Rejecting a Politics of Hate, Greed, and Fear
Steve Clemens, April 4, 2004
It is no mistake that it is called “culture wars”. There is a “take no prisoners” mentality in our politics – ironic in a country that has one of the highest imprisonment rates in the world! It is a war where the object is not a negotiated settlement but a push for only “unconditional surrender”. And, most unfortunately, it is a Civil War in that it pits brother against brother, family against family, region against region- yet there is very little that is civil about it.
The political dust storm about “gay marriage”: is the concept of “marriage” between traditional heterosexual marriage really threatened and under attack? Do we really need to “defend marriage”? Haven’t Hollywood “celebrities” done enough to make light of this institution without trying to place the blame on gay/lesbian couples who seek the stability and recognition of a loving, committed relationship, trying to break the stereotypical image of promiscuity so often linked to homosexuality? Is this an issue which demands we change a Constitution which is designed to protect rights rather than to limit them?
In the abortion issue: can one be opposed to the idea of ending a developing life while striving to allow women in desperate situations a choice in consultation with a medical professional? While it is admirable for people to speak up on behalf of those who can’t, isn’t it ironic that so many of the voices “speaking” on behalf of the “unborn” remain silent when those who are already born live in poverty and hopelessness? Isn’t it ironic that many of the voices shout on behalf of the “unborn” are the first to “cast a stone” when the subject is capital punishment? Is one really “pro-life” when supporting the most powerful death-machine in military might that the world has ever known?
Why do we search in other countries for “weapons of mass destruction” while we continue to build and justify our own possession and threatened use of such?
We do have much to fear. When one nation with only 5% of the world’s population wants to continue a “lifestyle” which consumes at least 25% of the world’s resources, one must wonder how long this can continue before the masses rise up and demand a change? The exporting of our “culture” through TV, movies, and music has a way of putting the consumption disparities “in your face”.
Yet does our politics – the way we choose to organize our life together as a people, as a nation - need to be polarizing and based on fear and sometimes on hate? Are the divisions created to distract us from the growing chasm between the rich and poor in our own society (not to mention between us and the rest of the world, especially those in the southern hemisphere)?
Can we take time to stop the shouting and sloganeering to really listen to each other? Can we take time to explore why we feel afraid? Why we feel alienated from each other? Can we explore what our hopes and dreams are about?
Someone handed me a “business card” yesterday which read, “Vote ABB”. In smaller letters at the bottom it read, “Anybody but Bush”. Really? Hitler?, Saddam?, Fred Phelps? I can think of hundreds I wouldn’t support but why support anyone just to avoid someone else? Why not find a candidate who calls us to a vision of who we can be rather than who we are not?
When I travel abroad, I don’t want to have to apologize for being an American. I don’t want to secretly wish my passport read “Canadian”.