Friday, November 13, 2009

The Left Side Of History

Every day, all day long, the media presents us with "political discussions", where one discusser defends the liberal point of view and one pushes the conservative perspective.  As pundit show ratings soar, and newspapers close up shop, the conservative versus liberal political cage matches are aired 24 hours a day, and applied to absolutely every topic imaginable.  As long as we have a conservative and a liberal fighting about something - we have a show.  And, of course, to fit the profitable format - every topic, no matter what,  must have both points of view.  In a discussion of Newton's Theory of Gravity, we would near certainly be presented with a liberal "in favor" of gravity - and a traditional conservative arguing against the controversial theory citing research by Focus on the Family that debunks everything Sir Newton ever said. 

And this liberal versus conservative "political discussion" format will always benefit the conservatives.  Of couse, there are a few success stories on the liberal side of this dangerous political battle - Keith Olbermann, Rachel Maddow, and to a degree, Chris Matthews. 

But, the underlying problem is the most basic nature of liberal and conservative minds.  The very basis of liberalism is academic discussion and investigating different points of view.  Liberals, by their very nature, want to hear and accommodate others' points of view.  Conservatives, on the other hand, have no interest in hearing any point of view that differs from tradition.  This leaves liberals holding the political discussion bag.  While liberals seek to understand, conservatives seek to control.  Liberals agree to have the discussion about whether the gravity is real, or not, because it's only fair to listen to others' point of views. And the liberal guest will point out centuries of scientific research that has supported Newton's ideas, and the conservative will argue that Newton was against God, and that if we teach the Laws of Physics in schools, it will make the children homosexual socialist abortionists.  And, both viewpoints will be treated as equally valid by the show's host**, and too many Americans will go to sleep that night thinking that these are just two reasonable, competing points of view. 

I bring this up after a discussion with my friend, Jason.  We were talking about health care and how absurd it is that conservatives have been able to control the debate so well.  How is it that this summer's town hall meetings were filled with people fired up against government run healthcare - while demanding that Obama and his liberal army not touch Medicare?  And, how did this America-hating, secessionist, secessionist, anti-government movement come to be and where was it when Bush was running up the biggest deficit in history on two wars and tax cuts for the richest one percent?  And, how did conservatives succeed in making liberal, and progressive, bad words - especially given the heritage of conservatism in this country?

Without writing a dissertation, I just want to look at the histories of the two main schools of American political thought.  It's probably necessary to start with some definitions...

1.  Conservative - tending, or disposed, to maintain existing views, conditions, or institutions; to limit change; cautious, moderate, tending to preserve the status quo. 

2.  Liberal - favorable to progress or reform; open-minded or tolerant; free of, or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas or values; progressive, broad-minded, tolerant.

It's ironic that the self-proclaimed conservatives of Glenn Beck's teabagger movement so heavily lean on symbols of the American Revolution, when so many of the ideas of the founding fathers were so radically liberal.  The American Revolutionaries weren't tradition-loving Christianists.  They were freedom-seeking secularists.  They fought and died for radically forward-thinking ideas - ideas that laid the framework for future generations to work towards a society that recognized the equality of each of its citizens.  

Of course, it's difficult to neatly fit any of the founders into today's well-defined political camps, but make no mistake - if Thomas Paine, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson were alive today, they certainly wouldn't tune in to the corporate loyalists on Fox News, and they'd want nothing to do with Glenn Beck or Michael Savage.   

The great American revolutionaries were products of the Enlightenment, and they wrote down their radically enlightened, radically liberal ideas as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America.  And, not once does either of these brilliantly conceived documents mention a nation based on Judeo-Christian principles, no matter how many times Pat Robertson and Bill O'Reilly say otherwise. 

Real homegrown American conservatism found its first home in the White House during Andrew Jackson's years as President.  Andrew Jackson dismantled the federal banking system, which caused an economic collapse known as the Panic of 1837.  He stood strongly for keeping Africans enslaved and terrorized, and he was well-known for his attempts to exterminate each and every Native American from the continent.  "Old Hickory," as he was known, is now honored for his genocidal forays, by having his image engraved on the $20 bill, and I'm sure Ann Coulter has a painting of him somewhere in her lair.     

From the early days of the Union through the Civil War and through the  20th Century, conservatives fought to keep Africans enslaved, committed genocide on American's native inhabitants, fought against women's suffrage, stood strong against the New Deal policies, blacklisted movie actors "suspected" of Communism, fought to keep African-Americans separate and unequal, were disgusted by flower children, squandered nearly 60,000 young American lives in Viet Nam, made the Watergate Hotel infamous, sold weapons to terrorists in Central America, implemented "trickle-down" economics, and spent millions of our dollars in an creepily obsessive attempt to impeach Bill Clinton for lying about a blow-job.  

American Conservatism owes its history to the work of Andrew Jackson, generations of slave owners and Confederates, the Ku Klux Klan, Father Coughlin, Joe McCarthy,  George C. Wallace and Bull Connor, Richard Nixon, Jerry Falwell, Ronald Reagan, Oliver North, Jesse Helms and David Duke.  It is a history of violence, domination, oppression and genocide. 

And, while conservatives were building their hateful history, liberals were gathering as abolitionists and unionists and suffragists, constructing the Underground Railroad and putting Americans to work through the New Deal policies.  Liberals rebelled against the unnecessary Viet Nam War, crafted the Social Security and Medicare systems, and stood strong against police fire hoses and dogs in Alabama.   And, without liberals there would be no consumer protections, labor rights or civil rights.  Liberals are still educating against racism, homophobia, sexism, and xenophobia, and fighting to save our planet from the short-sightedness of conservatism.

Today, the conservative movement is completely centered around making sure that faggots and lezzies can't marry each other, and shooting dirty Mexicans in the desert.  The conservative movement has always been about keeping very distinct social classes and using violence and intimidation as regulation, and the conservative voices of today - Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Michael Savage, Michelle Malkin, Ann Coulter and their ilk - are well-versed in using fear of the other to rally their tea-bagging troops.  

So, just how is it, that conservatives have managed to nearly succeed in making "liberal" a bad word in American politics?  I cannot for a minute understand why any thinking and loving person would want to associate themselves with the historic agenda of conservatism.  

On good days, I think it's just a matter of lack of education, media manipulation and fear-mongering.  On other days, my heart breaks wondering if it's just that nearly half of us are just hateful, racist, homophobic, unkind bullies.  


weavermiami said...

Bravo! Bravo! Bravo!

Y | O | Y said...

Great post. I agree!

I had a similar discussion with my brother the other day. Even if one side of the debate represents 1% of the population, that person is given 50% of the airtime in a debate. The effort to be fair becomes unfair in its execution.

Anonymous said...

Brilliant and sadly true. I also wonder sometimes if the FOX crew is as hateful as they appear to be or if they aren't just posing because the money is so good. In some ways that strikes me as an even bigger sin.