I wonder if there was ever a time in our society when people knew that being proved wrong was really just an opportunity to embrace truth.
Do you know what I'm saying? There must have been people somewhere in our sometimes illustrious world history who had the humility to graciously change their position or concede a point. Right? I mean, with all our closed-minded talk of "tolerance" these days, there has to be a few people kicking around who actually know what it is to be open-minded. To listen and consider information rather than desperately fend off the unfamiliar and unpopular. To actually care more about people than ideas. To rank honest participation in the discussion much higher than winning the argument or deciding the rules.
Are you out there?
Well, yes, I know you are because I've met a few of you. But only a few.
The rest of the world only grants their stingy approval to those they can agree with. To those who think the same, even though that is just an illusion. No one thinks the same. It is a physical impossibility.
So here's the thing. I've felt rather surrounded lately by people who throw their membership in the moral majority around like it's a sledgehammer, destructive, vindictive, and holier than thou. They claim that because they are strong in number that they should use the law to bring the entire community to their ideal standard - for everyone's sakes. And the funny thing is - for the most part, I live on the very same moral plane as these people. I follow the same codes of honor. I cherish the same values.
I'm not kidding. I'm a total goodie goodie. I have never dropped the F-bomb in my life. I've never tasted alcohol. I would rather wear a pirate costume to the beach than a bikini.
I'm one of those.
Until I'm faced with a person who is completely unlike myself. Who uses different words, wears different clothes, and follows a different moral code...and I don't freak out.
But I do feel suddenly and obviously displaced from my own tribe because I don't freak out. Because I don't feel the irrepressible need to make other people more like myself.
Anyone else feel this way? Do you also try to talk about liberty and get blank stares from around the table? Do you also defend the more unpleasant bits of human behavior and get the "you dirty traitor" glare?
I have my beliefs and I feel pretty darn confident that I'm right. But there have been times when I have had to revisit my own convictions and alter my moral course. That is a part of being human. And it's crazy hard. It's also crazy necessary.
I happen to believe there is a benevolent God who has laid out a plan for happiness that I choose to follow. I believe He wants me to moderate my speech, dress, etc. But the indisputable fact is that it is impossible to prove or disprove the existence of God, and my truth can only be my truth.
That slovenly young male who hangs out in a parking lot and has a vocabulary of maybe ten words - at least half of them curse words - he doesn't frighten me. I understand that he grew up with different standards of dialogue than I did. That he speaks the way his family speaks. The way his friends and co-workers speak. I can forgive him that.
I grew up saying "eh" like a Canadian. Who am I to judge?
And that girl who has no clue how to apply makeup and wears tights in place of real pants? She doesn't offend me. She's just trying to feel accepted and wanted, even if it is in all the wrong places. And I would love to help her feel valuable instead of objectified and judged, wouldn't you? I don't fall for that whole slut-shaming myth but I do believe in seeing the person beyond the disguise and most of the time, a slutty outfit is nothing more than a disguise - one that often leads to heartbreaking life experiences.
That raging feminist I love to talk about, with the lame anti-male sign that makes me stare in wonder at the fact that she thinks she's actually fighting for equality - I can honestly appreciate that she thinks she's doing the right thing, even if I disagree to the core of my being. She's out there, taking a stand which is more than what most people can say. So let people have their socialist/censorist protests, whatever they may be. A picket sign and catchy phrase won't change my mind about anything. Ever. I might think that certain people are mentally challenged (sorry), but I promise I won't find them the least bit inconvenient to my position or my life and I don't believe that they're "evil". And neither should you.
And last but not least, that pungent person pushing the shopping cart full of filth and begging for quarters - the one you pretend not to see or smell - I could imagine that I know exactly how he got to this ignoble place, but I'd be full of crap. I couldn't possibly know. How could any of us possibly know? The only thing I do know, is how my God treated people like him...
...how He treated people like all of them.
I'm not a great person. In fact I'm deeply and hopelessly flawed.
But I have learned one thing at long last. People matter more than policy.
PEOPLE MATTER MORE THAN POLICY.
Yes, I just shouted that at you.
Being a part of some moral majority (or angry minority) does not grant us the right to be so bloody scornful. Or to fearmonger.
I was told recently that my failure to feel threatened by a group of trash talking males must indicate that I've never been in any real danger. That is correct - in fact, it's my point. I've lived across the road from drug and arms dealers, had a mentally ill neighbor threaten my life, been evacuated more than once from a NYC subway for bomb and anthrax threats, even had a deranged ex-family member try to break into the house when no adults were home. And no, I don't think I've ever been in any real danger. Because we, in our pretty little western bubble, aren't often in real danger. But we tend to imagine that we are, perhaps to feel like we aren't so removed from the rest of the world. That we aren't so ignorant or so privileged.
Tell that to someone living in Nigeria.
I would suggest that you're not really afraid that loitering youths are going to cause you harm, but that you are actually afraid of being forced to confront differences you aren't very good at handling. If a homeless person asks you for spare change, they have not hurt you. If an unruly teen spews a long string of curse words within your range of hearing, he has not hurt you. If a scantily clad woman walks by you in the grocery store, she has not hurt you. If protesters carry their signs and chant their slogans past your place of business, they have not hurt you. There is no danger. There is no threat.
Except for the danger and the threat posed to these individuals by the moral majority and their ideas of coerced decency.
You can argue that there is a "potential" for vandalism or underaged drinking or harrassment or whatever if that makes you feel better. But if people commit a crime, we punish them according to the laws that would punish us for the same act. The law already protects all of us from harm.
The real issue at hand is whether or not it's a good idea to legislate morality. By that I mean creating laws that don't have anything to do with criminal activity, but are meant to punish people for behaving immorally, according to a very narrow selection of philosophies. It's giving government and police the power to usurp human rights in favour of making the more "respectable" part of the community feel more comfortable.
Comfortable. Oh yes I did.
Comfort is not a human right and never can be. Freedom of speech, movement, worship, and association - now those are human rights.
We talk much of democracy and it is the cornerstone of freedom, but it was always meant to be the best way to protect the rights of the individual. The mob can never be allowed to form a tyranny. That's not what democratic people do.
And once we give the government the power to control even a small portion of our lives - they almost never give that power up. They keep it far beyond its intended usefulness. And then that power is used against those who fought for it in the first place. The moral majority wants to ban unacceptable language but is horrified when that same ban is used to prevent a family from praying over their food on a picnic in a public park. They're happy to outlaw a protest one day but howl in rage when that same law prevents a club fundraiser or church barbecue.
Our own moral code reigns supreme on our own property, as it should. But the public arena is a place designed by nature for differences. Government is formed to protect those differences, not to sort, rank and quell them!
It's not the moral code that even matters - it's giving authority to government to dictate what the moral code is. You will agree with the town council or federal government one day, and disagree with them the next. They should not have the power to tell you what is right and what is wrong, unless an actual crime has been committed. An actual crime. With an actual victim. Instead of an indignant "model citizen".
So what do we do with people who are rude, inconsiderate, loud, obnoxious, and vulgar? It's a legitimate question and we can look to our own moral code for the answer.
We love and respect them anyway - and more importantly, we give them reason to love and respect us! That goes a lot further with people than unfair and discriminatory laws. These are people who feel our judgement every time we look in their direction. But what if that wasn't the case? What if they weren't made to feel like it's us versus them?
Think of every encounter with someone who appears to you to be a little rough around the edges as an opportunity for the moral majority to become more patient, kind, and just. Golly, but we need that.
We need them. We all need people who are vastly and irreconcilably different from ourselves.
And if we are free, then so are they.
*As always, I welcome you to retort on your OWN blog. If you can't respect my position, you must at least respect my liberty. Thank you.