11 April 2005

Arrogance, ignorance, and indignation

I guess I'm wrong.

I'm so tired of reading and hearing about people who scream from the rooftops that This is how it needs to be, and that alternatives will only lead to the downfall of society, the family, government, school, etc.

Here's what I want: I want to be able to make up my own mind. I want to be able to marry a woman, or get an abortion, if I so choose. I don't want someone descending from some high moral pillar to chastise me and tell me that I'm wrong and that I don't know what's good for me. I don't care if those morals are based in religious beliefs or biology or "I woke up last Wendesday and decided This."

As I said to Robyn, I'm not trying to be judgemental -- I'm trying to point out that I have a right to my beliefs without being dismissed, pitied, or derided.

I don't want to tell other people that they're wrong and I'm right. I don't want to dig through mountains of "evidence" for one side or the other. I just want it to be okay for me to believe what I believe. And yes, it's fine for other people to believe what they believe -- but I do have a caveat; I don't think that it's a valid cultural or religious argument to advocate any belief that oppresses or abuses someone else.

I'll whip out the New York Times for this back up:
"I was collecting firewood for my family when three armed men on camels came and
surrounded me. They held me down, tied my hands and raped me, one after the
other. When I arrived home, I told my family what had happened.
"They threw me out of home, and I had to build my own hut away from them. I was engaged to a man, and I was so much looking forward to getting married. After I got raped, he did not want to marry me and broke off the engagement because he said I was now disgraced and spoilt. ...
"When I was eight months pregnant from the rape, the police came to my hut and forced me with their guns to go to the police station. They asked me questions, so I told them that I had been raped. They told me that as I was not married, I will deliver this baby illegally.
"They beat me with a whip on the chest and back and put me in jail."
That's a 16 year-old girl in Sudan, as quoted in an April 6th editorial by Nicholas D. Kristof.

That's a culture war. And I consider the motivations invalid because they are destructive, not just to an isolated population, but to many people, possibly all.

I don't really get how that's judgemental, but apparently it is. So, all this time and effort I've been putting into trying to look at opposing points of view and looking at things from multiple angles have been wasted. Really, I've been dismissing, invalidating, and imposing all along, so I should just jump on the bandwagon and stop trying to build bridges.

"I know what I believe and I have my reasons. Everyone else is wrong and stupid, and it's my job to show them the error of their ways."

I guess that's as pointless a battle as the one I've been fighting. Asking to be understood and accepted seems like a lot less to expect of people, but it doesn't seem to work.

So, I'm wrong. And you know what? I'm okay with that.


deadwriter said...

Emotionally charged debates, especially when you are tired, is usually a terrible forum to try and convey ideas. That hasn't stopped me. Even though I know this, as recently as this weekend, I got into on of these discussions, with you, and used extreme examples to try to communicate my point on this, and I failed miserably.

What bothers me is when people condemn others for "trying to force their beliefs on others" as if that, in and of itself, is a terrible terrible thing.

The fact is, that anytime there is a law, a belief is being imposed on the people to whom that law applies. That belief may be as basic as "killing people is wrong" or as complex as "stealing a car that costs a lot of money deserves a harsher punishment than raping someone" or "you should pay for food you need to survive."

The notion that everyone has the right to personal freedom and choice is also a belief. There are people all around the world who fight ans risk their lives daily for this belief. They fight against those who do not hold this belief. Essentially, two contradictory beliefs come into conflict with one another, and often times, neither side agrees on a method to resolve the conflict.

In this case, there are people who believe that morality is absolute and (for the most part) believe that is is spelled out in the Bible. Of course, there are certain interpretations of the Bible they believe, and those are sometimes inconsistent, but that is beside the point. These people believe that human beings have a natural tendency to do what is wrong, and that there should be as many impediments preventing people from succumbing to sin as possible.

They are in conflict with those who believe notions of right and wrong are often difficult to determine, and as a result, personal freedom and choice should be allowed as much as possible so people can decide what is right, individually, and make their decisions accordingly.

Fortunately, we have rules in place to mediate this dispute and come to a decision. We have parliament to make laws, a group of people who supposedly represent the voting public and make decisions based on their beliefs. We also have a court system, that is not directly responsible to the people, who have as their guiding principle the bill of rights. Together, these two groups make decision about the law.

Those who met in Ottawa to protest the are working within this system to make sure their beliefs are understood and represented. They may not be doing a very good job, since in most cases, it is an emotionally charged debate with extreme examples, but they are acting within the law.

You are not a terrible person for believing that personal choice is a firm ideal which the laws of any country should strive to attain. You have strong beliefs based on information and stories which you believe to be true. You also believe certain things are wrong, horrendous even, and that people should be protected from those things. And you stand up for your beliefs. you don't try to hide them, but more than that, you try to make sure your actions are consistent with your beliefs. All things that, in my opinion, are very noble and honorable.

You might be a little bit of a hypocrite though when you attack others for standing up for what they believe just because it contradicts what you believe. This doesn't mean you should stay silent in the midst of a debate over the laws of this country, nor does it mean that you should refrain from responding to those who express beliefs that contradict your own. But suggesting they are backwards or antiquated for standing up for their beliefs hardly builds roads or shows an open mind.

Maybe I take it a little personally too. My parents and entire extended family are against same-sex marriage. I disagree with them, but I understand why they believe what they believe and why they would stand up and ask politicians to refrain from expanding the legal definition of marriage. I don’t believe that makes them, their beliefs, or their activism anachronistic or awful. When someone suggests it is, I feel compelled to defend them.

However, when someone suggests they are wrong, and that Canada should allow people to make up their own mind on same-sex marriage because we are a country based on the principles of personal freedom and choice, and that we should try as much as possible to keep to that principle, I would have to agree.

minako said...

"you should pay for food you need to survive."

Victor Hugo wrote a novel about that very idea. And whether someone who contraverts that law is amoral.

It's called Les Misérables. Maybe you've heard of it.

I guess my statement should be, "I believe in shades of gray."

It's not my intention to "attack" anyone. But if it does come across as an attack, then I should clarify that my intention is to "attack" someone's attempt to invalidate my beliefs because they aren't in line with their own. It's the pot and the kettle.

And, for the record, I would never tell anyone in your family that they were "wrong" for holding with the tradtional definition of marriage, but I'd be awfully offended if they tried to tell me that I was wrong because I don't.

Me said...

Jeez guys! These aren't comments - these are blogs inside blogs! ;)

Sara said...

Lucky for us that "making up your own mind" doesn't include you deciding to eat sacrificial human flesh. You believe that it's immoral to advocate a belief that oppresses or abuses someone else, and yet that in itself imposes your morality on others. What if I WANT to abuse or oppress someone? Shouldn't I have just as much *right* to that as you do to marry a woman? Maybe you need to redefine your idea of "rights" (having rights means also having *responsibilities*). And how come your protection of the rights of the abused doesn't protect the rights of the unborn?

minako said...

Interesting points Sara. If not a little inflammatory.

Sacrificing someone would surely infringe on their rights, since they'd have to die. If they choose to, I can't really change that, but I can't pressure someone to, or kill them myself. That's abusive.

Also, the "rights of the unborn" depends on when you believe a life begins. For example, for hundreds of years the Catholic catechism taught that life started with first breath, i.e., when the baby was born.

I think I'll follow your lead and use an extreme example of why I want the right to choose.

If I'm raped, and get pregnant from that rape, why should I be forced to live with the product of that violation for the rest of my life?

Also, for the record, I think that if there was proper sex education in the first place (not just "don't do until you're married), there would be fewer abortions needed in the second place.