October 28, 2010

Reformed Conservative in a Liberal World

Conservative blowhard commentators often accuse this or that media of being liberal (depending on which media they want to accuse at that particular moment). While I feel the following is true about any medium, I am speaking today about print publishing so will keep this opinion only there. I don't think publishing is liberal. I think publishing is capitalistic. It will print whatever book will make it money. (Or how else could Glenn Beck and Ann Coulter continue to spew their crazy?) The people that work in publishing, however, are predominantly liberal.

This doesn't bother me because I count myself among their ranks. The real challenge is for me to count myself among their ranks. I am a Gen-Xer raised by a Greatest Generation mother. Staunch Catholic brought up before Vatican II watered down the demagoguery, perhaps the best lesson she ever taught me was that she was born in 1930s Detroit and if I saw her react negatively to black people, I should know that she is wrong. That's as far as her liberalism went. Women had gender roles. Gays were unnatural. The pope and his teaching were directed by the hand of heaven. We lived on a street with only one black family (who actually would not play with us because we were white, to flip a presumption on its head). No one had gay children (turns out one of them did, and the family accepted him, but no one talks about it). Everyone voted for Reagan and in turn voted for Bush 1.

I began having doubts in my faith as a teenager. I had separate doubts about organized religion, but a genuine acceptance of god was questioned by a completely separate list (people tend to assume I'm an atheist because of my mother, which is an insult to me and my beliefs and wholly untrue). It began with the separation of humanity from nature. Seeing the pollution and and ecological destruction we wrought on the environment, and understanding the scientific necessities of an environment, I had trouble accepting that God would have placed us to rule over the rest of the world rather than live cooperatively in it. This lead to years and years of questioning.

September 21st, 1996, I abandoned my belief in god and became an atheist (to which I continue to this day). This freed me from many of the obsolete structures of organized religion. I could accept people with differing beliefs because I had no obligation to spread my own. What it did not do was change my long educated perception of homosexuality. If an observation of nature had lead me to question the existence of god, that same observation made me question whether homosexuals were anything more than perverts. They had no means for reproduction, and as an evolutionary animal, they thus fell outside the purpose of our species.

This was not to say I felt them abominations. That's just overly dramatic. I lived in my fraternity house with a gay member (though not roommates; he lived in the room above mine). He always assumed I did not like him because I was an Army ROTC scholarship student. In fact, he just annoyed me because he'd complain how dirty the house was if there were three magazines on the coffee table1.

It was a year or two later, having a peaceable discussion with someone about homosexuality (this was the 90s, so it was only just easing into acceptance by the national consciousness), that I mentioned my difficulty homosexuality. They then pointed me to a study on dog breeds and a few other species that, when faced with overpopulation, would change sexual preference to ebb off their growing numbers.

Boom. That easy. Homosexuals weren't outside of nature. They weren't an abomination. They were quite rightly a result of our own means of ignoring environmental equilibrium. It wasn't just a biological happenstance, it was an inevitability. All right then. I'm sold.

And that's it. I have numerous homosexual friends, some of whom are thankfully far less annoying than my fraternity brother was in college. I support LGBT equality. My state's legislature passed the best gay marriage law in the entire nation23. That's the end of it, right?

Well, kind of. Now it's a matter of degree. I participate to the best of my ability in the pub-o-sphere to which there are people much more liberal than I am. People like the Rejectionist who faced a similar upbringing but rebelled much sooner. Even with all these decisions I made, it took about a decade of living life off the rails before my conscious beliefs and my unconscious beliefs truly aligned. Being part of the pub-o-sphere, though, there is an LGBT cause du jour, effectively. Blog posts, tweets and retweets. It's like a phone tree. You can watch the outrage spread across your friends list.

This isn't necessarily a bad thing. Change is happening--change for the better--and this is what it looks like. I just don't have the energy to get so impassioned about it. I support them in their efforts. Raise a fist, go go go! But I don't have the desire to write a blistering rebuttal to today's offense. I just ran a marathon of leaving behind my Catholic upbringing to one of acceptance. I work daily to remind myself to erase stereotypes, to accept and support my neighbors in their choices.

It makes me feel like an outsider. Often. If I don't retweet this or change my user picture here, they're going to assume that I'm against them. (The with us or against us fervor can get pretty heated sometimes.) But really, I feel I'm the goal. Not the end goal, by any means. Perhaps the Rejectionist is what we'll all become some day. But a successful social revolution will move right-set minds to where I am now. I'm not the outsider. I'm the desired result.

I know this isn't writing focused4, and it may be too hot a topic to even post on, but there only ever seems to be two discussions, white hat or black hat. Just thought I'd raise my hand and say, "Hey, we're on our way, but the road is long."


1 Later of course, he got really drunk, insulted an entire sorority, and told them it was me. To this day, he's never apologized even when I've asked him to point blank. Clearly being gay doesn't prevent you from being a dick.

2 It's relevant to point out that this was a legislative success. Depending on the appeals to recent judicial rulings, those states whose gay marriage is a result of judicial decision will see immediate challenges. Legislative roads are subject only to elections and public referenda.

3 New Hampshire allows gay marriage, but individuals may not sue private institutions like chruches to force them to perform the ceremony. I never even knew people had considered doing this, and am glad the law includes the provision. Equality for all, after all.

4 I do have a few gay characters in my stories. I never hesitate to make them good guys or bad guys because I have no agenda to press. Much like my fraternity brother can be a douche despite his sexuality, homosexuals can be villains or heroes despite theirs. The key is to make sure they are not so because of their sexuality. I do not want to read about a Big Gay Hero any more than I want the Big Bad to wave his evil rainbow flag.

4 comments:

  1. I was raised in a non-religious, Democratic family with accepted gay relatives, so I reached your current state of mind much earlier in life. But no matter what your beliefs are, you shouldn't be pressured to prove them through blog posts, tweets, status updates, and the like.

    If plenty of other people are already speaking up about a cause I support, I tend to stay silent. That way, when something comes along that I am passionate about and fewer people are making their voices heard, mine will have more impact.

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  2. I had tuna fish sandwiches for lunch and macaroni and cheese for dinner every Friday until I left for college. IF for some strange reason we had meat on a Friday (to which I can count on two fingers the times that happened in 17 years), we had to say an entire rosary as penance.

    I do remember being incredibly offended in 7th grade when I won the Most Improved in Religion award. I wasn't the most improved. I knew the most about Catholicism at the beginning of the year. I knew the most at the end. How was that improvement? I posed this query and in a hushed tone, the principal told me that it just meant the most achieved. Well then, funny mustache man, why didn't you call it that?

    Hey everybody, Joe knows more about religion than you do. More than your siblings or your parents because his mom remembers the mass in Latin when there was a screen and they rang bells. He knows all the mysteries of the rosary, all the stations of the cross, and reads through the bible every Lent. Suck it.

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  3. Clearly grade schools need to better categorize and explain their awards.

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  4. I grew up in a very liberal family, dirt poor, single mother of five. She blew away all the standard Republican rants of welfare mothers by going on to get two masters degrees and push all of us children firmly into the middle class. I have conservative leanings on finances, but I am liberal on most everything else. Oh, and I am agnostic because I believe it is more accurate than atheism.

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