It occurs to me that one of the differences between those who are idealistic — and I mean that in anyway, from young and liberal to old and conservative — and those who are pragmatic is that those who are idealistic think that there is a difference between us and them.
I got this when I talked about the statistics that say transpeople are not being murdered at at any obscenely high rate. The response was “Well, someone must know better, or they wouldn’t have said it.” The interlocking communities around trans, though, are so small that I know who said it, and I know when they backed off of it, and I know the best experts and have talked about this with them.
They, to the idealists, are the ones who stand between us and the goal, the ones who have to change or be removed before we can get there. The Obama folks think it’s the old guard in Washington, the Neocons think it’s the depraved liberals, the Christian right think it’s humanist sinners, and so on, and so on, and so on.
Walt Kelly, creator of Pogo, offered the motto of the pragmatists: “We have met the enemy, and he is us.” The motto of the pragmatists is that the only solution is for people to take personal responsibility for solving problems, not just demanding that others change.
I saw this idealistic attitude at Southern Comfort Conference. I was rooming with the founder, and knew that the creation of this valuable institution came from individuals taking personal responsibility for creating a forum. When I heard young, angry trannys use that forum to explain why they hadn’t done enough in their racist, sexist and classist degradation to really help, I got angry. Yes, there should be more people of color, more transmen, more diversity, but that was happening — these people got a forum, right? — and can only happen more when people stand up to make it happen.
It may feel great to stand up in a mass and say that “they are the problem and they need to change!” but in the end, chants don’t make change, solutions do. And solutions are always hard and compromised. Solutions are always from people taking personal responsibility for change, not from crowds demanding change.
I believe that there is no them, that there is only us. Just humans trying to do the best we can in situations.
I guess that makes me a pragmatist, even if I do have ideals.
And I know it makes me less than fulfilling to those who just want to demand others change their “ist” ways until things get better.