“Eyes Wide Open”, Blog by Kristin Matheny- #6 “Jane Eyre, Liberals, and Rational Thought (or lack thereof)” 6/15/2012
“Eyes Wide Open” by Kristin Matheny
“Jane Eyre, Liberals, and Rational Thought (or lack thereof)”
Does anyone remember Jane Eyre?
I freely admit to being a literary geek, so I’ll do my best to elaborate on why I’m dredging up dreaded high school reading material (and perhaps giving you bad, nostalgic shudders). Jane was cool- she was thoughtful, she was flawed, she was aware, she was a smart cookie. Plus, that lucky lady had TWO suitors to choose from- both of whom have been hotly debated in dorky literary circles throughout history.
There was St. John Rivers, who is typically the character that feminist literary types are drawn to. He was ambitious! He was successful! He was well-mannered and acceptably nice to Jane! He was considered widely to be the “good on paper” type, the “bring him home to meet your momma” type. He wanted Jane to be his goal-achieving equal. (Oh, go ahead and swoon, Gloria Steinem.)
Then, there was Rochester. Rochester was dark, mysterious, and admittedly came from a seedy past and had a questionable personal history. He was brooding, intense, and passionate. He freely admitted his flaws, and he was a recovering “bad boy”. He wasn’t always syrupy sweet to Jane. He loved her, but he was honest and incredibly blunt.
In the end, Jane chose Rochester.
“Of COURSE she chose Rochester!” I remember thinking…perhaps even saying aloud in my 12th grade AP English class (probably to the boos and hisses of my classmates). Who the heck wouldn’t have chosen him? In the years since, I’ve debated this topic sooooo many times with sooooo many women, and almost no one agrees with me! I even had one friend refer to it as “the most awful, unsatisfying ending of a novel, ever”.
My preference of Rochester over St. John might be controversial, but it’s the only decision that makes sense to me. St. John was ambitious and nice…but he was naïve to the point of being stupid. He was so wrapped up in being socially acceptable, morally correct, “holier-than-thou” that he completely lost touch of all reality, rational thought…and Jane.
But our beloved Jane made the right choice with Rochester. He was unpredictably brash, not politically-correct, not acceptably kind or well-mannered, but there was nothing “holier-than-thou” about him. He lived in the real world, he accepted himself and his decisions (both good and bad) as real, and he honored his true feelings and emotions.
Not to make a really abrupt conversational leap here (although, honestly, that’s exactly what I’m doing), I’m going to bring up a conversation I had recently with a friend (who will remain nameless because I love this person and I know that this person reads my blog). This person is a life-long liberal. She admits that she’s not always current with the news…
(…which is okay…even those of us who are rabid “news watchers” tend to think we’re somehow better than people who don’t go from “listening to Rush in the caràto Fox News in the houseàto reading AP press releases and international blogs before bed. It’s not true, we’re just masochists)…
I digress. Anyway, this person is smart. She is an independent thinker. She also happens to come from a very liberal family and has mostly very liberal friends (with a few exceptions). She is a Democrat, yes, but when she talks about issues, she often sounds somewhat…dare I say…conservative? I’ve suspected for years that she probably is a Democrat, true, but maybe with more of an “Independent” or even “Libertarian” streak than she thinks. After all, to be truthful, it’s hard to explore your personal politics when you’ve not actually had the chance to explore them. It happens to many people, on both sides of the aisle. We believe what we’ve always believed.
We were driving in the car, and I just got the bug to ask her the question I’d been wanting to ask her forever.
“So, why do you consider yourself a liberal?”
She knew I was going to ask the question, and she simply said, “because I believe in being nice to people. And fairness. I’ve just always been liberal.”
I didn’t quite know what to say when she said that, but my mind was reeling. SO many times, I’d been accused of being a “heartless Republican” or a “cruel conservative”. She wasn’t accusing me of anything, but she was telling me exactly what I’d heard my whole life from liberals- that the Left, the Democratic Party, liberals in general were kinder, nicer, gentler, and more forgiving. It didn’t make sense…not to mention that it was a weak argument. The problem is that as weak an argument as it is, and as completely untrue as it is, it’s a believable argument. I used to ask my students general questions without judgment (“why do you consider yourself to be liberal, conservative, etc.?”) and the more liberal students consistently shot back with, “because conservatives are mean and hate (fill in your group here)”. It’s probably the claim that offends me more than any other because, in my opinion, it’s the most unfounded of them all.
Basically, it sounds good, it’s simple (for simple minds), it attracts attention, and it instantly paints us as unfavorable. It’s low. It’s a shortcut to thinking.
It’s the equivalent of being eight years old again and debating any one of your eight year-old friends on any issue and presenting them with a substantive argument, only to have them say “well, you’re wrong, I’m right, and you’re stupid”.
At the risk of offending some, I will make the statement that, in my mind, liberals are “St. Johns”, mini St. John characters, full of ambition, ideas of morality, holier-than-thou attitudes, regardless of any laws or the Constitution. Today, I listened as President Obama for the upteenth time literally crapped all over our Constitution and the laws of this land and declared that the United States would “stop the deportation of hundreds of thousands of illegal immigrants and give them work permits”. Nevermind that this is unconstitutional, that it completely sidesteps the entire legal and legislative processes, that the current Congress has voted this down multiple times, and that he lacks the authority under executive order to do so. NEVERMIND ALL THAT.
THEN, Obama (who, apparently has some wild notion of how laws work in this country…in spite of the fact that he supposedly taught Constitutional Law for how many years?) is asked by a rather persistent reporter, “why would you do this?”, and his irate answer is “because it’s the right thing to do…because it’s the right thing to do”.
Look, I’m a Christian woman. I (try to) love everyone (though it is often hard with some people, let’s be honest). Race means nothing to me. Neither does sexual orientation. Nor does religion. People are people, I’m not a “social issues” girl. My point is that I do not have a problem with people who come to this country. Yes, my family once came from Europe, seeking a better life (How many times has that been used as an argument? Borrring!). Yes, many of my friends came from other countries…some initially seeking freedom and opportunity. I do not begrudge anyone that. Mistakes happen, sometimes that path to citizenship becomes muddled, paperwork gets lost. I get that it’s hard, and I empathize.
I have a problem with people who are consciously breaking our laws, taking advantage of taxpayer-funded schools and programs. Everyone deserves a chance at a better life, but people who ARE taking the steps to become citizens are, unfortunately, not the norm. Once you make it this much easier to stay here as an illegal immigrant and NOT go through that lengthy process to become legal, you dilute the work force and you lose the essence of what makes this country great.
I think about the people I know who suffered to come here, who had to go through the arduous process of interviews, filling out thousands of documents, providing information, taking classes, learning our language…some of whom are still undergoing that process. It is difficult for these law-abiding people. I’ve written letters on behalf of students, friends, coworkers who are going through this process, who have had to make sacrifices in pursuit of the American dream and citizenship. In spite of that, President Obama is not only completely ignoring every law in the land and every fiber of our Constitution, but he is rewarding every person that has and will ignore these laws and that process. How is that fair to rightful naturalized citizens and citizens-to-be?
Sure, it’s easy to say that people like us are mean, heartless, and bigoted. We feel this way because “we hate immigrants”, or whoever. It couldn’t be further from the truth. I hate law-breaking, I hate disrespect. Moreover, I hate politicians who view this sort of thing as “morally right”- over laws, over public opinion.
Obama. His cronies. St. John. Holier-than-thou people who believe that THEIR way is the correct and moral way…the same people who espouse the belief that THEY are liberal-minded, open to ideas and diversity of opinion…BUT ONLY IF THE IDEAS AND DIVERSITY OF OPINION IS LIKE THEIR OWN. Socially-accepted, easy for simple-minded youngsters to latch onto…”well, gee, I don’t want to be mean or unkind, I want to be cool”…
Believe me, my opinions do not come from hate or intolerance, but love…love for this country, for its Constitution, for its citizens, and for those who uphold the law (citizens or not-yet-citizens). ..I think I speak for many of my fellow patriots, also.
I prefer Rochester. So did Jane. I have a feeling there are more Rochesters out there than people would like to admit. St. John is easy to like- he’s the easy choice. Rochester is not, but he’s the best, rational choice…and it becomes obvious the more you think about it. He’s real. He acknowledges the good and the bad. He understands the way the world actually works. No other choice makes sense.
We are Rochesters.
There are plenty of things you can tell about a person just by looking at them. If you listen to them a little bit, make small talk with them, you might learn a little more, you might gain a little more insight. You could spend hours talking to someone and learn about their entire life story, their hopes and dreams, their personality traits, you might even grow to dislike qualities about them. But it’s hard to tell what kind of a person they truly are, if they are a realist, a fantasy-dweller, a person who bases their beliefs on what’s socially-accepted or on something concrete?
Hand them a copy of Jane Eyre. You’ll learn everything you need to know very quickly.