit more.
Speaking for myself, I cannot fathom where the Christian or Republican Citizenry in this nation get their ideas and their blind adherence to these incompetent leaders (and there are many, many more than I have mentioned - I have limited space and time: I have a life). From where I stand today, I see the Republican supporters among us engaging in a willful closing of eyes, ears, and mind with the sole guiding principle being "believing hard enough will make things better." And that belief can be anything. For example, "Jesus." Or perhaps, "the Republican economic model works." Or even "Republicans are the party of strength." Or, "Democrats will take my guns and beer."
As a liberal, an observant Jew (who, sadly, has to study on Saturday), a gay man, and a person in recovery (which means trying to practice both openness and objectivity in all things), I just plain don't "get it." Not one damn bit. On a most basic level, words and actions need to match - and the Good Republican Folk noted above are not exactly in-sync with their mouths. Forget "principles" for a moment because, for the duration of this paragraph, I'm willing to ignore the idea that a government of the people, by the people, for the people needs to serve the people. ALL the people. Just focus on the word "hypocrisy" because it applies.
Paragraph over and "We the people" again applies. Principles do mean something, after all. Any three-year-old betrayed by a parent's false promise can tell you that.
Speaking from my experience, for a long, long time (both as a teens-and-twenties Republican - for which I am still atoning; now as a Liberal), I have watched Fundamentalist Christians and Republicans push my former home, The State of Ohio, a bit further and further right with the average Ohio citizen just cheering these bastards on.
Because of this experience (spanning 36 years), I have reached the conclusion "choke them with what they want." Somehow, the bottom line for many in Ohio seems to be "my decisions are based on my wants and my wallet, and all the rest be damned." To illustrate, my own gay-supportive, loving, kind, and generous Jewish Step-Father voted for Bush. Shortly thereafter, he called me in disgust about the Schiavo case, saying, "This is disgusting! Why can't they just let the poor woman die with peace, dignity, and respect?"
He was equally disgusted a few months prior, when Ohio enacted the most Draconian "Family Values" constitutional change - a change that made gay and lesbian folk official, second-class citizens in Ohio.
He keeps saying, "I can't believe people still think this way! I thought we had progressed!" Never mind that he, himself, voted for Bush; for the Republican Governor of Ohio, Bob Taft; that he has voted down progressive education reforms; or, instead of pumping money into his community by supporting tax-based investment, he chose instead to take his tax-cut to the Jaguar dealer. . . twice. Never mind these same people my Step-Father voted for have flat-out proclaimed their Christian stance and guiding principles . . . stances and guiding principles that are overtly at odds with my Step-Father's own. He yet votes Republican because "Republican is good for business; growth in business under Republicans will level the playing field for all people."
After 25 years, I'm still waiting for that great leveling - or is that leveling possibly the poor economic times that are collectively hitting our wallets?
When the anti-gay change was voted into the Ohio Constitution, as when the Social Security "reforms" threatened, my Step-Dad exclaimed over the phone, "This is terrible! We should call the College Republicans!" I frankly hope he has called the College Republicans: he, like most people in Ohio, desperately need a wake-up-call.
Like the alcoholic, addict, or compulsive gambler, he will only open his eyes and really see when it hurts - and what amazes me is while he expresses his disappointment, it's not hurting yet.
Let us be honest with each other here on Julien's List: does ANYONE here think the College Republicans give a damn about my Step-Dad and his outrage? Especially when those College Republicans see a guy who owns a mid-sized business, two Jaguars, and has enough gray hair to announce his impending retirement (which means he starts dipping into the Social Security pot)? Do the College Republicans really care what my Step-Dad thinks, outside wanting to insure they get his donation dollar?
Given what has happened in the nation, can anyone here offer a rational reason for why my Step-Dad is still voting Republican (which I am now encouraging, as I want him to "hit bottom" faster: I can't take more of this craziness)?
As far as I can tell, the only person who does not see the picture clearly is my Step-Dad; the man with his ideals in his heart but both hands on the his wallet.
Despite listening to the news almost all day, my Step-Dad really has no idea what is going on - which is no surprise as, like most of his peers, his "news" is either FOX or CNN on the television, droning on into the background. FOX? CNN? McInformation for the McBrain - and supersizing does not add any information or insight, just more jingoistic propaganda.
Holly, a poster here, a dear friend of mine in the 3-D world, and an Ohio resident, keeps saying to these Ohio and Ohio-like folk, "educate yourself, educate yourself, educate yourself!" She's right: these people need political education. But just saying "educate yourself" without presenting the evidence and then being willing to fight - and fight both vigorously and mercilessly - is an exercise in futility. What Ohio starkly illustrates is what Republicanism is about: it's about not thinking too much (FOX, CNN) and simple greed. Besides, people like my Step-Father think themselves already educated. For people like my Step-Father, despite having decent, humanitarian views, it's not really the Republicans who are the real problem. It's us - the liberals: if we were doing "our part" (whatever the hell that is), we would not be in the boat we are today.
Amazing how some Jews still live near De-Nial in the post-Egyptian period, huh? Amazing, too, that De-Nial is not just a river in Egypt anymore: it's a veritable flood covering the nation.
I think that riff about my Step-Father illustrates "Typical Republicanism" vividly because I think his ideas are rather typical for his demographic: this is rugged individualism gone beyond the point of "working for self" evolving to "screw you - because I am entitled." Or, in a word, "mine." If I "think Republican" and I "act Republican," then the Republican philosophy means I get more of mine - and I get to keep mine, too. That is why, as a gay man with a complicated life, I was once a Republican as well.
Never mind that I (and all others like my Step-Dad or me) helped make Ohio the potential new home for "The Creation Science Museum." Or a place of rampant unemployment. Or a place with crappy public schools. Or a place where people are leaving because it is a place that is, frankly, a lousy place to live.
Why did I change my own views? I guess I somehow evolved beyond the point where "mine" mattered so much and "ours" and "us" mattered more . . . but I still can't see what Blue Folk in Red Ohio will gain by fighting in street protests: in Ohio (and places like Ohio), willful, prideful ignorance leads the Republican majority - and that majority is smug, arrogant, and winning every election. Those with enough power, money, and influence to actually make a difference in Ohio, assuming they even give a damn, either cower in fear of reprisal or, if they see us in the streets, just close the windows, dismiss us as "damn hippies," light a cigarette, and consider what else they can buy with their state-subsidized comfort, all the while muttering about what is wrong with the nation.
What about those who fight?
Consistently, I see those who fight are swept up in the Rightward winds. The locals successfully label them as "obstructionists liberals embracing the cult of death" (like any of us "LIE-bruls" really give a shit what names they call us); the State's Republican Party successfully portrays themselves as the party of prosperity, decency, honesty, courage, and strength; the "decent people" like my Step-Dad vote Republican yet again; and more insanity ensues.
I really don't know what other option exists for us left-of-center folk outside "get behind and push, push, push 'till the train derails." We may be fighting, but we left-of-center folk are doing such a poor job that, outside embarrassing Microsoft, we are no longer a blip on the political radar.
Other than pushing to help derail the train, what other choices are there?
If you have any insight as to options, please tell me: Outside this lovely Blue Zone where I live in New York State, I see little hope. Most of the nation seems like Ohio today and that worries me.
I have grown to suspect we may be in the earliest stage of a Second American Revolution - the gap is *REALLY* that big (trust me: having lived first Red State and then having moved Blue State, the enormous cultural differences are notable).
I think, to some degree, I will always carry some regret about my former Republican affiliation. There was a time, when this Republican movement was in its infancy in the early 1980s, that I embraced it - was in love with the whole Reagan thing. And, like all delusional moderate-right types, I said days like today would never come, despite people (like my former Rabbi in Cincinnati) telling me otherwise. . . and telling me nearly two decades ago.
Well, I was clearly wrong in my prediction (not to mention in my politics).
One thing that gives me hope is I am seeing that, in the Blue States, there are many other people like me (i.e. "liberal, progressive"). Perhaps with some savvy planning and action, we can at least keep our home a great place to live, even if the rest of the nation does go down the shitter.
As an interesting, relevant aside inspired by "the shitter" comment: Once I turned liberal, I remember driving the Ohio highways and seeing these small towns of 200 to 500 people out in the middle of nowhere.
These towns were just amazingly economically depressed. In one particular case, a closed rail-yard stood near the town. That rail-yard, once a point for carrying local agricultural products into the nation, was abandoned and rusting into a blotchy orange haze. In another town, a huge, decrepit factory loomed in the background. The factory clearly had been closed for decades. So many windows had been knocked out of the factory that I could see sunlight and sky through the dark, immense hulk of the building.
My heart really bled for people in such towns: the poverty in these places is just amazing - bordering on third-world.
One day, about five or six years ago, in passing through just such an Ohio town, I encountered a huge anti-abortion rally. The people were clearly poor as hell - it showed in their clothes and faces. The protestors were also clearly in a furious rage about abortion, yet they also seemed to have little appreciation for the fact that the now-closed factory, where many of the town's residents once worked, was the source of their misery. Abortion was not the real source of their misery - that few had jobs with a living wage somehow seemed more pressing. Despite the bad times, though, the frothing protestors just did not seem to "get it," as I don't "get it" with how Republicans think.
It was in that moment, watching the protestors rave while I waited at a light, that I realized these very people, whose suffering weighed on me, hated me (gay, Jewish, liberal) to the very marrow of my bones. Despite my deepest desire to make our society something that supports these very people with dignity and respect, I was "THE LIBERAL" and was, therefore, the enemy.
It was a spine-tingling moment for me.
Strangely, I still give a damn about those people in that little town (and all similar people and similar little towns, too). I still give a damn despite the fact their votes show they despise me even more than they did five or six years ago.
Today, however, I am also unwilling to let my friends, family, compatriots, or my political affiliations get dragged down into a slug-fest with these folks. For some reason, they just plain do not want what we have. I am not about to try and force it on them, either: I am done with trying to change hearts and minds.
While we need to work on making a better message (think "Lakoff"), I have learned one just cannot successfully fight mindless belief or sentiment in a rational way (which has been the way we liberals like to fight).
One has to fight blind belief with the same sort of smoke-and-mirrors flim-flam that has these folks so riled up of abortion or guns or gays in the first place . . . despite that plenty of them may not have dinner tonight or heat in the house tomorrow morning.
Reagan was truly a bastard: His administration laid the ground-work to create "today" and now . . . well, now we live with the logical outcome of the seeds sown 25 years ago.
To end on a positive note, though, there is hope. From what I see in the North East, there is hope because there are still enough forward-looking, progressive people to make a difference. God knows, when I moved to New York State, I was relying on it.
I just hope that those Blue Folks in Red States quickly come to understand we will need them here, very, very soon, in our Blue Bastions.
It's not just that their own Red States that are the problem: the problem is growing. The Reds have already fallen to Republican Rule and have now turned their eyes towards us. I've seen some Christian Coalition types holding protests in Western New York - a trend that, according to my neighbors, simply did not exist in years before. Those hosting the protests and rallies reveal who they are in their Southern Twangs and Midwestern Drawls - their very own mouths mark these invaders as "different" from local New Yorkers.
The Red States have fallen. Make no mistake about it: those small Ohio towns portend more of the same for a number of years to come - both in Ohio and in other places like Ohio. I tirelessly urge Blue Folks in Red States to look into moving to a Blue State because this Culture War is not over - and now our own Blue Holdouts are under assault, by the same people, too.
I can assure you Blue Folks in Red States of one thing, without doubt: it is exhilarating to live in a place where nobody gives a damn about who is doing what to whom in a bedroom; where one's value is judged by how one contributes to one's community - not by one's face or color or ethnicity or faith or orientation; where one really is an equal in a community of fellows. The Christian Judicial Enforcers, the Darwin Thought Police, the Jesus Brigade, the Secret Buggering Sodomists (both online on gay.com and willing-to-pay out of a Doctor's salary) . . . and even lonely Good Christian Republican politicans who would strangle for a back-rub don't quite realize the good Blue States stand for.
I suspect that lack of understanding is why they want to crush us.
But I can only suspect - as I still don't understand despite trying. And it's driving me to distraction.
And, as I stated before, If you have any insight as to options, please tell me: Outside this lovely Blue Zone where I live in New York State, I see little hope. Most of the nation seems like Ohio today - and that worries me.