Friday, May 11, 2012

Understanding the Left

I have a friend who is a full-fledged conservative of the highest degree, and we recently discussed the intentions of the left vs. the right.  His take, and indeed the stance assumed by many on the right, is that the left is attempting a fascist coup and is aiming to destroy America.  As an independent, I disagree.

Listening to any ideologue discuss how politics affect the nation is like listening to a fish in a bowl describing the room in which the tank sits; the environment of the bowl warps the perspective of the observing fish.  Some things may seem larger or smaller than they actually are; other things are reflections of objects in the tank and do not actually exist in the room itself.

If conservatism involves less government and the basic fiscal responsibility to spend within reach of revenues, fine.  I get that and I agree whole-heartedly.  The Democrats have little-to-no sense of fiscal responsibility, but the right misjudges their intentions and vilifies them.  Most that could carry the label “Liberal” are actually quite charitable at heart, perhaps to a fault, and they want to use the resources of government to administer what they see to be charitable acts, such as financial assistance to the poor, healthcare for the sick, and protection from oppressors (both foreign and domestic).  I see the primary disagreement between right and left being that these charitable acts should not be the responsibility of the government, not that these intentions are inherently evil, although the pundits may disagree from within the fishbowls.

In regard to the lattermost point regarding protection against oppressions, particularly domestic, the left sees a great potential for business owners to be oppressive to their workers.  It is true that they call for government regulation of business in hopes of preventing such oppression, for they fear those with money will quickly lose moral judgment in pursuit of more capital. Government’s regulation of business for the protection of workers goes back to the abolition of slavery.  I would certainly hope we can all agree that the federal government was justified in making laws deeming slavery illegal, and while it certainly impacted the profitability of slave owners, the rights of those workers were deserving of federal protection.

Going back to the overdeveloped sense of charity that “Liberals” are affected by, I see a great irony in the number of Christians who align themselves with the GOP from a moral standpoint.  It seems to me that Jesus would have been in favor of doing all that was possible to clothe and feed the poor and heal the sick; that Jesus would not be in favor of preemptive military strikes; that Jesus would accept a homosexual as a person deserving of love and respect.  From my understanding of Jesus’ actions, he demonstrated more “Liberal” qualities than conservative.  He washed the feet of tax collectors, he made company with whores and beggars, he protected the adultress by inviting one without sin to cast the first stone, he espoused charity and urged his followers to do away with all their worldly possessions, he eschewed wealth; most importantly, he called on others to follow in his footsteps.  These are virtues pursued by “Liberals” who are trying to protect their fellow man and the earth we all share.  They are Christian in nature.

Speaking of protecting the earth, environmental laws do serve a purpose: they keep people from shitting upstream of others.  Present bickering over climate change and pollution is not about a fascist takeover of the world, it is an attempt to define what constitutes shit, and where the boundaries of the stream are.  Those downstream say “Stop shitting in my water supply” while those upstream say “Too bad, I can’t afford to build an outhouse.” 

And then there’s perhaps the most divisive issue in all politics: abortion.  It seems to me that the right’s stance on abortion has allowed all logic and reason to be swallowed by blind dogma that states no abortion should be allowed, ever, under any circumstance.  Pro-choice does not entail the merciless slaughter of infants.  If a woman were to be raped and impregnated, I think she should be entitled to an abortion and should not be forced to carry that baby to term.  If pregnancy complications threaten the life of the mother of two, I think she should be able to have an abortion and save her life, for her two children and husband are better off with a mother and wife than a sibling / third child.  If a father rapes and impregnates his daughter she should not be forced into a back-alley with a coat hanger in order to keep that child from entering the world.  However, I do not think abortions should be used as a basic means of birth control, and late-term abortions should only be allowed in the event of a life-saving decision on the mother’s behalf.  There can be a middle ground. 

The right seems to have unwavering faith that businesses will be just and moral and need no regulations, but strives to regulate morality on the individual level.  They claim the fascist left wants to re-form the constitution, but the right has its own changes it wants to make, such as a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.  The heart of gay marriage really boils down to tax benefits and advantages gained from being able to file jointly; normally the right is all for lessening a tax burden, but not when it’s just for a couple of fags, I guess.  Homosexuality is not new.  It is neither created nor expanded by gay marriage. Two gay people getting married does absolutely nothing to affect the sanctity of my marriage.  It is not an act of war on marriage, as many right-wing pundits claim.  Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh have done more to deface the sanctity of marriage with their infidelity and multiple divorces than the two ladies who live together three houses down from me, yet Rush and Newt are idolized by a large faction of the right. 

Then there’s waterboarding, which is another divisive topic between right and left.  There are two angles to the argument: whether or not it is torture, and whether or not it is effective.  I can’t speak to the first directly, but I do take credence in John McCain’s view that waterboarding is torture; here is a man who has truly been tortured, he has a valid perspective.  I doubt waterboarding’s effectiveness as an interrogation technique.  I bet if you waterboarded Dick Cheney or George Bush long enough you would get them to confess that 9/11 was an inside job (NOTE: I do not believe 9/11 was an inside job, I do believe people will say anything to stop being tortured).

I do not condone the voices of the far left.  I am glad Keith Olbermann was fired from MSNBC and from Current.  While I think Rush Limbaugh is a selfish man with very little moral value, I do not think he is the “Worst Person in the World” and think that by attempting to classify him as such, one downplays the truly horrible acts that occur every day.  Likewise, to liken the left to a rising Nazi party belittles the horror of the Holocaust, and to associate the left with Nazism is to imply the left is trying to rise up to take over the world and engage in mass genocide—a Fourth Reich, so to speak—which is simply ludicrous.  The left—who wants to feed and educate the poor, to heal the sick, to abolish the death penalty, to protect the environment—is not the party of death.  They are more pro-life than many foes of abortion.

I’ll conclude by saying that while this rant was largely focused on the right, the left are equal in their use of deplorable tactics, and they also set party lines based on rigid dogma requiring unwavering support on all fronts.  Both sides have a single, primary goal: to destroy the other party.  There is no intent to fix, to heal, to reconcile.  Both sides have adopted the stance that “it’s my way and fuck yourself while you’re at it.”  Sadly, the majority of Americans, who are just trying to live day-to-day, will be the ones most affected by this fight, and not in a good way.

PS  I won’t defriend you if you comment sharing a different viewpoint.  I value the ability to debate issues in a rational manner.



Johanna Garth said...

I think the point you make about both sides attempting to destroy each other is valid. It's frustrating to watch so much energy being put to negative use when there are so many things more deserving of all that time and energy.

Kamille Elahi said...

I love this post so much!

I know in American there is a lot of conflict between the right and left and it leaves me feeling like the human race is too childish to make decisions.

I think it was Rev Jesse Jackson who said it takes two wings to fly and I really believe that.

In the UK, politics is more central in the political spectrum while it's shifted to the right in America. And in Europe, it's shifted to the left.

Politically, I guess I'm centre left but in America, I'd probably be called a Communist. But I don't consider anyone on the right to be fascist. I just see them as having different values and beliefs to me. I think we should forget political differences though and solve problems with a more logical approach.

Abortion is allowed and should be during the later stages of pregnancy if the child is going to be born with a serious disability/deformity I think.

And waterboarding is against the Geneva Convention so it's illegal too.

scott g.f.bailey said...

I think that one of the hallmarks of being a liberal/leftist is that we know that food, shelter, safety, education and healthcare for the poor (and, indeed, all citizens) is not "charity"; it's a requirement of a civilized society. Liberals know that in a civilized society the common weal is not a zero-sum game, and that a community is not primarily a marketplace, but an extended family. Policies come second. Fascist coup leading to destruction of America is farther down the list.

Rick Daley said...

Johanna- Great point, and extra kudos for doing it in under 1,000 words! My diatribe was kinda long ;-)

Kamille- If the entirety of the US Congress were in a car heading toward a cliff, they would not be able to decide to turn right or left to save their lives. Sad but true.

Scott- Good point about a community being a family. The pundits do not reflect the common American citizen. They speak to us, not for us.

scott g.f.bailey said...

Yeah, political discourse takes place in a weird abstract space that rarely connects to the actual world. It's like a room full of children having a fist fight about the Easter bunny, and meanwhile outside the room reality is going on but the real people are getting regular reports about the Easter bunny fight as if it's the most important thing in life.

Rick Daley said...

Scott- Classic!

Eric said...

Great rant. I mostly agree with everything here. I generally don't state a political opinion, primarily because most people don't want to hear it. I'm an independent because I don't wish to be related (in any way, shape, or form) to either of our corrupt parties (or the politicians that make up their memberships). I'm also independent because I like the freedom of choice - on any issue at any time. While I do vote, I try not to get too upset about politics. It's like one big game, and you can't change the rules unless you spend your life playing. I have better things to do with my time than try to help supposedly intelligent adults (i.e. politicians) re-learn/remember how to behave like adults and remember what morality/ethical behavior is. It is a shame however, that we've become accustomed (in the US) to a deplorable lack of accountability with regards to our representatives and there really is no easy way to fix that or to expect these people to respect themselves and/or the office they hold.

Rick Daley said...

We have a lot of common viewpoints. I hate the idea of toeing the party lines. Even worse is the laughably sad reality show politics aspires toward. I like Scott's comment about the Easter Bunny fight.

Anne Gallagher said...

Thanks Rick for being brave enough to say what I've been thinking. I have to say, the political arena is just stupifying (or should that be stuid-fying) to watch.

The country is how many trillions of dollars in debt, and the two presidential candidates are spending how many billions to get elected. It's a joke.

I don't think politicians give a crap about the country. If the left is in, the right want to take everything away they've proposed. If the right is in, it's the same process. Somewhere along the line, the PEOPLE of this country got screwed.

And the pundits are ridiculous. Sometimes it's like watching Tiffany and Heather get into a bitch-fight in high school over the captain of the football team. You know.

I just want the election to be over. Get someone in office and get on with the work at hand trying to fix the damn country. I don't really care who it is, as long as he knows what he's (or she's) doing. And fix it right, don't just stick a band aid on it and call it good for now. Fix it right so it will last for 50-60 years. At least until I'm dead.

Great post, Rick. Got me all fired up.

Anne Gallagher said...

Got me so fired up, I forgot the p in stupid-fying.

Rick Daley said...

Anne- My pleasure, thanks!

There's a sad but true joke that goes like this:

A democrat and republican run for president, who wins?

The lobbyist.

Laurel said...

The lobbyist always wins. But, from a liberal right perspective (I identify right although my conservative friends think I am a nutjob liberal), I gotta stand up.

I believe that in a civilized society, "charity" serves the purpose of serving the needy better than government. There is not a buttload of paperwork, simply a recognition of need. I've seen it first hand. And the flip side is that the bilkers get spotted after a while, and sooner than the federal government figures it out.

The most conservative people I know, people I shirk discussing social issues with because I know we will make each other angry, pay their taxes and THEN give 10% of their GROSS INCOME (before taxes) to the religious outreach programs that clothe, feed, and house people who have been wiped out by tornadoes (that happens a lot around here), house fires (not as much as tornadoes unless you live next to a meth lab), animal rescue, and sometimes just random people they encounter who need a freezer.

The fundamental difference between people who think the government MUST provide everything for everyone who can't provide for themselves and people who think that falls to charity is faith in humanity. Do you believe people are basically good? Then you trust them to help their neighbors.

The social issue stuff is another ball of wax. I personally don't think it is anyone's business who I marry or if (s)he is the same gender as me. I don't think abortion should be illegal, but I don't think anyone who thinks it is murder should be forced to contribute money to it. And late term abortion to preserve the mother's health has always been practiced, even before Roe v. Wade.

People vote with distressing regularity on social issues when, at the end of the day, we have more control over whether or not we get pregnant than whether or not we can afford housing or get a job. Even non-traditional marriage can be set up to recognize legal rights to an estate, visitation rights to an ill spouse, etc., for less than the cost of an average wedding. It might not be totally fair, but in a good economy we have more choices. We can AFFORD more choices.

And, at the end of the day, I am pro-choice. I'd rather be able to choose for myself the things that benefit me than have them imposed or rationed by a central planning committee. I am in a better position to choose, or rally attention to my right to choose, if I am not struggling to put gas in my car so I can get to the part-time job that I am hoping will go full-time.

Scott Daniel said...

The only place the "right" and "left" really exist is in rhetoric. In reality, both parties serve the rich - the people and the corporations that help keep them in office.

In my book, actions speak louder than words. When George W. Bush took office, the country was in a SURPLUS. Over the following eight years, the "conservatives" ran up billions of dollars worth of debt and entangled us in two wars that we couldn't pay for and probably didn't need to fight.

To me, President Obama's four years don't look much different than the previous eight. We're still racking up enormous deficits and we're still in Afghanistan. The economy still stinks and the middle class is being squeezed harder than ever.

If Mitt Romney is elected, the pace of that squeeze will quicken. He'll reduce the "burden" on corporate America hoping that it will stimulate hiring ... you know, the good old trickle down. But that won't happen. Companies will continue to operate with minimal staffing and reap larger profit.

If any president and congress was serious about growing the economy, their entire focus would be on growing middle America. If you look at our history, the most prosperous times have been when the middle class was expanding and growing in wealth.

Making a college education more affordable, where young people of all social classes can attain the knowledge and skills to compete, should be job one.

Rick Daley said...

Laurel- I agree that the government is not adept at managing charities; my concern with those on the right who vilify the left into being socialists who are out to destroy the fabric of our society through Big Government. The rhetoric is reaching dangerous levels, and the other party is not being painted as someone who has a differing policy viewpoint but rather as someone who is working deceptively to destroy the American way of life.

The left does the same to the right by lumping all businesses next to Enron, AIG, and Bernie Madoff. People trying to earn money are not evil; that is determined by what they do with the money they earn (and I have great respect for those you mention who are so charitable with their earnings).

The rhetoric is becoming more divisive, and it's becoming dangerous. I've heard people on both sides talk civil war and / or some other type of populist uprising. While I don't think the majority of Americans will rattle sabers like that for political points, I do think there is a real danger it will cause some people who are already unbalanced to go over the edge. We're shouting fire in a crowded theater, but the fire is on the screen.

Scott- It's been a long time, glad you joined in! Bush didn't make things better after Clinton, and Obama didn't make things better after Bush.

I would hold off on saying what Romney would do, though, because much of that is up to the congressional houses. A president can set an agenda and propose a budget, but the house and senate must pass it. Also, I know many Republicans that don't like Romney because he is too liberal.

One thing I do like about Romney is the fact that he is Mormon because a) I have met many Mormons, and while I do not share their religious beliefs, the Mormons I have met have been very kind, charitable, honest people; and b) I think it would actually keep him from stepping too deep into religious waters as part of his decision-making process.

Too bad we don't have a party for the common people, founded on common sense, and striving for the common good.

Laurel said...

For the record, none of the above ever ran a surplus. That is not a defense of Bush, who was never high on my list of people to be venerated, but a condemnation of both parties.

Because they BOTH lied. They raided funds allocated to Medicare and Social Security, put them in the general fund and left IOUs, and said, "Look! We have MORE money than we needed! We have a surplus!"

It's like taking money from your child's college fund to cover this year's expenses and adding it to your $40K annual income to show $45K income for the year and saying you ran a $5K surplus. It's also exactly what Enron did. Those guys went to jail. But not our legislature.

That doesn't address the issue of deficit spending, but folks need to be aware that no matter what party you support, they are a bunch of politically expedient liars.

No. I'm not bitter. Why do you ask?

Rick Daley said...

I strongly believe that the very worst thing that can happen to our country is single-party control of the executive and legislative branches. The GOP demonstrated this in the early 2000s, and then the Democrats reinforced it in 2009-2010.

They all have "fuzzy math" plays to try to make things look better, like keeping $400 billion for war fund out of the budget (in addition to the aforementioned trickery).

We all have every right to be bitter.

D.G. Hudson said...

Politics never gets any better, the players just change partners.

Being informed is your best defense, and voting is your voice.

Hot topics, Rick, kudos to you for opening the discussion.