the world through rainbow eyes

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The Anarchy of Subjective Opinion

“The South sucks, and I’m from here born and bred. That isn’t to say it doesn’t have good or even great things — but it still sucks.” – my friend, Michael.

Sometimes I feel like I am living in an environment that is openly hostile to reason and compassion. Maybe it’s really just my roots being shocked with the transplant. You’d think it wouldn’t still hurt two decades later, though, wouldn’t you?

It hasn’t always felt like this, either. I think that’s the really striking thing. What I first noticed when I moved to the South was that it wasn’t really Hazzard County, and it wasn’t really overrun with either Dukes or Boss Hoggs. That sounds awfully obvious and dumb, but the South isn’t precisely like the rest of the country. The same way no region is really like any other region.

It’s a whole different place. Sometimes filled with beauty, but often that beauty is haunting. Sometimes only for the reason that it is framed in a backdrop of terrible tragedy and suffering. It’s really hard to forget the Civil War when every few miles there’s another sign on the side of the road telling you the particulars of that war in that location. It’s this echo that won’t go away.

You can’t tell me it’s just about history, though. If it was just history there’d be more of those signs at the old slave auction sites, more signs that tell you about the forced marches of the people of the First Nations. Sure, both exist. Those signs are there, but they aren’t as ever present in the way that the Civil War markers are.

And yes, here in the South, there are quite a few people who happily wave their rebel flag and proclaim that the South will rise again. There’s quite a few who really do call it the Northern War of Aggression.

When I tell you that the culture is different, what I mean to say is that even the history that is taught is different. I have had credibly educated people tell me that they had never heard that carpetbaggers were taught about in other parts of the country as a pejorative term for a mixed bag of people who moved to the South on the back of Reconstruction, some who were literal abolitionists looking to improve racial equality (and some who were led by financial motives to leverage their own monetary endeavors).  Here, the carpetbaggers were those damn Yankees who came to loot. Period, the end.

That’s really just an example, too. For me, though, this clash of subjective views of the historical and political timelines has really brought me to a crashing halt.

This is a long way to go to say that I feel like I’m standing on a ledge when it comes to simple debate. To say that it feels like we all are. I don’t even know what to say about it anymore, yet here I am at nearly 500 words in, and I have a feeling I’m going to be going a good deal longer.

I have a friend who recently started a tiny debate cabal. Her intentions seemed noble. Bring together people of opposing view, a small handful, who were clear headed and were not given to low attacks. See if a dialogue is even possible.

Our first issue at hand was Gay Marriage (or as I like to call it “Marriage, as an equally accessible civil right”). The first shot out the gate was a recounting of Leviticus. I returned fire with the First Amendment. They returned fire with… Leviticus. I returned fire by calling into question the status of Leviticus by their own doctrine’s standards. Then they returned with incest, bestiality and pedophilia as the natural result of gay marriage.

And I paused unsure of what to even say.

I can’t with that. I don’t even know what to say. I can’t pretend that’s a valid argument, and I don’t know how to.

And I think that’s where a lot of us are, on either side of this quicksand avalanche of a divide between ideologies. This inability to even grasp the other side’s subjective understanding of science, ethics, civil rights, civic duty, or well, just about anything… it’s gotten really  out of control.

But I don’t know what to do about it. I just don’t. I can not address an assertion that permitting homosexual marriage is the slippery slope to non-consensual abuse of legal minors and animals. That just seems like a break in reality to me. Like a true psychotic slip into hysteria.

How can I make a bridge between us when the side your standing on all looks like crumbling cognitive dissonance?

And that worries the hell out of me. What worries me equally is that if it looks like that from my perspective I know my ground must look dangerous from your perspective, too.

I can’t pretend, though. I can’t bring out numbers and graphs and history and psychology and show you facts, because you seem to have abandoned facts entirely in favor of doctrine. To the point that when I point out that this is doctrine, you simply restate it as fact, and if pushed further, restate it as just your opinion and how you’re allowed to have your opinion.

It’s not opinion, though. It’s doctrine. It’s doctrine to believe the world is objectively 6000 years old, and not the scientifically known 4. 54 billion reality. At least state that as an article of your faith and not an article of objective reality.

And I am surrounded with this. Surrounded with people who believe that homosexuality is objectively bad for people and society. Surrounded with people who believe the world is objectively 6000 years old. Surrounded by people who believe that dinosaurs were planted in the earth as some sort of religious test of will by their god.

And I wouldn’t say it precisely scares me. Scare isn’t the right word. I don’t fear. I worry. I worry about how much further we will slip into the anarchy of subjective opinion.

Hell, if it was pure subjective opinion, I’d even be okay with that, but we’re talking about subjective opinion that has been used to specifically cause genocide, slavery, child abuse, and all manner of harm upon this world and it’s populace.

I have no wish for people to abandon their belief system. I’m just confused as hell as to when belief systems took such a jarring turn to the right, away from established knowledge.

And I’m left here. Feeling like I’m in hostile territory, with no idea how to even reach the other side.

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I am a heretic.

I am a Catholic who does not believe in Jesus, a Pagan who does not worship any pantheon, a Jew who did not finish converting, and a believer who believes in no religion. I elevate Scientific Theory as a god of sorts.  The closest I tend to get with embracing a whole doctrine is Discordianism. If laughter and confusion are not The Way to enlightenment, it certainly is A Way.

I have a tendency to let my right brain hang out in space declaring the beautiful oneness of all things while my tightly controlled left brain is busy screaming bullshit to everything but the highly peer reviewed views of reality. When my two sides try to battle it out for supremacy, I make them have a group hug and tell them to sit down and shut up.

A man I have often considered my teacher (and more often, my friend) once told me that I was never very good at being a polytheist because I place no other gods before myself.* I never really consider this the horrible critique that he seemed to feel it was. But then, if  such a thing applied to me, how could I?

It does apply, too. I can’t take the word of someone else before the processes of my own brain. Doctrine and dogma have a tendency to be dress-up clothes for me. I try on a myth from here, a practice from there, and a piece of dogma from over that way, sewing them up into a patchwork outfit of sense and nonsense. It isn’t that I don’t take them seriously or with reverence. It’s more that I am both contrary and a peacekeeper by nature.

Still. Walking a middle path by keeping one foot firmly on either side does not make for a comfortable gait. I often look as idiotic from the outside as embracing either side completely feels from the inside.

I want to neaten this up and make some point with it. Edit it. Make it clear and concise. What you see here today will likely be changed to make some sort of essay on something or other. How religion, politics and philosophy intersect and the ways in which it maybe should or shouldn’t. Or perhaps the political and social climate of the place I call home nowadays, and how uncomfortable that makes me.

I always want to straighten things for outside consumption. Keep a curtain over the disarray that is the spectrum of my thinking while revealing well constructed dioramas of thought that I have built.

Perhaps for once I should just leave it as the mess it is. A tribute to the fanatical heretic that is my innermost self.

For now, I am a contrary peacekeeper. I am she who laughs. I am a heretic.

*paraphrased so completely that I won’t even put it in quotes as I can never remember the precise way he said it. He’s also recanted it many times and said it was a truly terrible thing for him to say.