February 7, 2006

Things that only exist in the doing of them.....

Commenters criticized me in the last post, although in fact they were missing the point I was trying to make--I can see now that it wasn't a very clear post.

I wrote some replies, and then I turned the replies into a new post, and then tossed that out because it didn't catch what I meant, and then I realized I was only then starting to figure out what it was I actually meant...(How's that for convoluted.)

I think what I'm trying to say, about the cartoon contretemps, is that I feel like someone who's been out repairing a road for a few years (actually of course just blogging from the comfort of home about the guys repairing a road, but after a while the borders between blog and reality begin to blur)...Anyway, there I am, day after day, out in the sun or the rainy drizzle, filling potholes and clearing ditches and cleaning up trash.

And then some dapper fellow with clean hands pops up out of nowhere, mounts a soapbox, and declares that Smooth Roads are a Fundamental Human Right! And we must have a Dramatic Protest, that will attack the Evils of Potholes and Scourge the Wicked and Exalt the Righteous and carry us all into the Promised Land of Smoothness. And how can I justify wasting my time creeping across the dirt when such a noble cause demands the full attention of all who treasure our Ancient Right to Smooth Roads!

Me, I think human rights (and a lot of other things, government, religion, love, families) are things you DO. They don't really exist except in the simple doing of them.

Right now we are being bombarded with declarations about The Right of Free Speech. But American and Coalition forces have been DOING free speech since not long after 9/11. Taking despotic lands where there is no free speech, and helping them learn how the thing actually works. And George Bush and Condi Rice have been leaning on a slew of countries, using our power and piston to push them towards more freedom. That's DOING free speech, and it's messy and slow and not very glamorous. (And bloggers are doing free speech, day-by-day in a thousand little deeds, some in places where you can go to prison for it.)

And now the cartoon thing appears (and it may end up being a good thing for free speech, and for Europe, and I sincerely wish them well). But there's unlimited quantities of hot air being expelled, by people who don't even SEE or CARE about the road menders and the patient work that been going on for years making the way smooth. That stuff is too boring and unglamorous and mucky. Not fun.

And they don't SEE that their protest may shake things up usefully, (or make things much worse) but the reality of free speech will only come through hard work on the details, through learning and teaching, through a thousand little struggles patiently fought when the goal seems impossibly distant, and there's no fun or glamour.

I DO NOT LIKE this whole cartoon-publishing campaign (and again, I wish them well and hope it helps) because it's all about ME ME ME. Venting and posturing and making big declarations and patting each other in the back. And having FUN. Sorry, not my style.

Posted by John Weidner at February 7, 2006 6:52 AM
Weblog by John Weidner