Monday, November 17, 2008

no excuses, please


well, i'm back, sort of...and not a moment too soon, apparently. it seems momentous things are afoot in the culture and i have yet to pen one word about it. frankly, i was amazed that american was willing to elect our first african-american as president. i never thought it would happen, at least not in my life-time. but it did. and i was simply amazed at how this one event has brought hope to our struggling country.

as you know if you read my thoughts, i do not write about politics. this is so i can criticize all sides. but several things happened to me while i was convalescing that, taken together, has given me pause.
  • i re-watched ken burn's documentary on the civil war. i am a life-long student of this war, but this time i was taken by one of the commentators statement about abraham lincoln. she criticized him roundly, saying that his early views on slavery -- some free states and some slave states -- just couldn't be excused as him being a man of his times, especially since there were others during this same time who saw slavery as evil and wrong and the actual reason for the war, and not union.
  • i attended a musical at a baptist university. seated next to me was an elderly gentleman whom i did not know. before the production began he proceeded to explain to me his work against california's proposition 8 -- a ban on on gay marriage. (to be honest, i do not understand all the banter back and forth that goes with this issue. i think understand the religious argument against gay marriage, but how just the fact of gay marriage itself, how this attacks marriage in general, like it somehow attacks what my woman and i have, i just don't get.) anyway, after he bragged up his involvement, this elderly gentleman said this: "i just don't know what going to happen with this guy in the whitehouse. i think we're probably going to have a revolution.” now, why he was against the new president i did not pursue, (i could care less-- this is american after all) it could be any number of things. but to surmise that violence was in the offing because of his election was a curious reactions indeed.
i pull these two things together because we must remember that we are not only people of our own times (re:generation), but we are people of culture. that is, what we consider as clear and secure as holy writ or our next vote, is often nothing more that a result of class. said another way, a good sociologist can with, astounding precision, guess where a person will come down on questions of the culture-war by asking a few simple questions concerning background and class. this should give us pause the next time we are sure of our interpretation of the text, or the meaning of a national vote because our ideas may be wrong and on the wrong side of history, no matter how sure we are, and neither class nor generations is any excuse.