Standing Up

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The other day the owner of Chick Fil A got publicity for refusing to hire LGBT workers, and applause for standing up for what he believes in. I noticed that because I saw an exchange on Facebook between a couple of brothers. The more conservative of the two said he’d go out to Chick Fil A because he’s tired of liberals who are intolerant of other points of view. I hope I’m not like that, though there are certainly points of view I disagree with. I guess a lot of people did go out to Chick Fil A (last Wednesday, I think it was). I don’t think I have a problem with people standing up for what they believe, though I may disagree. My father stood up for what he believed in during World War II, and I think it opened up his life, at least partly because that’s how he met my mother. But I suspect his stand still wouldn’t be very popular with a lot of people.

My father was brought up a Quaker, and Quakers are usually pacifists. He had two brothers, one of whom was a doctor, and served the armed forces that way, in Asia, I believe. His other brother was an ambulance driver, I think in France. My father didn’t feel the military was the way to solve problems, so he became a conscientious objector. He served most of the war in a Civilian Public Service camp in North Dakota, though that wasn’t where he went first. He served two places in Indiana, and public sentiment was against CO’s in both, so he had to move on. This was at a time when conscientious objection to war was generally unpopular, so he had to pay for the privilege of serving outside the military. By the time I came along, during the Vietnam war, things were different.

One of my favorite authors, Robert Heinlein, thought that all conscientious objectors were cowards, but he didn’t know my father. What he said was probably more true of me. I became a CO because that was my family’s expectation, and I don’t really think I’d have made much of a soldier. There was a time when I looked down on soldiers who did serve, to some extent, but that’s not something I’m proud of. I was recently reading about Jim Webb, one of the Congressmen for Virginia, who served in Vietnam with conspicuous bravery, and did a lot of different things after returning to this country, before getting into politics. I can’t disrespect what he did, but I don’t think his point of view makes what my father did wrong. Both were doing what they felt was right. Anyone can disagree with their points of view, but I think both were sincere, and not all of us are called to do the same things.

So I don’t know if liberals are more intolerant than conservatives. I think I see quite a lot of intolerance on the part of the latter, but that doesn’t make me or anyone else immune from being intolerant too. I hope I’m not, but I won’t say I could NEVER be. It’s something I try not to give in to, though. I wrote, in a previous post, about a conversation with a conservative woman, and I’ve thought since that I allowed myself to lose my temper, which is not the best way to make friends and influence people. She was saying that using government funding to build infrastructure would burden all our children and grandchildren with debt, and how could I guarantee that jobs would come even if infrastructure was built? What I probably SHOULD have said was something like, I doubt jobs will come if we DON’T build infrastructure. One of the things I DID say was that such a project would create jobs. I think most conservatives would agree that people working instead of being on welfare or unemployment is better. And it would give people money to spend, which might well make the economy work better.

More than twenty years ago I was living in a meditation school, and one of the people who stayed there for awhile, with his family, was a man whose politics were conservative, as most of the rest of ours were not. One day he and I got into a discussion. As best I remember, he said that on his private property he should be allowed to do anything he wanted. The first response I could think of was, suppose you decided to store toxic waste on your property, it got spilled, and affected me and my family? Where do your private rights end, and mine begin? And where do our collective private rights end and those of the community begin? I don’t remember where the conversation went after that, but I think that’s still a valid question, especially in light of the behavior of at least one coal company in West Virginia, who built a toxic waste dump near a small community, whose health it began to affect. They had built one such dump previously, and it had broken open, killing a number of people. The people of the community shown in the movie protested the dump, and protested even more when the company wanted to mine the last intact mountain in their area. They managed to stop the coal company, but that probably wouldn’t have happened in a lot of countries. Money and power count for more than the welfare of the citizens in general in a lot of places in the world, and this country seems to be getting more that way.

Jobs are getting shipped overseas (and have been for a long time) because companies can pay workers less, as well as mistreating them, without penalty. They also often don’t have to worry about regulations against pollution. A couple of years ago I was chatting online with a woman from Colombia, who told me that she lived in town that wasn’t extremely large, but there were many casees of psychosis there. I had read that artificial fertilizers may cause mental problems, so I asked if they were used there. She said they were used a LOT, to the point that there were no fireflies there anymore. Can you imagine? I suspect that was what was causing those psychoses, though of course I don’t know for sure.

The middle class in this country grew after World War II because most people were getting decently paid, and because the government helped returning veterans with the GI bill. One reason why most (but by no means all) were getting paid decently was because of the labor movement, which had become legal during FDR’s administration. If we want to go back to the times before the war, when employers could pay employees barely enough to live on, and make them work in unsafe environments besides, we can do as the Republicans want to, and cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. That takes the financial burden off the government, and puts it back on the individual, which works fine for those who are wealthy, but that’s not most of us. Either we’re all citizens of this country, and in this together, or we’re not. Republicans seem to be saying we’re not. I intend to have the benefits that I’ve paid into all my working life (45 years now), and are something that I was promised, as an American citizen.

If Republicans want to cut things, how about the military? I read an estimate that it costs something like (depending on how you calculate it) $1-1.4 TRILLION a year. Another friend I sometimes chat with online said she wanted a military that works, which I can’t disagree with, but why does our military need some 1100 bases around the world? Why can’t we go back to simply defending our country? And 1100 bases is just the most visible of the waste in that budget. With that much money to spend, can we expect that none of it is being spent wastefully or fraudulently? I read that Medicare fraud is something like 14% of the budget, obviously way too high, but that Medicare is STILL more efficient than private health insurance. That doesn’t speak well for the private sector, and even Mitt Romney virtually admitted that when he admired Israel’s health system, which is a single-payer system.

I’ve rambled a bit in this piece, but my original point is that anyone has the right, if not the duty to stand up for what he or she believes in, and that neither liberal nor conservative has the right to do more than disagree. Forcing people to live with YOUR rules is something that happens in other countries. It’s not supposed to happen here.

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