Tuesday, March 23, 2004

A moral decision or two

I rode in Tony's car to pick up some computer hardware. On the way back from the first trip where we had just earmarked the stuff we'd come back for, he turned the radio on. Rush Limbaugh came on, which is fine.

Not that I think Rush Limbaugh's show is fine, but I have no problem if your radio was already on the station when you turn it on and we sit there for twenty minutes listening to him. I'd take a trip with my dad to the beach and we'd be listing to a financial advice show that gave good advice, and then Rush would come on next, and why change the station? We're not going to agree on a music station, there was no game to listen to; we might as well stick with it. Secondly, I can handle streams of poor rhetoric in radio-sized doses. Everything moves at the speed of conversation which is a speed I'm used to dealing with on a daily basis, and I can work out in my head why or why not Limbaugh has a point statement-by-statement before he's already moved on. I'm always paranoid with produced and edited TV segments that with the visual data added to the mix that I'm missing something that's subliminally affecting my judgment. I worry after I've fallen asleep with the radio on, too.

So on the second trip, when we've got a truck following us to actually carry the stuff in, the radio burbles on about gay marriages in San Francisco or maybe some county seat in New York. So Tony, knowing I agree with him on some foreign policy issues and haven't objected to his radio talk show choices so far, starts venting his frustration about the gay marriage/civil union issue. He is, just to be clear, against homosexuality. Not that he has anything against the homosexuals. Though he didn't say as much, his stance is close to the Augustinian "hate the sin, love the sinner," which, if nothing else, is commendable from a consistency standpoint from a man who is proud to be a practicing Catholic.

I don't agree. I could go in to states rights vs. federalism, church vs. state and economic arguments, but that's not my point. My point is that I'm sitting in a car listening to a guy rant on about a point I don't agree with, and I'm saying nothing. I feel bad. It's not like he's trying to convince me - he's only expressing how he feels and isn't spending effort to tie it all together to prove his point. Still, I feel a bit cheap just sitting still and taking it in. I think to myself, I'm going to see Tony almost every day for the next few months at least, and it's going to be a lot easier for both of us if I just shut up and sit still.

Without that listening to Tony, though, I don't think I would have ever understood the moral side of the argument.

Later that week, once more scouting out people with opinions I don't normally pay attention to, I found Dinesh D'Souza. I was reading A Solution for the Democrats when two things hit me — first, I have no hope of being convinced when even D'Souza's straw men seem pretty reasonable at times. (I am opposed to robbery, but what's so bad about wanting free health care for everyone? I would love my elected representative to say "I would like free health care for everyone. Sadly, to do so is horribly impractical. Here is my proposal:..." I also want world peace, and for puppies not to die.) Second, I did not understand the width of the great moral divide. I think many opposed to gay marriage believe homosexuality is as perverse as, say, sacrificing puppies. In that light, I'm even a little astonished that I'm not as indignant as they are. This might seem a "no duh" statement to you, but the realness of the feeling, real empathy never hit me until I put Tony's two and Dinesh's two together.

There are a few loose threads about all this that I am trying together. There's the story about conceptions of disgust and roaches that have been in an autoclave (and so are more sterile than your own finger) from the "No Thanks" episode of Been There Done That. There's George Carlin arguing the evils of religion in a way that I find hard to refute.

I'm still not sure what I ought to have done in the car that day.

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