Shirt off your back

Two of the loveliest things about sentient beings such as we are our complications and contradictions (single-cell organisms are just so predictable).

Of course, complexity brings with it massive baggage (and annoying relatives). Case in point: A little over a week ago, I saw a person — who I know is a lesbian — wearing a shirt reading the following: “Fiscally Republican, Socially Democrat, Sexually Liberal.” While I don’t know this woman very well, I know her enough to say that she is both kind and generous, two facts that complicate both my understanding of her shirt and my understanding of minorities who identify as Republican. Don’t get me wrong: I am not name-calling; I have no idea her voting style. It’s just that wearing a shirt with said message pushes one to such conclusions.

As I understand it, the basic fiscal difference between Democrats and Republicans is this: Democrats spend money on social welfare programs while Republicans spend money on wars. While this is a simple breakdown of the two major parties, it is also generally accurate. As I understand it, Republicans are light on laws and regulations toward their people (unless those people are gay, in which case they most often aren’t theirs) and heavy on defense. Democrats tend to spend money on social programs because they believe government should not only protect its people, but also aid them in manifesting the lives they choose (which can lead to higher taxes because they also seem to think we, the people, should not only work together, but have a responsibility to each other that involves at least a reasonably equitable distribution of wealth).

At the very least, the two parties are alike in one way: Democrats aren’t always perfect and Republicans aren’t always selfish.

I hate that shirt. I really do. I have been annoyed by the statement it makes every day since I saw it. I remember it at the most inappropriate times — try teaching “The Iliad” while thinking about the fundamental differences between the right and left, the politics of party affiliation … An angry woman — there is my story.

How can you be a fiscal Republican and a social Democrat? Isn’t there an inherent contradiction there? I mean, isn’t it only because of their fiscal policies that Democrats can create government-funded social programs? It seems Republicans only want the government to create national laws when it is comfortable and beneficial to them. Example: A law — national or otherwise — that bans gay marriage is really antithetical to the concept of smaller government, as it represents a major government intrusion into the personal lives of citizens. As well, if protecting its people is in fact a priority of government, would insuring the health of its people also be a part of that?

(The idea of a Sexually Liberal Republican is not as ridiculous as it seems. While I can’t think of one (holding office) who voted against the marriage amendment, I can name a few who change their color in public restrooms.)

Over the past few months,I have met many gay people who identify as and vote Republican, a fact that makes as much sense to me as gays who belong to Southeast Christian Church. How can you vote even one official into office who discriminates against you? I don’t understand it. I can only conclude that gay people who vote Republican are engaged in an act of self-loathing, that they don’t believe themselves worthy of equal rights.

This is a problematic conclusion, I realize, and I’m sure it’s not that accurate. But I truly believe self-hatred has a lot to do with it. Log Cabin Republicans (the gay ones) justify their allegiance to party with the belief that change will come, that the Republican Party will evolve past gay fear and hatred. This is a noble cause in theory — there is a lot to be said for wanting to change a system from the inside. It is a logical conclusion that ultimate and permanent change can only happen this way. This is certainly the rationale I used when talking myself out of fleeing north the first (and second) time Bush hit the White House.

This idea of grassroots change, however, leads me to another thought:

How can one oppressed group not find it, on some level, their own responsibility to prevent the oppression of another group?