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“Liberal” vs “Conservative: A social change dead-end

Letters, letters, I get letters.

Sometimes I get thoughtful comments, sometimes off-color pings that make me laugh out loud. Once in a while I get a disturbing email, like the guy who blasted my BlackBerry three times while I sat in my car at the ShopRite demanding in four-letter terms that I should ship myself “back to the other socialists in Canada”.

Yesterday I got one from the disturbing category.This came from someone named “b*fox” (I’ll betcha ”fox” is a reference to that fabbie news channel ). Since this is a public forum and a free country, I’ll reproduce this one in full:

Read “Atlas Shrugged”. When I read your profile, it didn’t surprise me that you were a former teacher. The true disciples of liberal nonsense. Thank god most of the educators I work with are conservative, and just nodded in agreement during college so we could receive good grades.

On one hand, I’ve gotten much meaner notes than this one. I found myself wondering why this one struck such a nerve.

For one, I have read “Atlas Shrugged” – well, most of it. I also read “Anthem” and “The Fountainhead” (two times through, back to back.) I’ve written about my break with Ayn Rand and the Objectivists before; I rejected that philosophy because, like all fanatics, Objectivists assume that their way is the only way without exception to solve all social ills.

That’s called zealotry, which makes Objectivism no different – practically speaking – from communism, fascism, or libertarianism.  Demanding that a single philosophy should be followed without exception gets you ideological tyranny. It’s a social change dead-end.

I was a fanatic myself, two different times: Once of the Right (God Bless Ronald Reagan) and once of the further left, let’s say.  But as I’ve gotten older and – dare I say it wiser – I’ve come to believe that no framework for understanding the world fits every situation, every time.

I think that’s why this note from b*fox got under my skin so. I don’t know what political bucket I fit into anymore, except that I no longer define myself by any single one. When people assume that I’m a “liberal” I blanch, and not just because of the way the Right has come to define the term ( “bleeding heart, limp-wristed, welfare-spending, enemy-loving wimp” -thank you Lee Atwater, Newt Gingrich, Karl Rove and FOX News.) I could live with the WWll-era definition, where “liberals” were open minded, anti-racist, and open to social change within the confines of capitalist democracy.  But this definition no longer lives in our social consciousness.

So then here’s b*fox, a fellow citizen who rejects anyone’s thinking that falls outside of his rigid conservatism, and takes the time to submit a blog’s form to make it clear. Here’s a guy who boasts – proudly – that he “earned” a college degree without challenging, arguing, engaging or defending an opinion. I’d say this guy ought to remove all references to his degree from his resume. This is no kind of education.

Cornell West once said, When  your prejudices and preconditions no longer sustain you, you’ve been educated. I’d suggest b*fox give some thought to this. But then he’d ignore these wise words because they came from that “liberal” Cornell West. A sad thing for him.

And for us. I assume that democracies are still the most effective way we’ve found to organize a peaceful society, and I think history defends that position rather well. So running into narrow-minded folks like this guy is disappointing indeed.

I aim for optimism. It’s really never too late to change, and given that we’re in the early days of our Information Age there’s reason for being hopeful. Even for someone like b*fox. Not that he should agree with my viewpoint; rather, I’m simply suggesting that he consider other ideas even when they don’t jive with his own.

One can’t deny that people are rejecting the old right-wing fear tactics in a way that transcends modern memory. Obama’s popularity remains surprisingly high even in the face of a Right-wing propaganda machine, which keeps falling flat. And I’m not saying that everyone should be a fan of Obama. What I am saying is that disagreements should be reasonable or honest, and not because he’s a “socialist”, a “non-American”, or “dictator”, terms which the republican party employs and right-wing fanatics actually seem to believe.

I don’t know what my personal political bucket should be defined by.  When you tie yourself down to a unbending viewpoint, you spend your energy rejecting any idea that doesn’t neatly fit with your preconception. And you’ll miss an awful lot of good ideas as a result. Political ideaologues devote their efforts to defining a perfect society. Imagine one that’s filled with open-minded, contemplative citizens? That’s a world I could be happy living in.

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May 10, 2009   |  Filed Under Political   |    Permalink


1 Mr. Natural { 05.10.09 at 2:11 pm }

Dare I say “empathetic”? Did you see how the wingnuts clamped on to that word when Obama had the gall to utter it? Great post. I am looking forward to spending more time reading your blog.

2 Eric { 05.10.09 at 4:35 pm }

Well, sure, it’s a slippery slope, after all – you start with an empathetic president who uses words like “responsibility” and next thing you know we’ll all be waving our Pravda outside the Politburo.

Thanks for the comment Mr. N! Hope to see you around.


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