Friday, December 14, 2007

Fine. I'm a Secular Progressive.

I've been trying to keep my mouth shut. It hadn't been all that hard, as I haven't been blogging about much of anything lately, but it's been getting harder.

Ted Strickland ordered a religious display be put back up at two state parks after local officials had taken them down in deference to citizens who were unhappy with government initiated religious activity, particularly activity that implied a religious preference for Christ-Worship*.

The reaction from the Ohio blogosphere has been something other than what one may expect. The right-wing sites have apparently been largely silent. More surprisingly, Plunderbund, a left wing site that is generally, if anything, more adamant on church/state issues than I am, has been silent on the matter. The lone voice has been Jerid at BSB, who has been taunting the righties with Ted's surprise co-opting of their pet issue. It seems that this is a brilliant political move for a Democrat to make.

I have long argued that meta-awareness of politics hurts the internet-based activist community. My argument goes like this: Erstwhile progressive politician does something that pisses off progressives, say voting against Habeas Corpus. Progressive on-line community says, "yeah, that sucks, but he's just making a political choice, and deciding that angry progressives pose less of a threat to his election chances than do terrorfied independents... It's important to me that he gets elected, so I can't get too mad..." at which point the candidate should realize that it can never, ever be in his best interest to vote the progressive position. Pandering has NO DOWNSIDE if nobody gets upset when he does it, and he gets more votes for doing it.

So, I realize that Mr. Strickland has always been a centrist, and I also realize that Dems have finally begun to do well by emulating Reagan's 11th commandment. As such, I was hoping that somebody else would step to the plate. But they didn't.

The nativity scenes don't belong on state property. Period. I realize that there may be some constitutional leeway as determined by legal precedent for nativity scenes. Legal doesn't mean appropriate, and these displays seem to me to violate both the letter and the spirit of those decisions, regardless. Park officials made a reasonable decision to take down the displays, and there was no need for the governor to get involved. He took it upon himself to override the decision and declare that some religions are appropriate, and some aren't. If he were a Republican governor, I would have gone immediately ballistic. In deference, I've given myself a cooling off period. Now, Mr. Strickland, I can say quite calmly, that this was not what I hoped for when I touched the screen a year ago. I would like some tangible progress on school funding. I would like to know that, despite the situation last week, you do firmly support maternity leave for all of Ohio's working mothers. And I'd like you to put the religious pandering where it's traditional and appropriate for someone in my position to ask you to put it.

*I apologize for not using the word 'Christianity,' and in using an alternate term I intend no disrespect to the practice of Christianity or to those who worship Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. I'm aware that some legitimate offense will be taken, and that is why I'm apologizing. For many people, the concepts "Religion" and "Christianity" are nearly synonymous, and it is difficult for them to take the perspective that their religion is one of thousands. My use of the term "Christ-Worship" was meant to amplify and clarify the difference between generic expressions of religion (which have, if no more ethical support, more legal support), and expressions specific to a particular religion or subset of religions (pretty much always a no-no for state entities), by naming it with a convention usually applied arbitrarily to non-mainstream religions.