The other day I attended a lecture hosted by the ACLU where Connie Schultz and her husband Senator Sherrod Brown were the speakers. Many interesting things were said about government, civil liberties and their life shared in the public eye. The most interesting comment to me by far was when the Senator answered a question about why the GOP hate people so much. I am paraphrasing as I don’t remember the actual question, but it was fairly mildly stated, even if it was provocative for a politician to answer.
What was interesting was that his response could have been self-aggrandizing or pointed up the differences between the party platforms, but instead he stated the ways that his GOP colleagues believe they are doing the right thing, even while we think they are wrong. And then he explained how he can get up and face it every day – he thinks about who he is working for and what he is working against.
An elegant reminder to keep your priorities straight.
Language is important to me. What we say and think we become. Being for something is infinitely more satisfying to me than being against. But its easy to forget, to get twisted.
My politics are pretty clear and consistent. I fall heavily to the left of center making me either a social progressive, liberal democrat, pinko commie, or socialist agitator depending where one stands on the political spectrum. For instance, I am for women’s rights and reproductive choice, which might make me “against” a whole host of ideas, initiatives and traditions to some people. But there is a very important distinction in my mind. From my perspective the world I want to live in, the things I am working for, doesn’t exclude or obliterate the opposition. In my mind its not progress to restrict or limit others rights in order to assert your own. So as awful and abusive as protestors outside abortion clinics are, I support their right to be there exercising their free speech, as long as they don’t stop anyone from getting access to an abortion.
Its hard to not be resentful knowing that while I will defend and protect the protesters rights, they would likely strip me of me of the same rights if they had the chance. That’s when its useful to remember what you are for rather than what you are against.
I learned one other very useful thing at this lecture. I had stopped reading Connie Shultz a while ago even though I had admired and followed her for years in the local paper. Her columns became all about human interest stuff – her kids, her dog, her life being “The Senator’s lovely wife” – and I wasn’t much interested. Turns out she has been writing the same political, liberal, timely columns but they were syndicated and not being carried locally. Shame on me for not finding out sooner.