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Posts Tagged ‘beliefs’

A while back there was some movie where football players or some other high school age athletes, lay down on the yellow line in the middle of the road to show their bravery or something.

(It was a movie.  Don’t try that at home.)

Anyways, after seeing the film, a number of young people got run over, lying on the yellow line in the middle of the road.  One can imagine the lead up.  Some kid, desperate for approval or street credibility is goaded into the act.  I don’t think the kids were stupid.  I think the need for acceptance is that strong.

We all do it.  We laugh along at the joke that demeans some group or other.  We let people think we liked a book or a film we thought was a pretentious bore or juvenile crap.  We applaud with the crowd but secretly wonder why we can’t see the Emperor’s new clothes.  We know that what is being suggested is wrong, yet we compromise.

In the end we end up looking stupid, or worse.  Still, what else might we expect for willingly compromising with people we know are wrong?

It would be great if this was just some youthful phase.  Sadly, that doesn’t seem to be the case.  It’s unfortunate when this kind of yearning for acceptance and approval ends in the strained back of some needy middle-aged, touch-football player.  We wince at the regrettable photos when someone, old enough to know better, winds up at a social event in spandex they outgrew a few years back.

But it is tragic when the government of the most powerful nation in the world runs this way, as ours does.  Over and over again, I see people compromising with folks who are clearly wrong.  It’s not like, well maybe they have a good point.  Like maybe if we force poor people to pay for their own insurance that’ll fix it.  Or maybe this time trickledown economics will in fact trickle down.

Even when there is actual empirical data that the opposition is wrong or worse lying, our leaders will compromise their beliefs and principles in exchange for popularity.  In a republic, I’m not even sure how you get around it since the group most likely to be ill-informed and wrong is in fact the electorate.  What I can say for sure is that compromising with someone I know is wrong doesn’t give me a 50% chance of being right.  It just means I’m wrong, too.  And worse still, by compromising, I signed up to be wrong.

I don’t think President Clinton actually wanted Don’t Ask Don’t Tell and I can’t think of a better example of compromising with folks who are wrong.  But President Clinton was re-elected.  Separate but Equal? No such thing, just another example of two wrongs making a mess.  Still, one can hardly imagine running for office without supporting it much prior to 1964, and even then.  Invading Iraq, on balance, not such a good idea, but we’re still there, thanks to the support of many who now regret it.

So, it is understandable that as our current President, the first black man elected to that office, the child of an only relatively recently legal interracial marriage and perhaps the person who has most benefited from civil rights progress in the history of our country says he is “morally opposed to gay marriage.”

Recently, President Obama was in Los Angeles.  Through a friend, I got tickets to the town hall event he was holding here.  I went to meet him, to shake his hand, to congratulate him and to ask him about it.  I got to shake his hand but I didn’t get called on to ask my question so here it is — and don’t think I didn’t rehearse this!

“Mr. President, I am so glad you were elected and I am thankful that we have you to lead us in this difficult time.  I am also thankful that your parents, despite the moral opposition of many at the time, were able to marry so that you might be here and be our president today.  I wonder then, what is your moral opposition to my having the same right that your parents had?”

Honestly, Mr. President, if you’re listening, I’d still like to know.

In my heart, I don’t really think the man does feel that way.  Hell, I think if Present Bush, the younger, had thought that gay marriage would make old white guys richer, he’d have performed the ceremonies on the White House steps himself.  I think that both men thought they had to compromise with people they knew were wrong in order to get elected.  Maybe their motives were different.  One seems to have been creating a wedge, the other a bridge, but in the end both men were trying to get out the bigot vote.

Given recent events, this is shaping up to be an awkward stance.

I’m sure the lights of many careers were dampened by the tacit or overt support of segregation by those who were probably only compromising their principles for a few precious votes.  More recently, it’s worth nothing that President Obama got his party’s nomination in no small part because he didn’t support the war in Iraq.  In truth, that’s probably because no one asked him at the time, but who knows?  He did bravely speak out against it in the Illinois Senate, though they were not asked, either.

Viewed in the light of history or the ER waiting room, how brave is it to lie down in the middle of the road? It might make you more popular for a minute.  But in the end, you just get run over by what’s coming.

It might seem scarier to choose a side and stand up for what you know is right, but true courage isn’t the absence of fear, it’s being afraid and doing it anyway.

Next time, that’s who I’m voting for.

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