I recently finished reading Deer Hunting with Jesus: Dispatches from America’s Class War. Fun and interesting book. But also very insightful about the average person in the not-so-urban areas of the US (well, West Virginia at least). US politics fascinates me. I guess it stems from when I used to be in politics. Way back when, at a time when university actually cost less than a car, I joined (now, no snickering or shaking of heads; I was young and impressionable) the Progressive Conservatives. It was fun and we did lots of neat things (mostly seemed to involve keggers on Parliament Hill — did you know there is no federal drinking age in Canada and the Parliament Hill is considered “federal property”?) but we were respectful. We even invited liberals and NDPers to them (the running joke — which I believe still holds true today — is that if you want to get drunk, join the Conservatives; if you want to get laid, join the Liberals and if you want to talk policy, join the NDP). But debate was respectable, even in the most heated of discussions.
I suppose it’s a Canadian thing where the House of Commons becomes a huge debate fest, with exception of the reading of the speech by the Governor General, the Queen’s representative in the House. This is the one time that it’s silent and you rarely hear anything beyond silent murmur and gentle snoring. I suppose that’s why I was kind of shock to see the whole Joe Wilson thing. I don’t think anyone suggests that he cannot speak his mind but rather, like many things in life, there are times and places for that. Because of Mr. Wilson, I’ve been learning more and more about American politics and all the things that make it up. It’s a rather fascinating process, very different from the calmer Canadian side of things (we really haven’t had exciting politics since Trudeau, known for the flare, and Sir John A, known for drinking vodka in the House). What in particular that did get my interest was the wide range of political commentary that goes on. In Canada there are the CBC (aka the Mother Corp), CTV (US Wannabe) and Global TV (insert witticism here). What I do find, however, is that their news tends to be either center with a tad left or center with a tad right leaning. You don’t see the leaning-so-far-to-the-right/left-the-country-dips-into-Atlantic/Pacific-ocean ideals like here in the US.
I’ve watched CNN, Fox News and MSNBC (I have to admit: Maddows makes me chuckle at times). What I find interesting is a few things: the “liberal” MSM tends to be more smiley and positive about life in general, even during the Bush years. They were far more respectful. The more “conservative” MSM tends to be angry and fearful all the time. Add to that some of the interesting results of some of the stories they report on. A recent poll suggests that about 1 in 3 New Jersey citizens think that Obama is the Anti-Christ. That’s half of those that believe in the Devil. I won’t get into the whole “he-wasn’t-born-here” stuff. I mean, seriously. You’d think that when someone applies to run for office that the Federal Election Commission checks this stuff, no? I keep thinking that a lot of this is how the liberal MSM (Main Stream Media) portrays the conservative MSM but after digging, I’m discovering it’s not. What is challenging for me is that I do believe in respecting each others views, no matter how much I vehemently disagree. But some of the beliefs that go on about the President (e.g., he’s a Hitler wannabe with storm troopers ready) and his policies are rather far-fetched (e.g., he’s going to start internment camps) but at the same time, it does make me wonder: at what point do we finally pull away from what we’re told and start to experience our own lives as we define them? I mean, do we only go by what the MSM says is left or right? Or do we learn to make our own insightful opinions? (yes, I do remember something from University that doesn’t involve a keg)
I ask this because of something that I experience as a trans person. I often hear about the many who get assaulted, hurt, killed, demeaned, etc. It’s rather frightening. But I’ll be honest in that I think it tends to cloud both mine and other’s points of view of trans individuals. A non-trans person gets told that we’re different and thus they should fear us. While the trans person is told that we’re different and we should be afraid of how everyone else will react to our path in life. I’ve been told that Christians, particularly the born-again types, are to be feared and mocked. I’m not sure if that is healthy or even necessary for all. I’ve met many Christians who are very nice and very respectful, even if they do not understand or agree with my choices. Right now, in my life, Christianity isn’t a path for me (I won’t say never since anything is possible) and while it fascinates me from a historical and sociological point of view, it does nothing for my soul. Ever since I began my medical transition, I was in fear of what students, colleagues and strangers think of me. And so far, the results have been rather positive or neutral (no negatives but nothing overtly positive either).
Could it be white male privilege? To a degree, especially in the US, yes. And if I ever saw personally anything that would suggest it, then I’d say it’s more likely that but to be honest, I don’t think I’ve ever seen it yet. I’m not going to naively say that it never happens. I know it does. But I wonder how many trans individuals live their lives so stealthily without incident and lead rather boring meager lives? And how much of that is partially lived with the fear that if someone found out, then they’d think less of me? I’m rather public about who I am. This blog is very open and yet, being trans hasn’t hurt me nor has the discovery of my trans state seemed to change anything. If anything, I’ve noticed more respect for being so forthcoming and outspoken. Perhaps, if anything, it’s partially a confidence thing (which is more acceptable socially for a white person than a person of color — that is, a form of privilege). Maybe it’s the side effect of the internet and social media being used to create large communities and trying to fill the silence with something, anything, so people will come back. We listen to the more outrageous things than the day-to-day things probably because our lives seem so… well… day-to-day.
So, how much do we find it acceptable to continue trumpeting the evils of the “other” (insert whatever “other” is normally across from you)? Will there ever be a time when we stop demeaning the “others” and get back to civilized debate where we speak and listen in turn? And will there ever be a time where we talk about things based on what we experienced rather than what we are told we should have experienced? Or are we all just going to go along with it because we want to belong somewhere, anywhere, with anyone so we don’t feel so alone?
To end this post I thought I’d share a chuckle. One of the things I used to love was reading the editorial cartoon of the day. I’ve recently become a fan of Daryl Cagle’s website and couldn’t help but belly laugh at this: