This will no doubt come as a surprise to some of you, but I still get very uncomfortable when the need to speak my mind on a controversial subject arises. But to overcome my discomfort, and to prevent it from keeping me silent, I try to also remember that while…
As I’ve said many times before on this blog, I don’t do “live” interactions with people very well. And while I’ve been involved in many heated debates in my life, it was a rare thing indeed for me to walk away from one feeling that I had adequately expressed my views or the principles behind them. Unfortunately, the isolated life that I’ve lived for the last few years hasn’t exactly improved my debating abilities, and that has caused me to have a “bad taste” in my mouth for the last couple of days after a most unsatisfying debate with my son over the concept of religious freedom.
A debate that ended with him essentially accusing me of contradicting myself by advocating the right to believe as one wants while at the same time showing extreme intolerance towards those who believe differently than I do. Well, though I know that he’ll probably never read this, this post is my attempt to set the record straight, if only for my own peace of mind.
You see, my actual position is much more in line with this Carl Sagan Quote posted by my friend at the Metousiosis blog:
The problem with Mr. Sagan’s beautifully worded statement, however, is that it doesn’t provide an answer to the question of how, exactly, a person would go about becoming “fully equipped” when the culture he lives in fails to provide them with the tools he needs. It is my belief that the road to being fully equipped begins with a staunch defense of one’s own individuality.
I defend the right of others to believe as they want, not because of some need to show approval for the things they believe in, but to help ensure my right to believe, and to say so out loud if that’s what I choose, that those I disagree with are all freaking nuts! And while I recognize the educational value of exploring my national, cultural, and ethnic heritage, to me the only proper way to end a sentence that starts with “I’m a” or “I’m an,” is with an occupation descriptor and not some “group” affiliation, because to do so robs me of my identity as an individual – the sacred foundation upon which my entire understanding of reality rests.
Though it wasn’t aimed at me specifically, fellow blogger Jim Wheeler summed up my thinking here most profoundly in his comment on Pied Type’s Climate change: ‘Chasing Ice’ post:
“Depends on a person’s world view. Some people’s world view has a radius of about 8 feet, and others, the poets among us, feel viscerally about the implications the intellect delivers. Has nothing to do with religion, which is dogma, it’s more about the size of one’s tribe. Some people’s tribes are exceedingly small, and others? The human race.”
I want my beliefs to be based on my long-term best interests as determined by my nature as a human being, and not on the short-term, arbitrary “needs” of whatever “group” or “groups” I’m being “friendly” with at the moment. I will always view anyone’s attempt to label me as anything other than “an honest man” as an attempt to lock me in the anti-intellectual cage of the human choosing to live as an animal – a cage that a frighteningly high percentage of people choose live in of their own accord – and I will fight against such restrictions on my freedom with every ounce of my being.
Now I admit that I didn’t grow up fearing that speaking against my culture’s prevailing beliefs might actually get me killed, but I’m not exactly handing out awards for tolerance to the people I grew up around either. My determination to choose my own way, as an individual, was what helped me to identify my path to becoming a “fully equipped” human being. By making my own decisions, including my mistakes, and denying myself the opportunity to feign ignorance behind the beliefs held by the others around me, I force myself to remain consistent with reality as I see it. To choose any other way would be an abdication of my responsibility to myself and to my sense of what it means to be a moral human being.
There’s a brightly lit “steer clear” sign that pops up in my mind whenever I encounter someone who identifies himself by his affiliations rather than who he really is, because a person who chooses to hide his identity behind the anonymity of a group is likely to shield his crimes against humanity behind that anonymity as well.
Now I’m not advocating for anyone, anywhere, to get themselves killed because they just couldn’t resist the urge to put some maniac in his place. But, as I’ve heard repeated so many times in “recovery” circles:
“Nothing changes if nothing changes.”
Intelligent beings must demand respect for their individuality whenever and wherever they can, if for no other reason than the sake of their “soul” – you know, that thing I call self-respect.
I’ll conclude my “sermon” with some more “thought provoking” words, and a damn fine song, by some of my own “cultural” icons…
I want ice water.
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