Monday, October 08, 2007

Article I'm thinking about this morning

Conservatives understand that cultural change is a long, gradual process of small but cumulatively deadly victories. Liberals want it all now. And that's why, in the culture wars, conservatives often win and we often lose.

I think of myself as both moral and practical, and those two aspects of my character are waging war over this issue.



Lilylou said...

Me too, CC, I think the article makes some sense, but the UUs I know are both moral and practical and see change-making as a long, slow process, even though we would like it to come more quickly.

Bill Baar said...

Disraeli as quoted by David Gelernter in his essay The Inventor of Modern Conservatism.

In a progressive country change is constant; and the great question is not whether you should resist change which is inevitable, but whether that change should be carried out in deference to the manners, the customs, the laws and the traditions of a people, or whether it should be carried out in deference to abstract principles, and arbitrary and general doctrines.

I lean towards Liberal with abstract principles but one ought to keep in mind the intrepreation of abstractions requires some rigours to avoid the arbitrariness.

Then read Brink Lindsey's The Age of Abundance: How Prosperity Transformed America's Politics and Culture and you'll realize Marx's prediction of overwhelming abundance has become true, and becoming true on a glolal scale. It creates a freedom and the conflicts of free choices. Brinkly cits the Aquarians and Evangelicals: the Aquarians who embrace the freedom and condemn the institutions that created it, and the Evangelicals who constrict the Freedom and defend the institutions that created it.

The Aquarians (Liberals) aren't losing, the Evangelicals (Conservatives) aren't winning. They just haven't quite sorted out the history yet. Neither's read Marx in many years.

It is a conflict that drives Islamic Radicals too. Theirs is a terrorism spawned by abundance and the freedom it offers, not poverty or oppression.

Anonymous said...

The UUA General Assembly weighed in on this topic in June with a resolution entitled "Pass the Employment Non-Discrimination Act with Transgender Inclusion and Protection."

Anonymous said...

Or, I should say, the GA weighed in on the topic of the Salon article, not on the broader philosophical question you pulled out of the article.

Chalicechick said...

I should mention that reading RevSean's account of how the GA vote felt to him makes me feel like a big jerk for linking to this column.


Anonymous said...

Among my friends and relatives there are gay and transgendered persons. Interestingly, it just occurs to me that all the ones I'm thinking of are UUs. Anyway, I support EDNA without transgender rights. I agree with the Salon author that it would be a huge victory and would pave the way for transgender inclusion. An EDNA that fails because of transgender inclusion would not only fail to give transgender folks rights and fail to open the door to those rights later on, it would prevent a far larger body of persons (LGB) from gaining rights right now. Morally I believe that transgender and gay people should all have legal protections, but this is politics, and in politics I am a pragmatist, in part because I so rarely see morality triumph in the political arena. Let EDNA pass without transgender rights; it isn't the right thing to do, but it's the best thing to do in the actual situation, and it will inevitably lead to transgender rights, which is the right final outcome. I'll take protection of some of my friends and family over protection of none of my friends and family any day, and find in it the encouragement needed to work on the harder job of extending that coverage to all.

Bill Baar said...

...makes me feel like a big jerk for linking to this column.

I don't know if you should cc. I read it and wondered what's the good of adding another protected class if the reality is gibbrish like the,

...Chair of the CSW saying something about how we are flowers that need to be allowed to bloom in order to make the whole UU garden more beautiful…

There is an arrogance at work here and Ministrare called it out.

I liked it better as young Socialist when we just sang the Workers Flag is Deepest Red and affirmed everyone's humanity.

Anonymous said...

" isn't the right thing to do, but it's the best thing to do in the actual situation, and it will inevitably lead to transgender rights, which is the right final outcome."

and HOW will it lead inevitably to transgender rights?
That article seems to think that bringing trans people into ENDA is only five months old. Where does he get that idea? Trans people have tried to get the "T" added from the very beginning of ENDA. We, personally, spoke to Elizabeth Birch, the then-president of HRC, about it about 7 or 8 years ago.
One of the problems with adding the "T" later is that there are many thousands of gay and lesbian people, about 10% of the population, while the number of trans people is far far fewer, and there is not necessarily an equivalent of "coming out" for trans people. When transexuals complete their transition, they would often prefer that no one know their history, and therefore compaigning for transgender rights is out of the question for them. So who is going to do the work? Gay guys? You think so? Liberals? I doubt it.
If it doesn't get included in ENDA now, the chances are, it will never get included. And a much higher percentage of Ts are murdered for it than gay people. Homosexuals are about 1 in a hundred, transpeople are about one in 30,000 to 60,000; yet there is an average of one hate-crime murder of a transexual per month in the US. It's like Matthew Sheppard every month, only most people never hear about it.
the article was right in that we should be doing more to convince the LGB community that they should be concerned about the Ts.

Joel Monka said...

The article is very good, but I don't think it's a conservative thing- conservatives, too, have their "all or nothing" types on their issues. It's strictly a value judgement: is the risk that people will become complacent with the passage of a partial solution and stop working for reform so great that we should sacrifice those that could be helped by the partial solution and hold out for the perfect bill? Or is the harm being done so great that a partial solution is worthwhile in its own right?

I remember being shocked reading a history book that said that many abolitionists were violently opposed to the many proposed slavery reforms- for fear that if the worst edge was taken off, opposition would weaken.

I guess my feeling- winning by a narrow margin- is take what you can get right now, don't wait for the perfect. I don't want to be the one telling those who could be helped today that we decided to sacrifice them for the cause of a better law tomorrow.

PG said...

1) The Salon author must have a somewhat superficial understanding of civil rights history if he can simply say, "The Civil Rights Act of 1964 provided a large umbrella of rights based on race, religion, sex and national origin," without noting that sex actually was inserted as a way to kill the legislation. Women had to sneak in on African Americans' coattails. Transfolk's discrimination issue is a lot more similar to LGB people's than women's to racial minorities. Whether you're L, G, B or T, it all comes down to being discriminated against for something that would be OK if you were a member of the opposite sex. In the case of gays, it would be OK to like men if you were a woman; in the case of lesbians, it would be OK to like women if you were a man; in the case of male-to-female trans, it would be OK to wear lipstick if you were born with a vagina; in the case of female-to-male trans, it would be OK to have a buzz cut if you were born with a penis. And a lot of what is called sexual orientation discrimination actually commingles with gender expression; the lesbian is given a hard time before she ever says, "I like girls," because she fails to follow a feminine convention such as wearing makeup or having longer hair. In my opinion, an ENDA that includes gender expression is simply more coherent. For that matter, a prohibition on sex discrimination that had included what ENDA does would have been more coherent.

2) I think conservative politicians are better at the "get it passed" half measure than many liberal politicans are. I had a long argument with someone who wanted to believe that there was a principled reason to criminalize the provision of an abortion but have absolutely no penalties for the woman who sought it (the position advocated by Fred Thompson and many other Republican pols). But at the end of the day, such a position is really about drawing enough votes from the mushy middle that's merely squeamish about abortion and definitely wouldn't want to put a bunch of women in jail, to add to the votes of the hard right that thinks such women are murderers and really wishes they could be imprisoned but is willing to concede that part, in order to pass legislation over the objections of those who want abortion to stay safe and legal.

PG said...

Oh, and if he thinks U.S. abortion rights are effectively dead, he should try being a knocked up girl in South America. Conservatives have succeeded in putting some constraints on the legal right to abortion, and have succeeded in scaring off abortion providers in several states (which severely reduces access to abortion), but this is nothing like the pre-Roe days when women had to go to another country, under the threat of prosecution when they returned, in order to have a safe abortion.

PG said...

Ah ha!

Joel Monka said...

Those sort of abortion arguments are how I came to my position, that it is not possible to write an abortion law that will not be abused by one side or the other. My pro-life position is that moral and religious leaders should teach that absent strong health issues, abortion is immoral instead of trying to get a law passed. It is just one of those issues that governments and laws cannot effectively address.

As to the restroom lawsuit, it seems to me that the issue is the poor judgement of the security guard, not the basic issue of gender. She would not have been upset had he just looked at her ID- she said it had happened before and resolved amicably.

Comrade Kevin said...

Maybe, and maybe not.

I think certain liberal activists want wide, sweeping change. But I do realize that most people are reluctant to change and most people will only willingly adapt to slow, steady change. And I think that's a viewpoint shared by both conservatives and liberals.

PG said...

I think there is a gender issue in the lawsuit because the security guard felt OK in imposing his norms of what a woman is supposed to look like on the plaintiff. She didn't fit his conception of a woman, therefore he didn't care about looking at her ID. On the "street" level, he was enforcing a rule that you have to express as feminine in order to use the ladies' room.

ogre said...

"Conservatives understand that cultural change is a long, gradual process..."

Horsefeathers. That distorts what conservatism is about--which is essentially a desire to keep things more or less exactly as they are now... unless they can roll them back to an earlier, even "better" era.

Change is what they object to. Where's the last substantive social change that conservatives have accomplished? Remember, it has to be one that isn't reverting to an earlier era or which hasn't been framed as such.

And I know plenty of liberals who have no such all-at-once objective. Want it? Only in the theoretical, if we could just make things better now sense.