2006-07-14

OPTIMISM how to have it when common sense tells you to slash your wrists NjW

While I enjoy keeping all my Freethinkers & Others informed, I do worry about you all, at times. This post is to share with all the groups how I maintain a semblance of sanity in a nation apparently – to use John Le Carre’s pithy epithet – “gone mad.”

On OPTIMISM: I have mentioned this, in passing, over the years, but here’s my guiding philosophy on the subject:

I try to maintain a balance, in my mind, between the micro & the macro; the concrete & the abstract; the minutiae & the “big picture;” the battle & the war.

It is the micro, concrete, & minutiae that drive you crazy; bring you down; and cause you to abandon all hope.

The macro, abstract, & “big picture” provide emotional distance; allow perspective & scope; and remove the myopia of immediacy.

The micro moves you to action; to right the wrong (preferably yesterday); to fight the fight; to be “in the moment.”

The macro allows you to sit back and reflect on where the issue stands in history; its relative progress (or regress) over time; and perhaps what form the next major effort should take.

The micro is today: unreflective; all zeal; ad hoc planning; gut-reaction; instinct’; visceral; on-the-ground; face-to-face

The macro is the future: quiet; reflective; wound-binding; soul-searching; second-guessing; rethinking; and rejuvenating.

The best way to illustrate this is by example; say, Gay Marriage:

The leaders of the Gay Rights movement have, since Stonewall, had to constantly right themselves after each orgy of hate and bigotry slung their way over the past (almost) 4 decades. From the police riot of that seminal day in June of 1969, to the job and housing discrimination struggles of the 70s and 80s, to the corporate policies regarding the benefits of S.O’s - Significant Others – in the 80s and 90s (their allies turned out to be the ever-increasing numbers of hetero couples “living in sin”), to the military hypocrisy of the 90s and beyond, there has always been micro action or reaction (as at Stonewall), followed by a macro period, followed by further micro action, and so on, until the job is done, or a pause is taken to get on with other, more pressing, issues.

The latest struggle for the gay community is gay marriage – its time is here. The challenge, once again, is for gays to keep things in perspective. When the hatred is so venomous; so unyielding; so mindless; it is the only way by which they will keep their sanity. Even the most emotionally secure among us can only take such adamant and hate-filled rejection for so long. Ultimately, that’s what all torture is about: dehumanization.

Ross Perot introduced me to a countryism for which I will always be grateful: “skin in the game.” It is far more evocative of its message than one’s “ox being gored” (does that have anything to do with Al?). It also applies to every one of us who have fought a good fight.

If I’m a feminist or a hetero Jew, marching for gay marriage rights, I usually won’t have nearly as much “skin in the game” as my fellow gay march mates. It will be easier for me to move into and out of the micro and macro; not so easy for the gays with whom I am allied (my long-time response to the question “Whose rights are you for?” is, “What have you got.?”). Their “skin in the game” is who they are; mine merely empathetic; but no less valuable, for that.

However, it is good that Progressives (I call the other guys Regressives) are not all equally bound up on every issue. For some of us, gay rights is the thing; for others, women’s equality & choice; still others, immigrants and civil rights. Others of us (me) cover the waterfront – as a hetero WASP, other than our few remaining Amendments, I don’t need no rights; my people already run the place (just, into the ground, for now).

But, the thing that unites us all – and the reason the other side will always, eventually, come up short – is that, our macro-ends are identical; only our micro-means differ. And the Regressives? They have their work cut out for them:

Their micro-means are identical; but their macro-ends are all over the damn map. Progressives share a common destination: universal equality for everyone (even for the folks who would deny us such rights every chance they get). The Regressives’ problem is that any time they achieve their macro-means: they must then agree on their macro-ends – nevah happen.

This is why – macro view again – with almost every lever of power under sway to them, the Regressive coalition has been unable to do more damage than they have (not in any way to dismiss the immense harm they have already inflicted on us all – supporters and detractors alike). And every poll shows more tolerance, more understanding, more live-and-let-live agreement among the American people. Take away a few populist, pandering, opportunistic, vacillatory, and hate-mongering politicians and public figures, and we’d be going down the road to real progress at a much faster pace.

Hope this clears things up a bit.

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