Tuesday, November 09, 2004

Orson Scott Card, and "Exposing" Oneself

I mentioned how some social conservatives see liberals as oppressive in the post prior to this one.

The first place I heard that idea was on Orson Scott Card's website.

I'll admit it. I am a drooling fan of his work. I was even privileged to attend one of his writing seminars, and I can honestly say that I know incredibly few artists who are so incredibly generous with their energy and devotion, in terms of helping novices of their craft, as he is.

I agree with him about war politics, and anything I could possibly say about that, he has already said here. As Glenn would say, read the whole thing.

I remember, just before the draft lottery that chose my number back in the Vietnam era, a professor asked me whether I would serve in Vietnam. I said, "Not if I can help it."

"Why not?" he said.

"Because we've already decided to lose. Why should I risk my life for that?" Nixon had been elected partly on the basis of a promise to get out of Vietnam. Having made that promise, he was no longer capable of negotiating a peace with the North Vietnamese that differed in any significant way from our complete surrender.

After all, why should they give in on any point, when their opponents in the negotiation had already promised to leave Vietnam regardless of whether the North Vietnamese gave concessions or not?

Likewise, Kerry's election will be interpreted by everyone in the world as meaning that the American people no longer have the will to fight until our enemies are defeated.

That means that if you enlist in Kerry's army, you will be put in harm's way fighting a war that the new president does not believe in and has no intention of winning.
Orson says a lot of things that I wish I could get away with saying. :)

On the other hand...

I also dislike his social conservativism extremely, and the arrogance that comes across in many of his essays.

But here is the trick: I know the man, and I know him by his works, and his works are good ones. Therefore I pay him the respect of accepting that he believes the things that he does for good and right reasons of his own, even if I don't necessarily believe that the things themselves are good and right. That is a fine line. But when the country is divided by a 51%/49% split, fine lines ought to predominate our thoughts for at least a little while.

If you don't understand what I'm talking about, let me phrase it a bit differently: I believe that if I had experienced life as OSC has experienced it, I could very well believe exactly as he does.

This is a very easy leap for me to make, considering I've believed on both sides of the fence. When I made the switch to secular social liberalism in my ideology, I first thought of myself as enlightened. Now, I just consider myself lucky... some days, not even that: a victim of chance, rather. Every single morning, I wake up to the knowledge that nature has created my body to bring forth children, and that mandate echoes loudly in my ears, despite the fact that I've never wanted children, and demands at all times that I re-evaluate my stance. Occasionally life would be easier if I could just give in and let the Bible tell me what my role and purpose in life is. But my experiences have shown me that the things I knew as a child simply do not reflect the way the world is.

Kerry states who are looking into secession: I would not recommend it. There is a secret in the above admissions I make. If you want to cross bridges and meet and understand people of different ideas in mutual respect if not agreement, then the key to that is exposure.

I used to listen to a beloved relative of mine practically smoke at the ears when she talked about homosexuality. It was ugly to watch, and uglier to hear, and I hated it and agonized over it and tried to argue it, and never made even a dent. She's since mellowed, and do you know what I blame for that? "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy." I shit you not, and yes, it's funny, but it's also true. She admitted to me in a phone conversation once, that she had started watching the show, and I asked her why she liked it. The first thing she said was, "Well, they're obviously such nice guys, and they really seem to want to help, you know?"

Exposure. People are affected by arguments -- typically affected in that they tend to hold on more tightly to their challenged ideas -- but people are persuaded by faces. Why do you think the Family Research Council is so pissed off about gays on television portrayed as "normal people"?

And don't fake it, either. Don't pull a Guardian, making contact for the express purpose of demonstrating how condescending you can be. Because you should note that the word I chose was not instruction. It was exposure. (No, not at all like that.)

You do that by getting to know some of those red staters, even, perhaps, the ones you despise.

Oops, I forgot: exposure works both ways. You might get infected by a little bit of the Midwestern Cooties. I would be in favor of that.

I'm going to close with a quote, that a friend once said to me. I think it is the most insightful statement I have ever heard about political disagreements.
It's quite possible that ideal views and wants of two people are the same, but their "political" views are quite different. Sort of like, the end is the same, but the ideas for the means to reach that end aren't. I.e., say two people both want a violence free community, but one thinks that the solution is X while the other Y. Both are trying to achieve the same thing, one just thinks one way is better than the other.
No matter how different that sweaty oaf across the state from you may be, you and he, on a basic level, want the same things. You simply disagree about how to get there. Think about it. There is no issue that can not somehow be broken down to this level. To many people, that is frightening, but perhaps it's time it became reassuring instead.

I find it reassuring. I may be pro-war when it comes to Iraq, but I'm not the slightest bit interested in another war over an attempt to secede.