Sunday, July 18, 2004

Words, Words

I was listening to a fascinating interview with journalist Hendrik Hertzberg on NPR the other day. Hertzberg served as President Carter's speechwriter for a time and is author of a recent book,  Politics: Observations and Arguments, 1966-2004. He was being interviewed about many different areas of interest, but the interview began with a look at the term "liberal" and the "far left."  The author noted that the far left does not exist any longer. The far left was truly alive during the 60's various civil movements and has actually become now the "far right" with the various militias and "people..who blew up Oklahoma City." 
Hertzberg bemoans the demonization of the term "liberal" and bemoans the fact that "progressive" has replaced it, since, for Hertzberg, liberty (the root of liberal) is a better virtue that progress.  He also rightly comments on how "liberal" and "far left" are both inappropriately applied to John Kerry, and, in general, are grossly misused to stir controversy.
Arguably, Kerry strides the liberal fence, although Republicans seeking to villify John Edwards as a liberal clearly have no conception of what the word means. For a North Carolina politician, the man is a bleeding-heart, but on a wide-scale, he's a step away from Republicanism.
Like Hertzberg I've also thought that "liberal" is a weak attempt at an insult. Why do people consider it insulting. People who are truly liberal must shed the label often just to be heard.  Yet conservative retains a positive connotation largely, when conservative politicians have continued to put power and advantage in the hands of large corporations at the expense of working citizens.
Prior to this broadcast, I was struck by a sermon from a local church broadcast on televison. The preacher railed on about the homosexual agenda and how homosexuals were working against traditional marriage. This was no simple country preacher; the man seemed educated and well-spoken.  How then can he, like so many in the Religious Right, draw such a simple distinction between "homosexual" and "Christian."  People use the terms like they are mutually exclusive.  Just as one can be Southern and Catholic, one can be homosexual and Christian. 
Even from a theological perspective, there is no exclusion. Even if homosexuality is viewed in the context of being sin, the gospels boldly proclaim that all people are sinners . How is this one supposed sin worse or different?  Again, words are used thoughtlessly and perhaps purposefully to hurt and divide.
All of which leads up to my most recently fume-inducer. Bill James is the Mecklenberg County Commissioner. (Mecklenberg is the county where Charlotte is located.  I happen to live just outside of the county in Cabarrus County.)   James is a fundamentalist with a mission: define or redefine the county according to his faith. According to the July 7-13 edition of the Charlotte Creative Loafing, James commented that he "[doesn't] know any liberal preachers of note anymore.  the left doesn't seem to have any activist ministers...Liberals in Charlotte have given up...and won't even bring up gay rights.  I don't know if there are any true liberals in Charlotte."
Actually, many liberal voices exist around Charlotte, no matter how James or his allies may try to drown them out.  This mere statement angers me for its complete dismissal of many good men and women who are fighting the good fight in the region.  It's the view of a man who probably sees anyone or anything that disagrees with him as, if not non-existant, inconsequential.
James, who opposes benefits for unmarried couples (gay or straight) and who thankfully failed to pass recently a bill prohibiting gays and lesbians from being foster parents or adopting,  is proud of his attack on a 1997 production of Angels in America at the Charlotte Repetory Theatere.   James proudly and smugly sees himself as the man to "rid society of behavior that is un-Christian and wrong."  He also implies that liberals can't be true Christians because liberals "historically [have] this inability to accept that Christ is the only way to God...Without the anchor of Christianity...they just make it up as they go along."
James's actions and words mark him as the mean and stupid individual that he is.  Clearly ignorant of anything outside his own world-view, he lacks the meekness, compassion and humility that Christ exhibited in His ministry.  Still, they are but words from a small man and, as they say," sticks and stones". 


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