Monday, November 17, 2008

On Liberalism and Knitting

No, there is nothing connecting these topics together, other than I happen to have been thinking about them both a lot lately. Perhaps if I were an English professor, I would be able to come up with something that links these two ideas together. But since I'm not, I won't try.

I've been wondering for a while now, when did the word "liberal" become "bad"? I mean the word "liberal" means open-handed and generous, not literal or strict, according to Merriam-Webster. But all I seem to be hearing about for the past election cycle is how horrible it is to be liberal: how liberals are pro-abortion and even pro-death. Now I've known many, many people in my lifetime who identify themselves as "liberal," politically. But, I know of not one person who thinks abortion is a "good" thing to do. No one recommends everyone have one. And as for "pro-death," isn't it those horrible liberals who oppose the death penalty? Oppose the war in Iraq? Even try to save such things as tree-frogs and spotted owls? All as a result of their dislike of death. It is my opinion that it is myopic, and even mean-spirited to say that anyone is "pro-death," regardless of your opinion of another's view of the death penalty, abortion, or the tree-frog.

Personally, I am opposed to abortion: I believe it to be a sin, immoral, and I believe life begins at conception. However, as I do not run the world (and I have no wish to), I recognize that not everyone will agree with me. Scientists and doctors cannot agree on when life begins! And, as my belief regarding this comes from the Bible, I do not feel that I am in a position to impose my views regarding this upon others. I certainly do not believe it is the place of the government of this country to impose its views on this either, especially not when based primarily on religious philosophy. So, yes, I am anti-abortion and pro-choice. Both.

This country needs liberals. Without liberals, schools could still legally be segregated, the Voting Rights Act would not have been passed, it would be perfectly legal to discriminate against a person because of their race in private establishments, and none but the first ten amendments to the Constitution would be in existence. All were the results of "activism," and flew in the face of strict adherence to the letter of the law, then in existence. However, change for the sake of it is not good in government, either. You can't be changing the Constitution every ten minutes on a whim, and the Court cannot decide to depart from the current law, "just because." It would create the most unstable government in the world!

So, yes, this country needs conservatives, as well, to hold back and say, "Look! This is the Constitution, and this is why these things were put in there in the first place! This is what our country was founded upon." But keeping things the way they always have been, just because "this is the way it's always been" is a danger as well. Nothing makes me more angry about office procedure than the following conversation: "Why do we do this in this way?" "Because it's the way we've always done it." "But wouldn't it be more efficient to do it this other way?" "Sure." "Then, why can't we do it that way, instead?" "Because we've always done it this way." We need both parties in government. Liberal and conservative. We need the liberals trying to move forward and change things all the time, and conservatives trying to hold things the way they are. This way, we never get too far ahead too fast, but yet when change is needed, it can be done.
End of sermon: Now the knitting! These are my July and September socks!

Here's a better view of the green ones, so you can see the pattern, hopefully.

Now, I'm all excited about my winter project: a fisherman's sweater. Cozy and cabley. I got a really light caramel color brown for it. (I only paid around $25 for the yarn!) And, it's the kind of pattern that lets you figure out measurements and shaping and stuff for yourself! I'm thrilled.


mozartmovement said...

love the socks! love (some) liberals!

Lisa said...

Would that our respective schedules allowed for sitting, philosophizing and for you to teach me to knit! (after all, will soon be needing at least 24 puppy booties...!)

whw said...

I think one of the issues you address is one of the most important, and misunderstood, issues in U.S. politics: the relation between the Christian and the state. Your thoughtful exposition deserves a detailed response. (That is my excuse for the length of this comment. I hope it flies...)

You state "As my belief regarding this [abortion] comes from the Bible, I do not feel that I am in a position to impose my views regarding this upon others." The problem here is that many Christians' positions on every issue in life is formed by the Bible. For instance, my belief that fraud is a sin and immoral comes from the Bible. Your statement implies that I should therefore not "impose my view regarding this upon others." In other words, because of the origin of my anti-fraud position, I am not "in a position to" advocate for laws against fraud. How is my view that fraud is wrong any less valid than a view derived from the Qu'ran or the Communist Manifesto or Doonesbury, or something that I just made up out of whole cloth? Your own views on justice for the oppressed owe much, I suspect, to both the Minor Prophets and the social imperatives of the New Testament. Should the State cut or eliminate the Public Defender program, would you feel that you were not in a position to advocate for its continuance, because of the origins of some or all of your beliefs about justice?

I think one of the overlooked question in this debate regards the appropriate scope of government. The old "government can't / shouldn't legislate morality" canard is plainly silly: what are laws against homicide, if not legislated morality? The other extreme, totalitarianism, is equally obviously unacceptable, which is the reason the framers set express limits on the power of government. The question becomes not just whether (or why) I believe something is right or wrong, but also whether the government has the right or responsibility to do anything about it. For instance, as a Christian, I believe that fraud is immoral and a sin. I observe that fraud involves one person taking unfair advantage of another, to that other's material detriment. I believe that government has a general responsibility to prevent and/or punish citizens' taking unfair advantage of each other. Therefore I believe government should enact laws against fraud. (I do not take this as far as punishing cheating in baseball: is that an inconsistency? Perhaps I should rethink that...) I also believe, as a Christian, that the only way to truly live in this world or the next is to follow Jesus Christ. But I do not believe that government has the right to legislate everyone or anyone into following Christ. ("Congress shall make no law regarding an establishment of religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof...") Therefore I oppose any laws that would force people into the Christian faith, or punish them for being recusant.

I think one of the great triumphs of the pro-abortion movement in the last 40 years is the widespread perception that abortion is a "religious" issue, not a political one, and thus any opposition to abortion based on religious reasons amounts to "forcing religion down [our] throats." (It's interesting that this logic is applied almost exclusively to Christians and not, for instance, to Orthodox Jews. And it certainly is not applied to "mainline" Protestants who, for religious reasons, favor abortion rights.) This isn't the case at all. If one believes, for whatever reason, that abortion involves one person doing serious physical harm to another, and if one also believes that government has the obligation to prevent or punish such harm, the logical conslusion (not the religious conclusion) is that the government should outlaw abortion. If one believes that abortion does not involve one person doing serious physical harm to another, then the logical conclusion is that government should not outlaw abortion.

It's interesting, I think, to contrast the debate over abortion with the abolition debate in the 1850s. Both sides in that debate openly based their positions on the Bible. If Bible-based values had been eliminated from the political arena in that day, who would have benefited more: the abolitionists or the pro-slavery forces? That's a difficult call from this distance in time, but it certainly would have changed the debate. There was even a "pro-choice" position, too: Stephen Douglas' "Popular Sovereignty." Would modern pro-choice people have supported that, I wonder? And what becomes of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address (in my opinion, one of the great human utterances of any time or any place) without not only the Biblical quotes, but the Biblical perspective?

Finally, the idea that Christians, or people of any faith, should be prohibited on that basis from exercising their full rights as citizens -- including the right to advocate for legislation that affects everyone -- flies in the face of the "free exercise" clause of the First Amendment. Disagree with me on the issues if you will; vote opposite from me, and we'll both abide the majority decision. (We've had truly terrible Presidents before, and bad Supreme Courts, and the country still stands.) But I will not stop advocating for the 800,000+ lives lost every year to abortion, simply because that advocacy is rooted in my faith.

Sircellan said...

It's nice to read that we agree on these issues. :-)

In response to whw, I'd hazard a guess that the author wasn't saying you couldn't advocate legislation if it is rooted in faith.

Nice knitting!

Jason said...

Excellent post. Drives me crazy when the meaning of words get twisted 180 degrees. I know plenty who don't think kindly of people they'd call liberals but have no idea what the word means.

Jason said...

I know what you mean about the term liberal. I like to think of myself as liberal but have a co-worker who gets spitting mad every time the work is uttered. Doubt he knows what the word actually means. Would probably get mad too if I went by his definition.

Anonymous said...

Are you a Federal public defender?

Ruth said...