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I am thinking about posting the lyrics to Dar William's I Had No Right because I am in an anti-government mood. I went so far as to look up a link to the Wikipedia article about the person the song references, Daniel Berrigan. Reading about his exploits as an anti-war activist, smiling, wishing I, and others, could be more like him and then I come to this tidbit: "He is also a prominent anti-abortion activist."

I have to admit it threw me. I liked the guy a whole lot less for not believing everything I believe. Although I have to give him credit for supporting all life, and not just life in the womb. (Although, if abortion becomes illegal in this country many young women will die in unsafe abortions, so it really is a wash and inconsistent if you think about it.)

This got me thinking, do I only respect people who share most of the same beliefs as me? And should I be ashamed if the answer is yes? I always rant about cultural relativists and post-modernists, but I'd start sentences about my own beliefs with an apology. For example, "I'm sorry, but I only respect people who share most of the same beliefs as me." or "I'm ashamed to say I only respect people who share most of the same beliefs as me."

Up until I read about his anti-abortion stance, I was extremely supportive of Berrigan's techniques, but I realized I wouldn't be if he used them on an abortion clinic. I don't know how to feel about this. I guess on some level, I think people are entitled to their passion. But on the other hand, I know the process I went through to arrive at every single one of my liberal, anti-religious, and somewhat radical views. I can back them up with logic, and evidence. It's not a matter of faith, or belief, or perspective. I'm right, I know I'm right, and I apologize for it, constantly.

It doesn't mean my mind can't be changed, or that I'm not willing to listen to other people's views or ideas, but it does mean that I am not going to accept things out of hand. And I hate cultural relativism and post-modernism for making people think that all ideas are created equal. They're not. And I am mad that I apologize for being right, for having better ideas, and for actually thinking about my beliefs.

But, I'm also mad because I wanted this to be an anti-war rant. I wanted to talk about the evils of police in London, for thinking shooting innocents will solve their terrorist problems. I wanted to talk get really pissed about the new policy in NYC to search bags on the subway (What the fuck happened to the Constitution? Unreasonable search and seizure my ass.) I wanted to talk about how countries, like the US and Britain, who support these authoritarian and fascist measures in other countries shouldn't be surprised when they have to institute them at home. And I wanted to use the story of Daniel Berrigan, and Dar Williams wonderful song about him as a jumping off point. I wanted to talk about how this song is still relevant four years later, how his story is still relevant and how patriotism and religion are tearing the country apart. But instead, I am reminded of the greatest failing of liberalism, and it's upsetting. And maybe it's my own fault for being off-put by someone for being anti-abortion.

I think I'm going to end with the song lyrics anyway. Enjoy.

I Had No Right
By Dar Williams


God of the poor man this is how the day began
Eight codefendants, I, Daniel Berrigan
Oh and only a layman's batch of napalm
We pulled the draft files out
We burned them in the parking lot
Better the files than the bodies of children

I had no right but for the love of you
I had no right but for the love of you

Many roads led here, walked with the suffering
Tom in Guatamala, Phillip in New Orleans
Oh it's a long road from law to justice
I went to Vietnam, I went for peace
They dropped their bombs
Right where my government knew I would be

I had no right but for the love of you
I had no right but for the love of you

And all my country saw
Were priests who broke the law

First it was question, then it was a mission
How to be American, how to be a Christian
Oh if their law is their cross and the cross is burning

The love of you
The love of you

God of the just I'll never win a peace prize
Falling like Jesus
Now let the jury rise
Oh it's all of us versus all that paper
They took the only way they know who is on trial today
Deliver us unto each other, I pray

I had no right but for the love of you
And every trial I stood, I stood for you

Eyes on the trial
8 a.m. arrival
Hands on the Bible
 
 
 
 
 
 
A few minutes ago, I was reading an LJ entry on WarCrack that mentioned "local" servers, so I decided to click on the user's nick to see where they're located. I quickly found out that this person, who was in Idaho, wanted everyone to know that they're Christian, Republican and a lover of all things Reagan. My gut reaction was quite negative, of course.

Here I was, judging someone entirely on their stated religious and political views. Then again, I wouldn't be surprised if they would think ill of me for mine.

That's how beliefs are: To actually believe something is to believe that alternatives are inferior. That's the commonality, anyhow. The difference is that not all beliefs are right, and not all can be, so some truly are inferior.

Yeats famously wrote, "The best lack all conviction, while the worst/Are full of passionate intensity." I would say that this sort of passionate intensity is a virtue only to the extent that it is passion for what is true and good. Otherwise, it is the worst of vices. The trick is in first finding out what is true and good before bringing passion into the mix, because strong emotions are not good for clear thinking.

If you chose your beliefs on the basis of rationality, leaving you with sufficient reason to hold them, then you shouldn't be ashamed of your passion for them or what you do as a consequence.