Tuesday, June 26, 2007

I know what CC is talking about when...

she talks about "hippies", because we had a conversation at GA about just what a "hippie" is, by her definition. It's much the same way my son talks about some of the Unitarian Universalists he's known in the course of his life as a birthright UU. And forgive me, CC and MG, if I get it wrong, but, dang, I love those UUs who sit out front of the Convention Center with their unreadable signs (the lettering being too small to be seen from the street or the MAX, making them useless). I love the ones who show up for protest marches and rallies even though they know that such activities are unlikely to end the war or save the old growth forest. I love the ones who can afford to take the time to lie down in front of trains carrying nuclear warheads, and the young men and women with trust funds who don't have to work and can therefore go to jail because they won't lose a job.

I know it, I'm crazy, but here's the deal: they are all so damned EARNEST! I like that in a person, even though it smacks of righteous piety, even though it seems hokey and useless. If the world was emptied of earnest people who do some of this footwork for those of us who do work day jobs, who make effective signs, who are a little nervous about trains and jails, where would we be? Would the world be getting better or not? Is their earnestness worse than our cynicism?

Frankly, I think we need the extremes out there, both the far ends of the religious right and the religious left. I think we need sin/evil/bad vibes in the world to inspire us to strive for the good. So often we do good in response to bad, rather than good for good's sake. It seems to be a human trait to respond somehow to what we see happening in the world. And sometimes our responses express our desire for change, rather than force change itself. But, hey, a girl's gotta do something, right?

The extremes get us going. The anti-gay picketers at Pride look foolish in comparison to the joyous expressions of acceptance and love by Pride supporters and activists, and we redouble our efforts to do the work because we are so juiced by the ridiculousness of the anti movement. So maybe if our earnest but less-effective UUs invite our scorn, they also invite us to get going on the real work.

This is all being said on an empty stomach. I think I'll go have some breakfast.


Lizard Eater said...

"The world acquires value only through its extremes and endures only through moderation; extremists make the world great, the moderates give it stability." -- Paul Valery

ms. kitty said...

Great comment, LE! Thanks. Hope we get to meet someday.

LinguistFriend said...

One could continue and think in terms of the balance of delegates at GA. Sinkford commented at one point during GA on the need to encourage the chairmen of boards or presidents of congregations (whatever you call them) to come to GA. It is one of the few things on which I agree with him. On the whole they would provide a more representative(or in an Edmund Burkean sense, more judicious) point of view. In either case, I tend to think that this would on the whole be a more valuable point of view than that of those delegates chosen at least largely because they could comfortably afford to come to GA, although this is an inevitable factor.

Mile High Pixie said...

Now *that's* an interesting way to think of it. Watching someone protest in a "kind of wrong" way might make someone go, "oh for pity's sake, I'm going over there with a legible sign and a petition to sign so we can effect some real change. Rock on, my hippies!

Joel said...

I'm sorry; I wish I could agree with you about the hippies. I honestly do. The earnestness you speak of is the sort of thing that makes me wish that I were old enough to be one. Especially for the music. There will never be another musical dynamic like the San Francisco scene in 1967. (Don't get me started!)

But I can't really wax nostalgic for that. Because I'm a member of the generation that had to clean up the mess the hippies left behind. My generation has been described being raised with "step-thises, half-thats, significant others, and strangers at the breakfast table." The hippies may have hoped to create a utopia, but all they really did was eliminate societal stability, at least temporarily. The Summer of Love 40 years ago may have been a collective high, but we reaped the hangover. Generation X is about as excited about hippiedom as a woman cleaning up after a chronically drunk husband.

Which may have something to do with my cynicism about protesters. Durn little has ever been accomplished by people in the streets waving signs. I don't discount the people who do it; my lovely and brilliant wife has spent her time in front of abortion clinics. And she was able to help a few people on an individual basis. (As well as having guards put guns to her head; ask her sometime for her stories.)But on a large scale, I doubt the clinic protesters accomplished much more than the people who spit on Vietnam vets. All they do is remind you of small children having tantrums.

That said, I agree with you about the extremes. Humanity would be jolly dull if all there was was bland homogeneity. I'm sorry to have been a downer with the rest of my comment.

hafidha sofia said...

I seriously cringe at Joel's comment about "durn little" having been accomplished by people in the streets waving signs. It's true that it takes more than demonstrations to change laws, but demonstrations are an incredibly important part of exercising our rights as citizens, and sharing our voices with one another within and across communities.

The Favorite Son said...

Actually, I don't have anything against those who are truly devoted to their cause. What burns my muffins are the two-faced bum-boils who take every chance they can get to use their opinions to garner personal attention.
Whether it is using their position to tell others what their personal morality should be, or bragging about how open and honest they are compared to those other, lesser people/religion that they originally came from, to even pulling strings to get their untrained and incontinent arthritic pooch a special "companion dog" vest so they can take it in any place they want to so they can hear the oohs and ahhs and bask in the glory of undiluted attention. One crotch-sniffing, attention-deficient, deaf, unhousebroken animal wearing a "Companion Animal" vest seriously undermines all the hard work that true service animals and their trainers have gone through. This, too, goes for every Pastor, Father, Minister, Reverend, Wo/Man'O'God that has to look directly into a parishioner's eyes and answer them honestly about a fellow Faith Leader that was caught shtuping an unwed motherless goat on the church alter.

People who TRULY believe are special and should be cherished. They may not change the greater world, but they have power within their own lives that is nothing short of miraculous. People who try and use others beliefs for their own personal gain or beliefs should be hunted down and gut shot, then asked to fill out a survey on socialized medicine.
These are the folks that annoy me, not due to their verbally stated beliefs, but the actions that speak much louder than any stated opinion.

Erm... Sorry to be so long winded, apparently one of my buttons got pressed as I was writing a short response.

ms. kitty said...

Wow, we should push your buttons more often, kiddo.

Joel said...

It's true that it takes more than demonstrations to change laws, but demonstrations are an incredibly important part of exercising our rights as citizens, and sharing our voices with one another within and across communities.

I think that one's a matter of perspective. The demonstrators on the side I favor are exercising their right to be heard and to effect positive change, whereas the ones on the side I'm opposed to are merely soi-disant adults throwing public tantrums. Isn't that how it works? You roll your eyes at pro-life demonstrators, for example, and wave in solidarity at anti-war ones, while I do the reverse.

But if I'm to be self-honest, I'm forced to admit that even the demonstrators on my own side of an issue look kind of silly. It's just become a reflex in our culture to demonstrate in the streets against whatevver torques us off.

Eric Posa said...

Joel, I'm a fellow Gen. Xer (and one who also loves '60s music), and I'm right there with you on your frustrations about many protesters. Too much protesting, no matter how worthy the official cause may be, devolves into expressions of counter-cultural style, more than achieving substantive socio-political change. The "reflex in our culture to demonstrate in the streets against whatevver torques us off," as you put it, too often carries over those immature impulses towards "full of sound and fury" group venting of frustrations that signify nothing helpful.

BUT, that said, there is a better way to protest, and the '60s actually prove it. The anti-Vietnam rallies, sit-ins, etc. were the second wave of protests in the '60s, of course, after the civil rights protests. The civil rights activists got it right: they were focused, disciplined, and able to differentiate their specific social and political goals from broad, nebulous desires for cultural revolution.

Yes, the Baby Boomers jumped the shark sometime in the mid-'60s and lost that focus. (I'm guessing this happened around the time of the first Acid Test.) But when I see a crowd photo from the '63 March on Washington, I see women, men, and children who kept their eyes on the prize, and made it count.

My point is, some people accomplished a hell of a lot by waving signs in the street and getting themselves arrested, along with sitting at lunch counters, registering voters, etc. I'm not ready to give up on protests completely; I just try to limit my participation in them to those that have their collective s#!t together.

Joel said...

But when I see a crowd photo from the '63 March on Washington, I see women, men, and children who kept their eyes on the prize, and made it count.

Eric, the difference there is that the civil rights marchers had a solid majority squarely behind them. They were trying to force changes in a particular region that were already more or less accepted elsewhere. I would say that the Civil Rights Act of the following year was less due to sign-wavers and more to that popular support. The Vietnam protesters were shriller because they didn't have that support, and were trying to force it. Likewise, the Pride protesters, I think, are trying to push for too much too fast. Attitudes don't change overnight, and demanding approval from peoplle who are still working on tolerance is no way to win friends and influence people. Whether they're right or wrong, they don't at this point have the wholehearted support that the civil rights marchers did.

Inicidentally, I see you're in San Antonio, which is my wife's old stomping grounds. I've never been there myself, but it lookslike a lovely city. I know it's not a small town, but are you maybe accquainted with Gordon Atkinson, the Real Live Preacher?

ms. kitty said...

I always ask myself "what would happen if there were no _________ (fill in the blank)?" I think possibly if there were no protest marches, no pickets, no foolish demonstrations, we could reasonably be accused of apathy and not caring about whatever the issue is. At least a protest, a march, a sign says "I care".