Thursday, November 04, 2004

the election

Hello friends. You know, yesterday didn't go my way after all. It was painful to me on a personal level. I listened to some good music, CDs my brother had made for me, "The John Kerry Mix" and "The John Edwards Mix." He packed about twenty songs on each, some political, "What if We All Stopped Paying Taxes," by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, some emotional, "The Art Teacher," by Rufus Wainwright, the pure beauty of notes fat with longing. So I listened to these on my way to Willie Lee Gay Hall in the south part of town. When you step outside your car there you get a view across a pasture of Reliant Stadium and old AstroWorld rides. That view gives me peace for some reason. I'm in the country, but the city is near. I can breathe full breaths, but the pace is quick just over there.

At certain moments during the listening I teared up. The government, the people, it's all personal for me, as it is for many. It has hit me hard that the majority of folks only want Republicans--the House of Representatives, the Senate, the presidency, and from them comes forth more Rs in judicial seats. The margins aren't slim anymore. Republican agendas can pass without filibusters I heard someone say on CNN yesterday (referring to some specific bill that was blocked last time around). It makes me think of drilling in the arctic, of slowing scientific research, and of political decisions made to garner the economic well being not only of the first family, but of the president's "base," those in the money.

I care about the underdog. I don't believe in looking out for yourself pretty much most of the time, getting ahead, and protecting your own interests. I know a lot of people do. There's merit in self-sufficiency, certainly. But the interests of others shouldn't be neglected while you strive for success. Does that mean we should give to the poor? A complex ethical question, does giving to an individual in need create a dependency that ultimately causes more damage? On a societal level, though, it is a spirit of collective responsibility that we should be breeding rather than one of individual strength. When we are collectively tied and involved, we are well. When we divide with an "I've got to take care of mine" attitude, we are unwell.

To me, the distinction between being a Democrat or a Republican lies here--I am a Democrat because of my compassion for others. And yet, all of these conservative folks see Democrats as the ones who've lost their values, who want to damage the moral conscience of our society. This dichotomy in perception troubles me, especially after seeing a sea of red across a map of The United States painted on Rockefeller Center's ice yesterday.

I went to a Methodist church in Montrose a few weeks back. Those of you who know Houston may chuckle at what I found there, but I didn't have a clue before I went. The congregation was about 90% gay male. I've passed church signs lately that read, "All are welcome." And in my classes we've been talking (at my prompting) about whether or not it's okay to discriminate in certain circumstances, directing it at topical issues of gay marriage and adoptions by gay couples. Religion is a tricky thing. One of my students quoted a bible verse about man being inherently evil. And then Jesus is the ultimate example of peace and love and selflessness. So which is it? Are we evil or are we good?

It's not as simple as all that, but I do think we fall more to one side than the other. Is it wrong to be gay? Is it wrong to be Muslim? If you tell someone they are wrong for being who they are, then you eat away some of your own peace, which is what we are supposed to be striving for. I prefer the Jesus model over the vengeful God. Compassion isn't selective. It just is. My Democratic friends and I know this, but the rest of the country doesn't seem to. Goodwill, acceptance, taking care--these are my Democratic values. There's no danger here. Acceptance may be scary because you have to let go of control. Rigidity becomes fluid. Things happen, but it's okay. Change happens, but it's okay.

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