Secret Honor

The Founding Fathers, as flawed as they were, slaveowners and pornographers, smugglers and terrorists, understood one thing, a man’s path to God needed no help from the state. Is the religion of these conservatives so fragile that they need the state to prop it up, to tell us what to pray and think? Is that what they stand for? Is that their America?

-Steve Gilliard, “I’m a Fighting Liberal”

I don’t think I’ve been a big enough asshole lately. Sure, I’ve been whiny and caustic, but it’s time for some good, old-fashioned raging. I want Rush Limbaugh to die. I don’t mean that as a figure of speech. I honestly think the world would be a better place if he were skinned alive and hung from a tree. Don’t get me wrong—I would never advocate doing that to him. Murder is, and always will be, wrong. What’s distressing is that even that wouldn’t send the right message. We probably all know somebody who is either a Tea Partier or at least a sympathizer. Usually, when talking about them, we say, “He’s a wonderful person, until you ask him what he believes.” Politics are like that. People are always trying to separate a person’s political beliefs from the rest of them. Even the most conservative person you know is probably capable of acting like a savory human being under the right circumstances. That’s the problem with modern conservatism: every decent conservative I know is a decent person in spite of their beliefs, whereas I honestly believe that embracing liberal ideals has made me a better person.

Let me emphasize that the keyword in the phrase “modern conservatism” is the first one. It is not wrong to be in favor of limited government and a strong national defense. Conservatism is not inherently evil, and no matter how strongly held one’s beliefs may be, one can still benefit from being challenged. I miss the days when I would argue with my right-wing friends and say, “You have a point there.” But that hasn’t happened in years. These days, the only sane Republicans I know are constantly apologizing for their party, trying to excuse the inexcusable behavior of Boehner, McConnell, and their presidential candidates. Part of the reason why I am so glad to be a Democrat is that I honestly like my president. There are things about him that I would change if I could, but all things considered, he is moving this country forward. That’s a welcome relief after the Bush years.

Some people are optimists. I’m not sure what’s wrong with them. Whenever I allow myself to become optimistic about something, I am inevitably disappointed. I’m starting to think that cheerful people act that way just to piss me off. Something needs to be done about them. Perhaps they could be sent to work in sweatshops. Hell, if they’re so irrepressibly perky, why not make them do something that no one else could possibly enjoy?

I’ve mentioned this before, but I’m interested in environmentalism. Specifically, I want to learn more about how saving the world begins at a grassroots level. One deeply influential figure in this field is Van Jones, the former green jobs czar for President Obama. One of his primary innovations was linking race relations, economics and environmentalism. It may seem counter-intuitive, but consider: if you don’t feel like you really belong to a society, how invested can you be in its survival? If you’re marginalized, you can’t fully participate even if you want to. My firsthand experiences with racism are few and far between, but I know damn well how it feels to deal with another kind of discrimination, and let me tell you that until we can eliminate prejudice dealing with race, ethnicity, religion, gender, sexual orientation, and favorite brand of cereal, we cannot live in an eco-friendly society.

There is no more blatant example of the lack of equality in America than the Trayvon Martin case. That anyone could do what George Zimmerman did and try to pass it off as self-defense is unthinkable. That law enforcement could claim that this is anything other than an obvious hate crime is mind-boggling. It’s why I invite anyone reading this who thinks that since the election of President Obama, we’ve lived in a post-racial society to break off a broom handle and fuck themselves with it. I’m not kidding.

One of my favorite people of all time is Christopher Hitchens. You’d be hard-pressed to find a more unrepentant asshole in punditry than that man. Time and time again, he tore into his opponents, exposing their hypocrisy and self-righteousness with gleeful zeal. Yesterday, I watched a debate from the latter days of his career between him and intelligent design shill/ignorant fucknut William Dembski. The entire debate is worth watching (I’ll post it below), but Hitchens’ closing remarks were excerpted in a million tributes after his death. In a way, he spent his entire career building to them:

When Socrates was sentenced to death for his philosophical investigations and for blasphemy for challenging the gods of the city and he accepted his death, he did say, “Well, if we are lucky, perhaps I’ll be able to hold conversation with other great thinkers and philosophers and doubters too,” in other words that the discussion about what is good, what is beautiful, what is noble, what is pure and what is true could always go on. Why is that important? Why would I like to do that? Because that’s the only conversation worth having. And whether it goes on or not after I die, I don’t know, but I do know that it’s the conversation I want to have while I’m still alive, which means that to me, the offer of certainty, the offer of complete security, the offer of an impermeable faith that can’t give way is an offer of something not worth having. I want to live my life taking the risk all the time that I don’t know anything like enough yet, that I haven’t understood enough, that I can’t know enough, that I’m always operating on the margins of a potentially great harvest of future knowledge and wisdom. I wouldn’t have it any other way, and I’d urge you to look at those who tell you, those people who tell you at your age that you’re dead until you believe as they do, what a terrible thing to be telling to children, and that you can only live by accepting an absolute authority. Don’t think of that as a gift. Think of it as a poisoned chalice. Push it aside, however tempting it is. Take the risk of thinking for yourself. Much more happiness, truth, beauty and wisdom will come to you that way.

For once, I have nothing to add.

Image stolen borrowed from Despair.com.

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