Sunday, February 26, 2012

Politics in the season of Lent

My friends on Facebook already know that once again I have sworn off "snarky or snide" political postings and rants in general during Lent.  I still comment on the passing show of politics but for this season of the year I try extra hard to be even handed in my wording.  A fair question might be "What exactly are "snarky and snide" political comments?"  It's like art, you know it when you see it or in this case, read it or hear it.  I was at the local thrift shop yesterday (half price Saturday!) and noticed two books side by side on the shelf; Ann Coulter's "How to Talk to Liberals (If you Must)" and Al Franken's "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" In my opinion, one is snarky, the other not.  They're both provocative titles to be sure, but to my mind Coulter's volume implies that people who don't share her views are somehow less than human, or at least objects to be avoided.  Franken's title is so far over the top with an eye towards humor that I'm willing to give it a pass at least as far as the title goes.  It's possible that reading both books might show the exact same treatment of opposing views, reducing the "other side" to something to be ridiculed and treated with disdain.  That's what I'm trying to stay away from myself.
Does this mean I won't disagree with anyone for the next month or so? Not at all.  For example back in New Jersey where I lived for three years there's a great debate going on about marriage equality.  I believe the statements from the governor show a basic mis-understanding or ignorance of history when he suggests that if the major civil rights issues of the 1950s and 60s would have been resolved much easier if they had been put on the ballot instead of people marching in the streets and trying to have legislation passed to insure their rights.
As I see it, he's saying that unless a majority of people who vote (or are allowed to vote) in an election wish to grant equal rights to some minority the rights can and should be denied to those people.
I disagree with this idea completely.  I believe that a quick look at world history would show that the rights of minorities, unless supported and directed by legislation tend to be trampled by the majority population.  I believe that if Governor Christie were to study the civil rights struggles of the 1950s and 60s he would see that a majority of the voting population in the southern states, and perhaps anywhere in the United States would have supported allowing segregation to continue.  I grew up in Pennsylvania and I remember being taught that the Bible said that not only were people of different races forbidden to marry, but that African Americans were inferior to the white race.  I also remember discussions in our neighborhood as to whether a black family should be allowed to buy a house, if anyone should ever be interested.
I believe most historians would agree that if we had waited until a majority of the population was ready to grant equal rights to African Americans we'd still have segregation laws in full force today.  New Jersey's governor says that he's only challenging his opponents to prove their theory that "most people support marriage equality" by putting it on the ballot.  I think that the argument is flawed from the start.  In my opinion, you don't put basic human rights on a ballot.
So that's my non-snarky, snide-less response.  It won't fit on a bumper sticker but maybe that's the way it should be, perhaps I'll really try to continue on this path after Easter.  Part of me will probably want to return to the playground and start slinging those brilliant put downs I hear every day at school as students try their best to engage in verbal duels, but maybe not.