Here’s the thing. I’ve been laying low because I’m sick of national politics. I’m sick of the fact that the nation is closer to double-digit unemployment rate than not, but YET! What are presidential candidates talking about? Romney’s saying that Obama is out of touch with reality because when you’re president, you get to use gold-leaf toilet paper and diamond toothpicks. Who knew? Santorum claims them communist you-knee-versities out there in California don’t even teach American history! And Obama’s all HE STARTED IT! and pointing at the Republicans.
What I’ve been thinking is that our government works for us, and we should control the dialog. I do not find abortion to be the single most important issue in the health care debate, so I’ve not talked about it recently. I don’t think immigration is the biggest threat to our way of life, so I’ve not talked about it. Not that any of that matters. I’m just one person with no money, a couple of ovaries, and a burgeoning chocolate pudding cup habit. Just because I’ve taken away the dish of milk on my back porch doesn’t mean the conversation won’t slink over to my neighbor’s where she puts out cans of salmon for it.
The overwhelming BLECH I feel towards the national discourse overshadows things I did want to talk about. You might have started reading this blog because of a piece I wrote about a murder in my home state. I won’t go into the details here, but last June in Jackson, Mississippi James Anderson was murdered by 19 year-old Deryl Dedmon. I can now say murdered and not allegedly murdered because Mr. Dedmon pled guilty to capital murder. He was sentenced to two life sentences, one for the murder and one for the hate crime enhancement. Mr. Anderson’s family asked prosecutors not seek the death penalty. Referencing the 1964 murders of three civil rights workers whose bodies were found in Neshoba County, Hinds County Circuit Court Judge Jeff Weill, Sr. said to Mr. Dedmon, “All the hard work we have done to move our state forward from that earthen dam in Neshoba County to here has been stained by you, a stain that will take years to fade.” Weill told the gallery, “know that this craven act isn’t who we are. We can say this now. Maybe there was a time when we couldn’t.”
Even now, even as I want to write about what it feels like to hear someone take responsibility, even as I want the world to see my home in a positive light, even as I want to talk about how I am so happy to be wrong about the piece I wrote in which I voiced my opinion that Mississippians would look away from the murder of a black man by a white man, I hesitate. I hesitate because I want to talk about how two lives were ruined. Mr. Anderson lost his, and Mr. Dedmon will never leave the prison grounds. And our conversation parameters tell me I cannot feel sympathy for both sides. Our social contract dictates I must take a side. So I say up front, Mr. Dedmon deserves every day he sits in that cell. The people who were with him deserve punishment. And when I read that Mr. Dedmon feels remorse and has now found God, I roll my eyes and think of course. You feel remorse that you got caught.
We have created an either-or world where being right means we can do what we want. Arizona lawmakers wrote a bill that would allow employers to find out why female employees on company insurance were using contraception. Tennessee lawmakers want to publish names of abortion providers and detailed demographic information about patients. Alabama allows police to stop people they have a “reasonable” suspicion to be illegal. And all of this is because the other guy should not be able to have his way. You don’t agree with what I believe, so you are less than I am. You are not as moral as I am. You are not human in the way I am, and I may deny you rights because of it.
Debate has changed its meaning just like what it means to be conservative has changed. It’s tiresome. And it’s mainly tiresome because most of the people I know don’t really live on one end of the spectrum or the other. Most of us are stuck here in the middle where we may give a point to this side one day and the other the next. That’s the way life works. It drives you crazy that your husband leaves his clothes in a heap on the bathroom floor, but you take it in stride because you love the way he folds you up to him when you’ve had a terrible day.
I think in order to keep writing–which is something I love to do and feel incomplete when I don’t–I’m going to keep to the mundane, profane, and urbane. More to come. Really.
(UPDATE: No sooner had I gotten this post published did I come upon this piece which discusses what goes wrong when talking about two sides of an issue. It’s a great piece, and I hope you’ll read it. Top 10 Misguided Responses To Calls for Compassion)