Hoo, boy, here he goes.

I’m reading “Guns, Germs and Steel”, which I can’t recommend enough. It is an overview of the history of cultures and an investigation into why certain groups of people were able to consistently defeat other groups. It completely destroys any theories about ethnic proclivities or other racist bullshit. My childhood friend Anastasia was visiting my sister a few weeks ago and she touched on the book, saying, ‘if you believe that sort of thing…’ and I was a little stunned because it just makes so much sense, how can you not? It’s so smart and, to someone who finds racism a sickening answer, so comforting.

As I have been in this book for the last month or so, it seems like the abortion debate is swirling around us again. My girlfriend’s father Joe (there should be a word for that relationship for chrissakes, it has to be one of the most weirdest, touchiest relationships there is) is a hard core, radio-talk-show right winger, although he claims he is a social moderate. When the Republicans took control of, y’know, everything, I made a deal with him; if Pataki does extend health care for poor children and pass a gay rights bill (both promises he made to the left when running) I would vote Republican. I mean, shit, if the republicans are gonna do that, then I’ll be a frickin’ republican. In return, if the Republicans try to enforce a conservative social agenda (which as a Jew and a Friend-To-His-Wife-And-Daughters he would be crazy to support) he would vote Democrat.

Pataki has restricted the amount of health care available for poor people at emergency rooms. Suddenly, the republicans are putting abortion back on the table. Somehow, I doubt Joe is going to go through with our deal.

In “Guns, Germs and Steel”, Diamond separates societies into four groups, “Band”, “Tribe”, “Chiefdom” and “State”, but he assures us that the lines are very fluid. When you have five guys living on an island, you have a band, but fifty thousand people is sort of a gray area. And this is another way that the book appeals to me as a leftist. He posits complex ideas, takes nothing on faith, pursues everything as an intellectual exercise, and yet still says that there are no absolutes.

It doesn’t matter when you think human life begins. It doesn’t matter. DNA replicates- if a zygote has rights, then so do carrots. If a divided cell drops out on to a tampon, you don’t consider it murder. Pregnant women aren’t counted twice for a census. But that’s all beside the point. You can say that a thing is so, but without irrefutable proof, which will never be provided in this area, you have to legally respect the fact that others disagree. And biblical proof doesn’t count, unless you want me to tell you exactly how much rain has to fall every second for a flood to cover the highest peek in forty days and forty nights.

And that is what separates the left from the right. The right agree on simple answers, the left argue shades of gray. We can’t organize, we don’t have huge viewership on TV or ratings on radio or sales on books because our views on everything are still in debate. We are still looking for answers to the hard questions, and the answers aren’t defended as if they are ‘truth’, they are discussed as ideas.

Even for a book like this, my hardcore leftist, vegetarian, lesbian friend says, “If you believe that sort of thing.” It was written by someone almost like her, but there was some small thing she disagrees with. Only in right wing thinking do you get people exactly like each other. It’s easier to say “ditto” than it is to think.