Wednesday, July 22, 2009

I care too much

I think I care too much.

I care that my adopted country, the United States, has made one costly mistake after another with respect to issues of justice, war, peace, investing in the future, and economic development.

I care that its leaders plunged it into a war of choice at a tremendous cost in human lives and wealth, a cost which will haunt my country for a very long time to come.

I care that there are people in this country who have no access to health care while others, I among them, have access to the very best health care all by virtue of where we work or where we live. Yet the very same people who stood by and, in fact, cheered on the aforementioned costly war now wring their hands at the potential cost of achieving universal health care coverage, a cost that pales in comparison to the cost of war. Apparently it is better to spend a fortune destroying lives than to spend a lesser fortune helping to save them. These same people talk about foreign princes wanting to come to our country as an indication of our health care excellence, ignoring so conveniently the lack of access to that same health care to so many Americans, none of them foreign princes.

I care that we have allowed our cities to lose jobs, people, and quality of life while permitting the leveling of our once beautiful countryside to make way for isolated corporate centers, self-enclosed housing developments consisting of little more than oversized boxes, and shopping centers that have made the once diverse American landscape seem oddly uniform. All this at the cost of congested highways, inefficient transportation systems, and an alarming reliance on energy procured in unstable parts of the world ruled by despots.

I care that our country has all too often, when afforded the choices, sided with tyrants over oppressed people throughout the world, despite the lofty ideals professed by our leaders. The very same leaders who trumpet democracy while overturning democratically-elected governments elsewhere.

I care that in many fundamental respects, those politicians who so often talk about values and patriotism have been the quickest to depart from the ideals behind the founding of this republic more than two centuries ago.

I care that our elected leaders are often quick to do the bidding of industry and other special interest groups over the obvious needs of the people who elected them to office, figuring that campaign contributions from industry groups are more important than earning votes. That they remain in power only proves that their political calculus is correct.

I care that my country lectures other countries on human rights while using torture as a tool to extract confessions, notwithstanding the fact that torture has never been shown to reveal the truth. It only reveals what the tortured thinks the torturer wants to hear.

I care that a president, a constitutional scholar no less, can argue that he has the power to detain people indefinitely even if they have been acquitted of any crime, solely on the suspicion that that person might someday exact revenge for that very same indefinite detention. This is the stuff of Kafka.

I care that in a country which began its life as a refuge for groups that had been oppressed for failing to subscribe to an official religion in their home country, a country whose very constitutional framework enshrined the principal of government having absolutely nothing to say with respect to creed, a country founded by a group of men of diverse and often vague religious beliefs, we now see so many of lawmakers making law based solely on their personal religious beliefs.

I care that the very politicians who argue so strongly that their religious scruples should be the foundation of law are all too quick to violate those very same scruples in their personal actions. They go even further by condemning others for the very actions, such as adultery, they are guilty of.

I care that so many of my fellow Americans, including people I know and love, gladly elect politicians who are only too happy to continue to see people like me, by virtue of whom and how I love, be afforded less protection under the law than they are. I am told that this is for the good our country. I am told that were I treated the same as others, the very country would be in danger, ostensibly at the hand of the god in whom these same people believe. In fact, I am told that were I to enjoy the same civil rights, protections and responsibilities as my "straight" friends and loved ones, their opposite-sex relationships would somehow become meaningless. I am told this is for the sake of tradition, nevermind we have seen many traditions (women as chattel, slavery, perhaps someday torture) thankfully abandoned for the sake of justice and progress. But ignorance dies slowly, apparently. I fear I won't outlive this particular form of ignorance, the ignorance of heterosexism.

I care that my country spends its wealth on wars of choice while actually reducing what it spends on fighting a war of necessity against diseases like cancer, heart disease and AIDS.

I care that we have apparently become a country of people who, for the most part, speak of spirituality and who condemn consumerism, all while lusting after products produced in far-away lands by exploited people.

I care that my outrage isn't shared by everyone. And I worry that in merely expressing that outrage, I am little better than the objects of that same outrage.

I write all this not with the expectation that anyone will actually read it (the obscurity of this blog is protection enough) but merely to list out the many things I have to realize I can do little to change. And in recognizing one person's inability to change everything, I recognize how important it is, in the over-quoted words of Voltaire, to tend my own garden. Not only to focus on only those things I know I can do, but to enjoy the light even when surrounded by darkness.

This occurred to me when talking to a couple of musicians last Saturday at a party. I had only just met them but within moments learned of their knowledge of and commitment to music performance. Here were two people who seemed genuinely happy and satisfied and whose lives revolved around art. We talked about Bach and the topic of his music alone was such a breath of fresh air compared to the constant news of war, politics, corruption, bigotry, racism, homophobia, and hypocrisy.

I can't help envying people who don't evince the sense of outrage I feel. They are probably happier for it. After all, what good is feeling outraged about something (or everything, in my case) while feeling powerless about it. Why should life be robbed of the light (Bach, for example) just for the sake of worrying about the dark?

My partner Sean and I will be leaving on vacation soon, spending a mere week in some quiet out-of-the-way places in New England. Perhaps this will be a time for me to remind myself that it is possible to care too much about that which I can't single-handedly change. I should use it as an opportunity to return to those things, set aside since before my second cancer diagnosis, that dispel the darkness. My Bach recordings will be making the trip with me next week.