Friday, July 13, 2007

Those Blue State Conservative Queers

by shamanic

Andrew Sullivan bemoans the "liberal nannying and tolerance-mongering" of the gay rights movement from, where, his summer home in P-Town?

Oh, I'm sorry. Let me rephrase: Professional writer Andrew Sullivan, who as far as I know has always lived in urban, liberal enclaves as an adult, thinks that pushing for the same types of protections that he lives under from, say, Georgia, where I live, is a sign that "Freedom is not as popular as it once was."

This is my problem with libertarianism in particular, and with much of what passes for conservatism. The idea that "I got mine, so fuck you" is so prevalent in those circles that I can't fathom how anyone takes it seriously as a political philosophy in a modern, urbanized culture. And frankly, it's why the Republicans tend to head for the hills when confronted with the possibility of living and working near "other people", and why the hill-folk of America tend to vote Republican to begin with.

So it sure is fancy-dancy that Andrew Sullivan, happily ensconced in Massachusetts during the summer and DC the rest of the year, wants to comment on the state of freedom and the impact of gay rights activists and liberals on it. I know that I consider myself very, very lucky to have made it in a large city in the South and work for an information technology company that has institutionalized a non-discrimination clause, but, let me say it again: I'm lucky. That's it. Just lucky. I've known people fired in my "right to work" state because they were gay, and I know the situation is much more furtive (and therefore, less free) in all of the non-Atlanta areas of my state. And about an hour east of here lies Alabama, where I grew up. A few hours more take you into Mississippi.

Free? What the hell does free mean in Meridian, Mississippi, just a few hours away from this couch I'm sitting on, the fifth largest city in Mississippi, where, according to Wikipedia: "The median income for a household in the city was $25,085, and the median income for a family was $31,062. Males had a median income of $29,404 versus $19,702 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,255. About 24.6% of families and 28.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 40.8% of those under age 18 and 22.0% of those age 65 or over."

I'm with Atrios on this one: "Drop me in the middle of the desert and I am truly free, though it's not really the kind of freedom I am interested in." I have family in Northern California, and have seen the wreckage that results when you ban all your industries, but I'm comfortable in the happy medium between economic devastation and... well, economic devastation. Whether it's the unloggable forests and unfishable seas of Northern California or the unregulated wilds of Mississippi (so beautiful to drive through, but who wants to stop there?), the ends of the spectrum are always failure.

If freedom means anything, it means that there are opportunities for achievement and success and that irrational barriers to those are reduced or removed. From where I sit, Andrew Sullivan, fellow American (well, close enough), looks to be a lot more free than I am, just a few states south.

As I've written before, it's a quirk of our American system that some Americans are more free than others. As Sullivan himself wrote in 2004:
Their legal ability to visit a spouse in hospital, to pass on property, to have legal protections for their children has been gutted. If you are a gay couple living in Alabama, you know one thing: your family has no standing under the law; and it can and will be violated by strangers. I'm not surprised by this. When you put a tiny and despised minority up for a popular vote, the minority usually loses.
I don't think it's gays who are doing the damage to freedom.

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