Saturday, July 29, 2006

If You're Doing the Right Thing, I Don't Care About Your Reason

I look at politics and philosophy from a mainly Libertarian and Existential point of view. Having grown up decidedly poor and achieved a modest measure of success in my life I know that with a combination of luck and work there is still some small measure of mobility in American life. A lot of the times it is luck or circumstance that will open the door, however, to stay in the room takes work.

Most of the time I find myself agreeing with the more progressive and leftist wings of political thought. We get to our conclusions by different paths, but I figure, once there, let's get to work.

I believe firmly in equality of rights in our country. I experienced racism from all sides of the spectrum growing up. As a matter of fact, the first place that I found even a glimpse of equality was in the military. Thank you President Truman. As Commander in Chief, he ordered the military to end segregation and, bless their hearts, they saluted and did so. It took them time. Many still try to return to that bullshit, but they are forced into dissonances, like saluting the uniform on a Colin Powell while trying to ignore the worth of the man wearing it. The military, at first, to address the inequalities that existed did engage in some Affirmative Action programs, but, once the doors were opened, the minorities proved their worth and substance by earning their wings, berets, medals and proved over and over again that we had done ourselves a great disservice by disallowing their contributions. I was proud to serve in the first integrated military since the Revolution. I think our society, albeit in fits and starts, continues to make progress in this area. I oppose turning off the small measures that encourage minority progress and hope that someday our playing field becomes truly level. It's not there yet, and we have to guard against the folks who want to turn back the clocks, but it is an attainable goal. When I'm in one of my better moods I like telling racists that "I'm mixed race, my children are mixed race, their children and so forth will all be mixed race. We are joyfully fucking you and everybody like you into irrelevance." I don't generally like government intrusions into things, however, I can see the need and support the means to achieve these ends the exact same way as someone far more liberal.

Where I get frustrated is when people not only demand right action but right arrival to that action. I am far too pragmatic to concern myself with trivial things like that. Here are some examples I use from my personal life to illustrate this:

I did not quit smoking in the house because I became concerned for the health of anyone around me. I quit smoking in the house before I got custody of my three younger children. My reason was simple, I had some expensive artwork and I didn't want to risk damaging it with gummy smoke. I figure, if the result is no smoke in my house, who cares about the reason it's gone?

I did not start making sure to leave the toilet seat down because I was concerned about the wishes of any woman in my life. Although, since women care far more about whether or not the seat is down, I usually would find it easier to change my behavior than listen to them shouting from the bathroom in the middle of the night; that alone was never sufficient to penetrate my own self-absorbtion. I became vigilant on the toilet seat issue because I had a dog who would check the bathroom right after anybody used it and would drink from the toilet and that grossed me out. The thing is, any woman in my house would be silly and wasting her time to try and align my reasons for doing this with something that she approves of.

I am not against war as an entity or option. I am against the current wars in the mid-East because they are stupid. I will gladly work alongside people who are fully pacifist to achieve the ending of slaughter in these places, and hope that they will be gracious in opposing me should there come a time when our paths diverge.

I have no religion or supernatural belief. I am close with many who do. I don't expect much beyond the freedom to choose my spiritual path. There is a big difference between tolerance and freedom. George Washington once wrote to a Jewish congregation in Rhode Island (you can see his letter in the nation's oldest synagogue in Newport) that had written him asking if they would receive the tolerance of Christians in this brand new society. Washington wrote them back saying that religious tolerance implies that a minority exists with the permission and whim of a majority. Religious Freedom says that they are truly free to follow their hearts and conscience without that permission. This is where the Christian Right misses the essential point. I do not ask for their tolerance. I could give a fuck whether or not my lack of belief offends them. I don't care. The only place where their belief in Jesus intrudes on my life is when they choose to try to impose it upon me. They are not only fucking with me, they are fucking with Washington, Jefferson, Madison, Hamilton, Franklin and John Goddamn Adams.

I am not against Bush's MidEast policy because he's a Christian. Although I think we're stupid to allow people who believe in the Rapture and all that shit any hand in deciding the future simply because these dummies don't want a future, they want the end of the world to happen right away. Somehow I feel that this alone should take somebody out of the running for these jobs. Like I think it's stupid for a pharmacist to refuse on religious grounds (there ain't no morality in this argument) to fill the legal prescriptions of somebody. I don't think that politicians who look forward to Armageddon should be allowed to make policy.

I have a dear friend named Peter who in the late eighties decided to really follow Christ. Peter has since sold everything he personally owned and is now in Zambia feeding and sheltering children orphaned by the AIDs epidemic. Having exhausted his personal fortune doing this, he spends about four months of every year back in this country raising funds. He knows I am a soft touch for things like this. I don't believe in Jesus (Peter hopes in his heart that this will change someday but he never has pushed, prodded or threatened me with hell) but I give generously to his mission because it's a good thing to do.

If the right thing is being done. The reasons don't matter. Reasons matter only when the resulting behavior is wrong and only then as a means of understanding and figuring out what needs to be done to change it.


Blogger Peter of Lone Tree said...

"I did not start making sure to leave the toilet seat down because I was concerned about the wishes of any woman in my life."

The downstairs toilet in our house is backed into a narrow cubbyhole underneath a set of stairs, resulting in me always having to sit even to pee; if I try to stand and pee, I can't get close enough to stand over the toilet, and end up usually dribbling on the floor.

1:03 PM  
Blogger The Minstrel Boy said...

as you might have guessed by now i am essentially a pragmatist. while in grad school i used to needle some of the arty-fartier psychology theorists by stating "there is no god but behavior mod and skinner is his prophet."

1:38 PM  

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