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jjohn (22)

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Journal of jjohn (22)

Monday September 27, 2004
10:40 PM

The L-bomb

[ #21084 ]

Like an amnesiac, I forget that arguing politics is like wrestling with a pig (afterwords, you'll both be dirty, but the pig will like it). And so, I was sullied once again in ulcerous tar pit of political discussion during which I was confronted with the suggestion that the Republican party resonates more with "middle America" and "middle Americans" than the Democrats, who are chided for embracing "weirdos." Weirdos here being defined firstly as "Liberals!" and later, more specifically, as dirty, bible-hatin', tree-huggin', dope-smokin' hippies who loathe America. However, it was noted that the Right also has its share of socially distasteful elements, who can be as eloquently pigeonholed as bible-thumping, tax-hatin' gun-fetists. In quiet moments of reflection, it is unambigiously obvious that these crude aspersions apply, if at all, to only marginal fractions of both the Republican and Democrat parties. And yet, somehow "Liberal" still seems the more insidious insult than "Conservative." I think I know why this is and the secret isn't profound. Most people I know define themselves as conservative in some way, so that word probably has more emotional investment in it. And of course, a lot of time and money has gone into demonizing "Liberals" in an effort that has been unwittingly and effectively abetted by the Left itself.

So what are Liberals on about? Does it make any sense? Do they really hate America? And what, if anything, does this have to do with Democrats?

Two authors take a stab at this. Because I'm getting old and lazy, I bought these two authors on "tape" (CD, really). Actually, both authors are delightful orators.

Garrison Keillor's Homegrown Democrat is a Liberal from Middle America, who measuredly and forcefully scolds the current Adminstration's profligate tax-cuts and messianic War on Terror as profoundly and fundamentally unamerican in that these policies are designed to destroy public life (schools, emergency services and elderly care). In the quest to reform the bloated Federal bureaucracy, anti-public ideologs have been swept into power under the rubric of Republicanism but share little of the values of Eisenhower or even Nixon. Keiller contrasts this assault on public life with the memories of his youth, where a person wasn't alone in public and neighbors weren't feared and hated a priori. Keiller's defense of liberalism is refreshing and rings true to me.

To the left of Keiller comes the uncomprimizing Cornel West reading his weighty and unflinching Democracy Matters, in which the author suggests that the American Experiment in democracy has been nearly crushed by Emperialism born from consumerism, corporate greed and Christian fundamentalism. West rails against the ever-narrowing of public debate (and the blacklash against public dissent), urging his readers to not disenfranchise themselves by giving into apathy and nihilism.

So lots of good, light listening for you to code by.

Peace out.

(Also note that I've being watching a lot of Good Eats DVDs trying to get my food on. It is my experience that both week-kneed liberals and right-wing ideologs do need to eat once in a while. So we got that keeping us together.)

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  • There's another reason why "liberal" is a dirty word: because it has less specific, technical, historical, meaning. Conservative means favoring small government, deregulation, civil liberties, etc. Liberal means ... having long hair and smoking weed. And liberal changes so much over time: prohibition was "liberal."

    And it's part of why liberals have taken to calling themselves progressives, because it was the term used in 1912, when T.R. ran as the Progressives candidate, and Wilson beat T.R. and Taft on
    • I'm not sure that "conservative" is as well defined as you say, though I agree it's better defined than liberal. Certainly libertarians use it the way you suggest (they seem to think it's synonymous with "libertarian"), but Republicans in general seem to stray a bit -- especially with regard to civil liberties not related to the 2nd amendment -- and think the word has something to do with "preserving America as a Christian nation" and opposing "the gay agenda", as well as keeping those damn hippies from smo
      • Well, it was well-defined up until the 80s, when Reagan suddenly made it popular to be a conservative. Progressives had a similar problem, where the term got diluted, and subsequently fell out of fashion. Real conservatives -- like William F. Buckley et al at National Review -- support marijuana legalization. :-)