Saturday, November 10, 2012
If Liberty can't bend, it breaks.
I'm unloading. I am feeling really really bad about the country right now.
So "This election was ugly and vicious and I'm glad it's over" has all been said already, everybody's sick of the subject, but too frikking bad. Suk it up.
And if so many of us feel apart from the mud war, if the fringe on both sides did it and we Good Guys, liberal and conservative, looked on in disgust and often horror, then why are there so many casualties of the battle?
There's material for TWO posts in this. (1) "We need to get along" and (2) "It's not settled, we still need to fight for our agenda." But this will only be the first one.
My mom had a lifelong best friend, and that friend has a daughter who's one of the kindest, most compassionate, and most astoundingly active conservative Christians I've ever met, in her advocacy for the poor and helpless, her willingness to listen and engage in that civil dialog we keep whinging about nobody doing. Our mothers were very different and took delight in that, loved each other dearly, enjoyed their differences and stayed close for life.
Daughter Jane and I are politcally on different pages, but I'm not sure how different, since we're on similar spiritual pages. Maybe we're an illustration of precisely HOW little correlation there can be between the two.
Or not. I don't really know, because lefties have apparently been so vicious to her that she doesn't even want to talk about any of it. She's retreated from any and all discussion of where we go from here and blah blah, tho she says it's a break while she recovers and processes what went on, including the end of friendships. That means it wasn't just strangers who reamed her.
A break sounds healthy and like good self-care.
But I'm more thinking a temporary break won't help me. When I hate every side, life gets poisoned.
When I was young, elections were more abstract. I cared about the issues, but ultimately, I never felt that the outcome was going to affect my daily life. Many less privileged had BIG reasons not to feel so confident in the system and life's general stability, but I sure did. I got my education handed to me, I used it responsibly enough to get decent grades and a career out of it, I knew my job and car payments and grocery shopping weren't gonna change a lot. I had county health insurance, and once a year I'd fill out all the yellow forms and attach all the doctor's description-of-services things, and get a check back for 85% of everything I'd spent, and do some Christmas shopping.
Elections are not abstract anymore. With a child who has a chronic illness, we will be very directly affected by the winning party. Any attempt to dismantle the Affordable Care act would begin the end of our future. Without the Act, our every resource would be gone in x-number of years, our budget would shrink to a very basic way of life, and we'd have nothing to leave behind. It's that bad.
So elections mean a lot more to me. As genuinely, personally, deeply worried as I would feel if the GOP had won, I understand that that's how genuinely, personally, deeply worried, many GOP supporters are now.
The divide is religion. Even non-faith-based voters have to admit that the GOP fiscal plan would have gained a lot more voters without the social agenda. And since that's a major dividing point in the US population, I can't think of a way for us to live and let live on it.
And if we can't, it really is all over.
And none of us can talk about it, either. There's nothing to discuss. You can't compromise on the uncompromisable.
There is no one I can talk to about this. There is as great an impossibility of my compromising on it, as there is of a believer in Biblical inerrancy compromising on that.
So the problem, I think, is not based on the erosion of civility and the absence of central sources for information and news. Those are huge, but I think they're a result, and the cause is that it took until now for the US to come up against a major uncompromisable divide.
Is there anywhere to go from here? Theoretically it ought to be possible, since freedom for those who choose to live by fundamentalist doctrine should be as sacrosanct as freedom to reject it.
But social conservatives hold the astounding belief that freedom for all impinges on their own freedom. Whether they're right or wrong, THAT is where the dividing line lies. Neither of us can cross it.
I'm grateful to see our kid's medical care safe for 4 more years, but I see the nation with freedom-fatigue, and I feel this weird, slightly paranoid need to put myself and my loved ones in a blue area and give up on coexistence.
In the past, the US concept of Liberty let us be any faith, be atheist, live in hippie communes or Amish communities, or suburban neighborhoods. We've tested it up to this current gay rights/evolution/abortion era and at the risk of hyperbole, it looks to me like we've come to the breaking point. Freedom advocates can't allow freedom of faith to someone as terrific as Jane, and fundamentalists can't let public institutions remain secular. Like metal fatigue, our liberty has lost its ability to flex and it's going to snap.
The one thing I do know is that collateral damage is mounting on both sides. Good people on both sides, people who never engaged in the vicious rhetoric, are being mown down with indiscriminate rhetorical fire by those across the aisle.
It'd be cool if those capable of talking it all out could just do it, set aside and marginalize the nutjobs. But we can't. A lot of us will retreat to writing about weather and hobbies and pets, and give up saying what we think, because the most respectful statement that the other side has a point about anything is likely to get us abused. I've taken the coward's path myself, but that's another post.