Monday, June 13, 2005


Says here that activism is "a doctrine or practice that emphasizes direct vigorous action especially in support of or opposition to one side of a controversial issue." Recent examples:

  • Perorations against judicial activism from the Right, using terms such as "legislating from the bench" - while I agree in general, I do wish the Supes hadn't ruled the way they did in this case. It's not that I support legalizing marijuana, either growing or use, since I think we have as much as we can handle with alcohol, tobacco, and addictions to legally prescribed drugs - just that it seems to my non-lawyerly ears an overreaching of the Commerce Clause.
  • Barbara Walters's expression of discomfort at the sight of a mother's breastfeeding her baby in the next airplane seat over sparks a nurse-in by breastfeeding moms. I sympathize with Ms. Walters, but as a breastfeeding mom I sympathize more with the mother trying to keep her baby quiet and well cared for in the confines of an airplane cabin, even in first class. Would Ms. Walters have preferred loud squalling from the seat next to her? Oh, wait - possibly she does not know that some babies refuse the bottle, or she believes that any such refusal is "temporary" and able to be overcome, which I suppose is true in the strictest sense - the most recalcitrant baby will presumably take a bottle if it is starving.
  • Amnesty International's un-frickin'-believable equation of Gitmo and gulags brings human rights activism to a perigee. Not to mention their refusal to admit that the comparison is not just ludicrous on its face but weakens their entire mission.
  • Here, with angry tears, the suggestion that the proposed "International Freedom Center," to be located on the site of the fallen World Trade Center, will call out to "great leaders, thinkers and activists'" to visit and hold forth on just how we go about seeking and interpreting freedom in this confusing world of ours. Of all places on earth, that one must be one of the least confused. Let them find another forum for their ideological explorations.

What am I going on about?

Sigh... It's this: activism is a luxury. It's a hobby. Not every time, not to everyone, but it's possible today to be an "activist" by refusing to go to McDonald's for a year (as a friend of ours did) or by giving money to that incurably silly Dr. Dean or by only buying organic produce (in blissful ignorance, I maintain, of the terrible cost to the world if everyone followed your lead).

I'm having word problems, in other words. I believe that one of the most human activities in which a human being can engage is to be serious about an important subject (and, I suppose, one of the greatest freedoms with which our system endows us is to be serious about a frivolous subject) - but to call oneself an "activist" is too facile, too noncommittal, and begs the question, "What action?" There's a great divide between not allowing your children to watch television and spiking trees... I abhor the word as much as I abhor the word "lifestyle." I never want to "have a lifestyle." I want, always, to live.

Similarly, I want to act, rather than to "be an activist." At present, the main way in which I want to act is to inform myself and to do my best to formulate my thoughts in writing such that others can learn some small thing from my interpretation of events... chalk that up to small dependents; my time outside these walls will come.

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