The Quest for Answers

Déjà vu.

Moral values, family values…

I remember them from the ‘80s and they’re back. I didn’t understand them then and I don’t understand them now and I definitely didn’t see them coming. I’ve been thinking a lot about the 2004 election and I just can’t figure it out…

The other day, I was discussing the election with some people and someone said, “The gays just took it too far by telling churches who they have to marry.” What? No! This is about the extra rights that our government bestows on the married. Churches will always have control over their own religious ceremonies. The Catholics are a perfect example. They won’t marry people in their church unless both parties are Catholic (or at least agree to raise the children Catholic) and neither is divorced. That is their right to their sacrament and the government has nothing to do with it. Was this election decided over similar misconceptions? Eleven states had gay marriage amendments – including Ohio.

For those who knew exactly what they were voting for, I’m sorry but I just don’t understand why you care.

  • If you are against the “promiscuous gay culture,” why do you want to stop them from making commitments to one another?

  • If you point to the inclusion of homosexuality in the list of sexual perversions in Leviticus 18 and 20, I want to know why this is the only part of Leviticus you care about. Most of this book deals with offerings, feasts, types of food that can be eaten, prevention of the spread of infections, requirements for priests, etc. Do you follow the rules concerning menstruating women or bodily discharges (Leviticus 15)?

  • If you point to Sodom and Gomorrah (Genesis 19), are you really comfortable that Lot offered his virgin daughters to the violent mob of rapists? Do you really think something like that actually happened? All men in the city, young and old, surrounding the house, beating down the door so they can ravage the two visitors… really?

  • If you feel that homosexuality violates the ideals of marriage, why don’t you have equal blanket judgment against the divorced or remarried? Did you know that Jesus said that remarriage is the same as adultery unless the divorce occurred because of marital infidelity (Matthew 5:32)?

  • If you feel that same-sex marriages somehow threaten your marriage, I want to know how. People hurt their own marriages all the time, and in many ways. Focus on your own relationship if you want to protect it.

  • Eight of the 11 ballot-initiative amendments went beyond marriage and outlawed civil unions too. Why? Don’t you see that their family unit has the same needs and requirements that yours does? Why shouldn’t they get survivor benefits or tax breaks? Why should you?

  • If you feel that gay relationships threaten society and “the family,” why do you support Florida’s blanket ban on adoption by gay couples when all these couples want is to be able to give an unwanted child a loving home?

I need to expand on this last one because it really makes me angry. Florida evaluates all other adoption applications, including applicants who have failed at previous adoptions and those with a history of drug abuse or domestic violence. Although Florida’s adoption laws once contained a preference for married couples, the state repealed that provision in 2003. Homosexuals are the only people who are banned outright. In the case that the Supreme Court refused to hear in January, the lead plaintiff is a licensed foster parent who takes in children with HIV. He and his partner have shared a home for 20 years and they are currently taking care of five children, three of them since infancy. They moved to Oregon to be close to elderly parents but three of the foster children are still administered under Florida laws. One of the children is younger than 14 and no longer tests positive for HIV, so now he is considered “adoptable.” Although he has lived with this family for all 13 years of his life, the couple now receives letters from the state informing them of progress in finding a new home for the child. Because of the ban, they are prohibited from adopting him themselves. How does this anti-gay policy promote “stable family” values?

I just don’t get it… and I never will.

The other “morality” issue on amendments – abortion – is more understandable to me. It’s hard for me to refute the idea that a person is all that the fetus can possibly become. When they compare the situation to slavery – a time when black people were not considered human and their deaths weren’t equal to the deaths of white people – I can see myself in the position of arguing against that concept and trying to protect the slave and his or her life.

At the same time, the fetus cannot support itself and it doesn’t really have a “life” in the same sense we do.

After much thought and deliberation, I’m pro-choice. I’ve led a very lucky life and I can’t even imagine myself in the position some of these women find themselves in. And I don’t feel qualified to tell them what to do – especially with their own bodies.

Shades of gray… Abortion is a complicated issue for me.

But there’s one aspect of the “Life” position that I don’t understand. Why are so many of these anti-abortion people also anti-birth control? How can they be both? I learned the explanations in Catholic high school, but I still don’t understand.

I don’t like having absolutely no identification with the opinion of the “other side.” I want issues to be complicated. I want to be able to learn about each side and recognize the excesses of debate. I think you’ll always find the truth in between the two extremes.

To me, the scariest thing about President Bush is his black-and-white thinking. It makes me uncomfortable – especially because he seems to think that way about all issues and he seems to think it’s an asset. Even worse, the American public apparently agrees!

There has been a lot of discussion about the breakdown of the votes – North vs. South, urban vs. rural – and comparisons of the electoral map to the slave states of the past. I’ve always jumped to that answer myself. Is it just an easy answer?

When I lived in Illinois, I lived downstate in a community that claims about 300,000, spread over three counties. Heavily Republican. Most of downstate is Republican. We just have fewer people than Chicagoland and we get consistently outvoted. I’ve never been to upstate New York, but I’ve heard from some that this “blue state” works the same way. Now I live in Florida, and I thought I could prove it works that way here too. The three counties I consider home (Miami-Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach) form a pretty urban community (~5 million) and we went Democrat. Upstate overwhelmed us. Popular explanations blame “those hicks” upstate – especially the “morality” voters of the I-4 corridor (Tampa and Orlando). I decided a little research could add evidence that this rural/urban division is a key to “the answer.”

In fact, the I-4 corridor was very significant, but these voters aren’t “rural.” According to 2000 Census figures, the Tampa metropolitan area has ~2.4 million people and the Orlando metropolitan area has ~1.9 million people. When I added these areas to two other counties that I would consider part of the I-4 corridor, they have more than 5.25 million people. More than my “urban” area! One of those counties (~900,000 people) went for Kerry and we lost one (~900,000 people) by 260 votes, but the largest county in the I-4 corridor (~1 million people) and all of the other counties in that metropolitan area went decisively for Bush.

That doesn’t fit the theory!

Another interesting fact: the Tallahassee metropolitan area – less than 300,000 people – went for Kerry!

So much for that theory. Well, maybe not… maybe Florida defies the theory because of all the transplants? I hope not, because it makes me worry about California.

There’s also this talk that the complex, intelligent Democrats got outvoted by the mindless block of black-and-white thinking Republicans. Unfortunately, I can’t grasp that one either. I attended some meetings in support of the Democratic Party and too many of those Democrats don’t care for debate and complex discussion either. On the other hand, I’m positive there are “morality” voters who could give me an excellent, researched, thought-out description of their position. I’m equally positive that there are Republicans out there who are bothered by Bush’s approach just as much as I am – but they still felt obliged to vote for him based on a personal weighing of the lesser of two evils. Gray-thinking Democrats generalize, but in fact, most of the country – Republican and Democrat – does not want to research and study and find their own way. Nobody wants to be bothered with complexities. They demand a world without gray where they can pick their side and not think about it.

I was prepared for an election decided by the war. Black-and-white “steadfast vision” vs. gray “what can we do about this mess?” I was ready for that.

The Left’s black-and-white position, “pull out immediately and let the chips fall where they may,” had already been rejected in favor of a more moderate approach. Democrats were in the unfortunate position of having a complex discussion with a sound-byte society.

I really wish I could understand black-and-white thinkers. Although normally I only really seem to know people like me, somehow, for a time, I was dating someone who was a black-and-white thinker and I really tried to understand him. There are many examples of frustrating, reoccurring conversations with him – but due to the “moral issues” voting block, I’m going to focus on religion.

He believed in the literal truth of the Bible, but only as translated in the King James version (truthfully, one of the least accurate translations due to the knowledge and capabilities of the time) and only as interpreted by his church. Despite my numerous questions and attempted debates, I never got anywhere. I only got black-and-white statements of belief “because it is,” accusations of excessive pride for trying to find my own way, and chastisements for taking the easy way (or avoiding requirements I find difficult), for thinking that I can take some parts of different religions and scriptures and leave others.

It didn’t matter how many discussions we had about the society and religion at the time or about adapting to competing religions or about possible motivations of the authors for certain passages or about the process used during compilation of the official version of the Bible or about the process used to define doctrine – none of it mattered to him. He didn’t even believe me that the Protestant religions evolved from the Catholic one, until the mention of Martin Luther’s name stirred a vague memory of something he had heard somewhere more “official.” Arguments backed up by biblical verses made him uncomfortable, but he wasn’t well-versed enough to debate it and he just got defensive and effectively ended the conversation. Always trusting church teaching more than anything a mere girlfriend could come up with on her own.

I don’t know. Eventually I got tired of demanding real dialogue – there was none. At that point, I decided I’ll never understand.

Maybe the election is the same.

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