Sunday, January 31, 2010

what is a conservative, and why does it matter?

Politics -- always there's another who knows more, who knows best, who is right. Really? The Republicans now have a platform you have to adopt if you want any support from them. Kay Bailey Hutchison is running for governor of Texas and refuses to say she'd support overruling Roe v Wade. She tries to justify this by saying that there is 40 years of law already limiting the right to abortion and therefore there are already good things happening and so it is unnecessary for her to state her professed, or implied support, for limiting the Roe v Wade decision. So what? Is she a democrat in disguise because she will not toe the line marked out by the Republicans in an effort to define who is a Republican? I don't think anyone could seriously make that argument. Now this is not about abortion at all. It is about the need we all have, apparently, to label and tag and categorize people, put them in boxes and then base important decisions on otherwise meaningless words like Republican, Democrat, liberal, conservative, independent, tea party. The tea party folks around here are largely thought of as Republicans yet many of then disavow the party. Many proclaim that they are independents, apparently enamored of the word and its connotations while refusing to consider anything that is not put out by the Republican party.

I do not support abortion and I believe the act of abortion is the taking of a human life. This would qualify among most circles as a conservative position.

I support the right of all people to enter into sacred, committed relationships with dignity, grace and respect. This would qualify among many circles as a liberal position, and wholly antithetical to the first stated position but only it seems (in my small world) among those whose positions against abortion and against equal rights for all relationships are based on some perceived moral high ground (in my humble opinion). Colin Powell, a high-ranking member of George W's team (i.e., a Republican in "name") was I thought well-spoken and highly respected. When he was with Bush he supported the military's don't ask, don't tell policy. He strongly supported the policy and now, today, he supports Obama's plan to do away with don't ask, don't tell. Powell's explanation is that "times have changed" and that today's military can deal with open disclosure of sexual orientation. Really? In such short time the entire military, still largely run by the same historically white, judeo-Christian male hierarchy has just done a bout face and so now it's okay in their little world to be open about who you are? Really? Forgive the cynicism but I think not. No, I don't think that's it. I think that Colin Powell has perhaps examined the policy and its implications in a more honest, aware and open way than he'd done previously and now, no longer tied to the tether labelled "Republican," has come to see things as he would rather than as another branded with that "R" might see them.

So what is Colin Powell -- is he a Republican or a Democrat? conservative or liberal? or is he, like so many others, just a guy trying to make sense and make his way through the world as it exists around and despite him, willing to consider, try on and accept different views and beliefs, to espouse other values gained with experience and maturity?

I know few people who want to be called "Republican" or "Democrat" for the very demagoguery these labels invite. Even if forced to run as a Democrat or as a Republican, as one must do to become a judge in Texas -- which in fact has no separate law for the parties "D" and "R", and where one cannot even inquire about party affiliation or votes cast in any manner related to judicial proceedings -- the strict adherence to party labels leads only to cynicism as those who want to win generally run under the label of the party they think will have the biggest turnout in the general election. One critical remark as to what was conservative or liberal -- was it sarcasm? cavalier? merely short-sighted? -- suggested that the label "conservative" refers to one whose attitude might be described as "I got mine; you go take care of your own self" (to paraphrase). I have never had such thoughts -- are there things that I have wanted? Sure, and some things I have been given, some befell me, and some I had the opportunity to work for and earn. But that does not and never did preclude me from offering what I could to another who wants or needs.

What about the folks hanging out along the riverwalk or by the Alamo in San Antonio or sitting outside the courthouses or in the street here? When last I was in San Antonio a few months ago there happened to be a tea party rally right there at Alamo Plaza. And I was staying in a hotel locking right out over the Plaza. Oh, yeah, and there was a full moon rising over the far right (as I looked at it) side of the Alamo. So I took the camera and walked over to try to take some pictures and there's these guys (gender neutral) both on the riverwalk and even more up by the Alamo who are "begging" if that is an acceptable term. Yes, I ignored them, or at least I gave them nothing they wanted unless a smile, nod, hello is what any of them were looking for. But those things don;t usually set well in hands outreached. Back to the point, the tea party around here seems more conservative than liberal yet I saw quite a few give change and some bills to those whose hands were waiting. This sort of charity -- if that's what it were -- seems more aligned with what I'd consider a liberal view of things.

Do I feel badly when I pass by these folks? I do, and I wish I had something so all of everyone could have all that they need. Sure there are times I get cynical and just know that the disheveled person in the wheelchair sitting out in traffic is a fake and yes, I have seen some who have rolled over to the side, lifted themselves from their chairs and folded them up before putting them in the trunk of a car and driving off. And I guess it is not nice of me to make any judgment about anyone, but I'm human. The guys who hang out by the courthouse, who I see all the time, for them I take the time and give what I can. It is or somehow seems different somehow. You know what it is? It's like down there at the courthouse we all see each other all the time and even if we don;t know every one's names we are a sort of group. Those guys will jump up and help someone who's having trouble getting their dolly full of boxes up the sidewalk; they say hi; they smile whether you give or not. They're comfortable. they're one of "us" in a sense.

What does any of this mean? I have no clue. I think the labels we apply are more a way to exclude than to learn or to be inclusive. If you can label me a conservative then you can make generalizations which, once shared, I am quite inclined to find offensive and unfair, as such generalizations tend to paint one unfavorably -- selfish, self-centered, disinterested, aloof, rich, narrow minded. Yet I really have not a clue as to what generalizations might be made about "liberals" other than "not conservative." I suppose it is a failure of my ability to use language in a meaningful way to say anything you would understand but perhaps too it is our collective failure to use language, to think and express anything close or meaningful about who we are and where we stand, relying instead on the labels and the judgments that almost inevitably follow.

Why the insistence of being in a herd, our acquiescence to being herded, the need to differentiate on every possible basis we think makes this one better than that and us better than the other?
How the heck would I know?
And who even cares?

Friday, January 15, 2010

i did want an answer, a conversation

i want to write, i need (whatever that means) to write, and the questions are not rhetorical. No. Perhaps they are unanswerable but they are real questions. I have no friends near with blogs, no one near who i know writes, and no one near who has any interest in any of these matters. Expression -- through words, art, whatever - is important for me to process, to place myself. How others place themselves in the world, in relationship to self and others, how they know or define what and why -- these are ideas not discussed.

why do we think we have anything to say anyway?

Some fancy themselves essayists, poets or other writers with something to say - and some seem to write for themselves. Some write and have a following, they're read, elicit comments, maybe set spark to others' thoughts/writing, etc.
But the we in this question are mine. As I sat through the last 6 days of work, reviewing literally thousands of documents a day, listening to my ipod and talking to myself (i suppose daydreaming is the more comfortable term) i wrote ... first in my head a snatch here and there, yet it lacked something and so out comes paper, pen and words. Had I been online perhaps the words would land here. Yet once i write the writing is done, for what it's worth, and there's nothing left. I have at times thought perhaps I would take those paper scraps and transfer here those words but then i think it would be pretentious. It would assume I have something to say and that anyone might want to read it. I decide it is better left on the scraps, buried in a notepad, eventually to make its way to the garbage.
I think I should protest, say that I don't think I have anything to say, but that would be disingenuous as even now I sit here writing ... perhaps saying nothing but writing nonetheless. Perhaps it is only that I wish I could write.

Do I want read? To be honest, yes. I'd like to think I have something to say that someone thinks is worth having been written, though I think the truth is more otherwise than not. I want to be read, I like comments, constructive preferably, but even just an acknowledgement is nice. Doesn't everyone wish for, dream of having, the talent to write at a level, about something, that others want to read? Maybe it's just me.

And what makes me think I have anything to say? Everyone has something to say - right? I guess the better question is why write unless someone reads it, be it me or you, and what so i have to write that wants to be read? Words are only that and have no meaning other than we assign, but if tomorrow i read something written earlier chances are as good as not that the meaning then assigned will escape me - whatever the reason i wrote yesterday is not the reason to read today. Yet at times the words written for some reason i do want to come back to later, but once written if they are not here they are in so many places, whatever piece of paper i had or even at times the phone, i cannot gather them again. So why not take those papers and sheets and repeat here what was writ there? Because when I have done that it feels false - that's the most I can explain. Perhaps I could be very honest about why I write but this is not dishonest either.

How other people write I don't know; me, it's like i close my eyes and do it, so to speak. I don't think or plan or organize, which is probably self evident in many cases. It is more an intuition than a purposeful act in terms of the source of writing, though of course there is the getting of paper and pen or figuring out how to log on here when i've accessed it via the wrong email account. While not a rock or tree or bird i do not often consider my expression before it disgorges on the page as the page may be). Were I to consider and especially to consider some more chances are there would be nothing committed to writing, yet i feel it important for me to commit to writing, which begs the question ... what makes me -- why do i -- think i have anything to say?

does it matter who we are in relation to others?

this question follows from the first - i want to be read, i look forward to comments and however rare, however terse or cryptic, i value comments as an acknowledgement that i am here, that i wrote something and that someone read it and no matter the merits or lack thereof, for even just a second and even if but a short electronic spit through the airs it is some sort of connection, however brief.

But who reads? I know only by comments who reads, and i value those comments not only for the acknowledgement but perhaps more for the connections they represent, real or imagined, and certainly more important to me than to others.

I would say I write from an honest secret space, accessible not so much at will as by disclosure, and a handful people of people know the identity of the writer, few of whom comment, this making it safe,comfortable, to write? What is the relationship that the writer -- any writer -- has with others that enables the writer to commit expressions to a medium that others can access? In this format I can write all I want, as poorly as I do, and never know the reader's true response. Yet i believe a comment left is a true response based on...what? Based on the relationship between me and the few people who know about this place. So what are theses relationships? I know many more people than I would ever tell about this place, and while strangers are welcome there are far fewer who know me than will know this. The absence of relationship with strangers makes it ok for them to come here though, so far as I know, none do. On the other hand it is exactly the fact that with others there is (or was?) relationship and it is the nature of the relationship that allows me to have told them of this place. I think I'm doing a really poor job of explaining ... but still there is the question.

Who are we in relation to others - I'm struggling with the concept but I know that here i can express things, such as trying poems, that are not safe to express elsewhere. Here there is room to be seen or heard in ways that i will not be seen or heard elsewhere, in part by choice but also because my relationship with most people is such that the one who comes here is not audible or visible to them, even though some i would characterize as good friends.

And are we anything other than what we are in relation to others? Usually we define ourselves, and others define us, in relation to jobs, roles and people. I am a wife, a mother, a lawyer. I am a past friend, a good friend, an acquaintance, a colleague. I am a facebook friend, which seems to be an entirely different and more shallow category than even acquaintance. I am unemployed, I volunteer, I mentor, I teach a bead class. I take pictures but I would not call myself a photographer. I make jewelry but would not call myself an artist. I write other than for work, for personal reasons, but would not call myself a poet or writer of any sort.

I just am but saying so is not something we do - we always add the adjectives and often adverbs as well.

If I don't know Jack in Syracuse I am no one to him. Nor he to me. But that doesn't make him less Jack doing whatever Jack does with whoever shares his life. Jack is, but he is no one in relation to me, is he? Were Jack to read this he would know nothing of or about me. He might have some opinions based on what he reads but that would be about Jack, not me.
I can die tomorrow and unless it is in some unusual or tragic event, Jack would never know. Were I to die by my own hand following some crazy rampage Jack might see or read a story and think what a nut, yet he would know nothing. Ditto for Jack. This is why obits, when published, are published only in the locale where the dead lived.

Then too there are some who know me now or have in the past known me and who help form the sense of who or what I am, what I'm about. Many were negative and some positive, but without all those experiences -- the relationship I had for better or worse with these people -- would I be today the same person?

Do I want an answer?
Doesn't everyone?
Do I think there is an answer?
But what fell silent has once more come to, and the noise is rising.

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houston, tx, United States

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