Friday, January 02, 2009

They're Not Going To Go Away

Happy New Year, darlings! I trust all of you are still there. I am still here, although moving very, very slowly.

Recently I have been exasperated, but not surprised, at some 'progressive' reactions to Mr. Obama's pre-presidential appointments, notably his decision to include Rick Warren as the prayer-giver at the Inauguration. It seems as though these people weren't listening to a word he said during the entire campaign; some of them even seem to have believed the delusional right-wing hype about him. They seem to expect him to roar on in and impose a radical agenda, ignoring the cries of the opposition, much the way Bush has done for the last eight years. All that stuff about 'we are one people' they took as so much window-dressing of a totalitarian agenda. Now that he is behaving exactly as he said he would--prioritizing competence over ideology, listening to people with whom he does not agree, creating bridges between opposing factions of society--they feel shocked and betrayed. They failed to understand his underlying philosophy.

So, it is very simple: They're not going to go away.

Gay people aren't going to go away. Neither are evangelical Christians. Neither are atheists. Neither are Israelis. Neither are Palestinians. Neither are Muslims. Neither are poor people in need of healthcare. Neither are immigrants.

Nobody, in fact, is going to go away. You can try to exterminate them, of course, but the relatives of genocide victims have a way of running off, reproducing, and coming back with guns and international treaties. If opposition makes people stronger, persecution makes them superhuman.

So why in the world do people persist in behaving as though we just need to make those people go away, or at least shut up and Know Their Place, is a valid solution to any and all problems?

I am as upset about Proposition 8 as anybody. I have no great affinity for the Rick Warrens of the world; any world view which fatuously and self-righteously declares that certain people must, by nature, be treated as second-class citizens gets no support from me. But the reason this view is ludicrous, in my view, is written above: They're not going to go away.

In other words, "You have not got the right to exist, at least not on the same level as me, with the same rights, privileges and responsibilities" is an unwinnable argument. You might cling to semantics, ideology, theology, or weaponry in order to prove your point; you may prove it over and over and over again. You may use political leverage, financial leverage, or angry petitions to gain the upper hand. But you're never going to get the opposition to toe the line, because there they are. Not going gentle into that good night. That's just a fact.

So it seems to me that we have two choices; continue trying to exterminate, humiliate, overpower and dismiss Those Awful People, or accept that they exist and seek other ways of coming to some accomodation with them. This will inevitably be a unilateral proposition, at least in the beginning. People do not leave aside their spite, grudges, fears and hatreds easily, particularly when they predicate their identities upon these things, and particularly when past experience has taught them to expect persecution. Somebody has to make the first move, and I'd like to think that so-called 'progressives' would be willing to make it.

And in the grand scheme of things, an inaugural prayer is a really small concession to make. Be generous, already.


Anonymous said...

Hurrah! Hear hear!


Anonymous said...

word of the day for shea: bushed

Chris Rywalt said...

Stephanie, as always you make perfect sense. (Well, maybe not always, but often.) I too have been mystified at the reaction to Rick Warren. Even if the guy's the Antichrist, it's not like Barack is nominating him for Secretary of State or anything.

There's a similar, but much uglier and more violent, thing going on with pro-Israel Americans. I've heard it expressed by more than one person that the Israeli -- war? military action? re-invasion? -- is justified and a good idea. But to my mind it comes down to the same thing: The Palestinians aren't going to go away. Israel penned them up in a giant open-air prison in Gaza hoping, I guess, that they'd just disappear or something, but they didn't, and instead some small number of them have gotten a) really angry and b) ahold of some missiles, which anyone can tell is a bad combination. So the solution stomp on them even harder? Because the only reason they're still blowing shit up is because they haven't gotten the message that they're supposed to disappear?

I don't understand humans at all.

Anonymous said...

"If opposition makes people stronger, persecution makes them superhuman"

Very true.

George Pal said...

Chris, there is more here than a simple struggle to survive the ignominious actions of Israel. Those poor people must also survive the equally ignominious Fatah and Hamas, each of whom has less regard for the ordinary Palestinian than does Israel.

Chris Rywalt said...

There is one thing I am absolutely certain about when it comes to Israel and that's that the situation is insanely complex. There are no one-sentence summaries, let alone solutions, to the whole thing. There are terrorists and criminals on all sides and there are millions of people who just want normal lives in the middle of all of it. In short, it sucks.

I don't happen to think that making it worse for some innocent people is somehow going to make it better for some other innocent people. But then I don't think that's anyone's plan anyhow. I think that's the excuse. What are the politicians' real motivations? Probably the usual: Greed and power.

Pretty Lady said...

Chris, it wasn't an accident that I included Israelis and Palestinians specifically in my list of people who aren't going to disappear. I have been equally appalled at what is going on in Gaza. I read a Facebook note from an Israeli citizen who is 'glad that the Israeli government is protecting the people in the South.' Meanwhile, I am listening to NPR, which is reporting that these attacks on Gaza have made Hamas all that much more determined to keep up with the missile attacks and the suicide bombings.

When are people going to figure out that attacking someone else does NOT make them safer?

Chris Rywalt said...

I read an interesting article online which pointed out a couple of wrinkles in the current conflict I found intriguing: First, the people being "protected" in south Israel are Mizrahi Jews who have been specifically chivvied there by the Ashkenazis in the government for use as cannon fodder; second, a number of those Jews living in Sderot oppose this war.

(Link via Glenn Greenwald.