Wednesday, July 06, 2005

Liberating your oppressor

A few days ago Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero made an inspired, impassioned speech celebrating the legalization of gay marriage in Spain, in which he quoted inter alia two of Spain's most famous (and gay) poets.

Perhaps Zapatero's most important point was that this legislation did not just represent a triumph for gays, but in fact was a triumph for everyone, including even those (perhaps most of all those) who opposed the law -- for the simple reason, as he put it, that this law represents "the triumph of Liberty."

One of the most trying and frustrating things about any liberation movement worthy of the name is that it must seek not only to liberate the oppressed but also to liberate the oppressors. The need to liberate the oppressors is something that true liberators (like Mohandas Ghandi, Martin Luther King, or Nelson Mandela) have understood intuitively: only in making oppressors reject their own oppressiveness can the oppressed achieve true, enduring liberty.

Needless to say, this responsibility is a terrible burden for a liberator to bear. It's hard enough to liberate the oppressed. To go beyond that achievement, to put aside one's revulsion at oppressors, so that you seek to liberate them as well those they oppress, requires a super-human level of humility and capacity for forgiveness.

It is precisely this aspect of liberation that the many pied pipers of liberation (most notably Lenin and his many, diverse followers) have failed to grasp: they have not understood that simply inverting the order of oppression is no true liberation, to say nothing of the dire consequences of seeking to "liquidate" the oppressing class.

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