Friday, November 26, 2004

Why I'm Not a Liberal

I have been called a "liberal" a few times by those who stopped by to comment. Well, it ain't true. Innocent as charged.

Here's why. First, and most obviously, the term has lost both its original meaning and all semblance of context. Republicans have used the term as a slanderous label for decades now; their pre-emption has been highly and lamentably successful. The word "liberal" now comes pre-loaded with associative connotations such as "big spender," "tax and spend," "bleeding heart" etc. Doesn't matter who you are or what you believe, you can't escape the baggage that comes with the "L" word.

In response to the anti-liberal campaign, the Democrats and most other lefties have learned to avoid the label at all costs, as if it were a battered orphan nobody wanted to adopt.

But the right-wing campaign has been devastatingly effective on a deeper level. Democrats now not only shun the word, but also the policies traditionally advocated by liberals. Tax increase? Uh-uh. Social programs? Too risky. Oppose pre-emptive war? Not me! Thus the Democrats have subjected themselves to a self-imposed spine-ectomy, and for the most part no longer have enough backbone to comport themselves in a vertical manner. That is, they're unable to stand up for anything a "liberal" might believe in. So those policies and beliefs have largely gone down the tubes, at a great cost to individuals and to the country.

The time to be a liberal has clearly passed--for politicians and for me. In my case, I believe it's too late to be a liberal for the simple reason that we are at war. Let me repeat that. WE ARE AT WAR.

It is not just a war of words, metaphors, or abstract ideologies. It is a war that has dire and concrete consequences, has taken millions of casualties, has everything to do with not only the future of this country but of the entire planet. It is a war of rich against poor, of corruption versus justice, greed combating fairness, technology battling people, consumption versus preservation, the obsession with power opposing the desire for peace. It is a war that is simultaneously internal and external. It is, for all intents and purposes, a world war. Welcome to Round III.

How can a world war be going on while our kids go to school, dinner is served every day, and the roofs over our heads remain . . . over our heads? Think of it as a deadly battle in the near distance, one that is moving inexorably closer to home every day. Think of it as the gradual Nazification of Germany in the mid to late 1930s. Think of it as a mushroom cloud in slow motion.

Consider that the gap between rich and poor has never in modern times been larger than it is today. Consider that the examples of corporate greed run amok, embodied by Enron, are not aberrations. Enron's tactics are THE SYSTEM, not the exception (see Arianna Huffington's book, "Pigs at the Trough")

Consider the fact that we needed no war on terrorism, no Department of Homeland Security, and no colored-light system of "alerts" before G.W. Bush and friends stormed the White House. Consider what a profound departure the "pre-emptive war" in Iraq is from our reluctant participation in World Wars I and II

Consider the severely compromised position of our natural environment, the illusory nature of our economic security, the betrayal involved in soliciting global trade agreements that simply dissolve environmental safeguards, wage standards, and notions of job security. Consider the disturbing intrusions of technology into the realm of private information, the staggering national debt, the financial influence of the Chinese government on our future, the felonious if not treasonous lies of Bush and his officials to Congress and the American people, the dwindling world oil supply, the dumb insensate numbness supplied to us daily by "information outlets" such as the Web and the media, the unsafety and uncertain origin of the foods we eat, the cynically misnamed Patriot Act, and so much more. We are under DIRECT ASSAULT every single day. That's war, baby.

Liberal? Hah! That's something you could maybe afford to be when Dwight Eisenhower was president. Today, like it or not, we are all combatants. And personally, I consider myself to the left of the left--and then further left. And then further left than that. I'm a danger to uncivil society, and proud of it. Mess with my yearning for peace (or call me a liberal), and I'm liable to blow you away.

In print, that is.


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