Every now and again - more often these days it seems - you hear someone say that the Democrats are just the same as the Republicans. And in some rather glaring ways it's true. Both, for the most part, are beholden to big money. Corporations, special interests, and the wealthy pave their way into office, election after election. Favors are asked, favors come due. Anyone who thinks different is deluding themselves. Politics is not for the faint of heart.
But I think that this is not enough to excuse us from our moral and ethical duty to stand up for those who need our help, and to oppose those who have clearly lost sight of what government is for: to protect the weak from the powerful, to ensure a fair shake for everyone. And when it comes to humanitarian issues, Democrats are more prone to be on the morally right side of the issue: Equality for Gays & Lesbians. Equality for Women. Equality for Minorities. Equality for "illegal aliens." Democrats are far, far from perfect - and there are many I suspect who run as Democrat just because that's politically expedient, not because they personally cleave to this humanitarian agenda.
However, Republicans don't even pretend to support such lofty goals. Their own party is diametrically opposed to humanitarian goals: equality in all of its forms are not in their platform. The only "equality" they're after is to make themselves personally equal to the richest idealization of themselves that they can be.
It is one thing to strive for social equality, but be forced for political or practical reasons to have to compromise and/or take smaller (as opposed to bigger) steps initially towards the desired goal. It is another entirely to eschew equality, and unabashedly compete entirely for self aggrandizement and greed regardless of the social, economic, and environmental cost to everyone else.
Republicans are fond of cloaking their greed in lots of ways. Pretending that what they do is for "family values", or to uphold "religious scriptures." They're "God fearing" and they're "Capitalists." They're the only "true Americans." They wrap themselves in the American flag, claim a special understanding of the Constitution of the United States (and the mind-set of the founding fathers), and then go on to justify pro-corporate greed, exploitation, unlimited federal and executive powers, and naming Judges to the supreme court who clearly have ideological axes to grind.
For some republicans I can imagine that they're genuinely naive and simple-minded. Bush comes to mind. I believe he honestly believed in what he was doing, and truly thought that he could make a better world by Christianizing and "forcefully democratizing" Iraq at gun-point. I honestly think he thought that our men & women in Iraq would be greeted as "liberators" and that the 2nd Iraq war would be a high-point in US foreign policy for decades to come, his name echoed down through the centuries as a great man.
But for the vast majority of them, I think that they're in it for the money and power.
I have heard various people of late saying that liberal op-eds and articles are "vitriolic - just the same as Rush Limbaugh!" It is a testament to the human mind and human equilibrium that we so want things to be simple, to be peaceful and calm, to be copasetic, that we will get quite angry and belligerent towards those amongst us who are raising the alarm even in quiet, honest, and rational ways.
The fact of the matter is that Rush, Hannity, Palin, et. al., are not going to stop spewing their anger-generating speech anytime soon. Liberals like to just tune that stuff out and pretend it isn't happening, or that it can't really be taken seriously, or that it can't really affect their world. It's just a passing fad, a symptom of media, a craze and it too shall pass.
But I would suggest that it is important to shed our "civil discourse" and start throwing punches, as liberals. Not in order to divide us further. After all, I don't think we could do much to impact that aspect of what's going on right now even if we set out single mindedly and that was our only goal in life, given the volume of vitriolic rhetoric spewed daily by the likes of Fox and their Republican compatriots. I think liberals are hiding their heads in the sand to believe that a divide is not already growing, and growing rapidly. Daily it grows wider and deeper, with Palin exclaiming that "we're just simple folk." - implying that liberals are not like them, that we create overly complex issues where a simple solution would suffice, and that the world really is a simple place and simple thinking is all that is required of anyone to solve the worlds problems (or that there aren't any problems to solve in the first place).
And then you have Rush raging on and on about Obama-is-a-socialist, and making it sound as thought socialism is the same thing as Stalinist- or Maoist Communism, rather than a rational point on a spectrum of political social theory.
The greedy-rich* of this nation have striven for decades to promote the idea that we should earn our keep, that only lazy people have a hard time, that this is a fair nation and anyone with a little "gumption" can succeed. It is a fallacy, and it breeds indifference and a lack of compassion for those who do struggle. It turns the common man against his peers, against the poor, the weak, the politically disempowered, and keeps the anger pointed away from the wealthy elites who are exploiting the situation, and draining most of this nation's resources and the rewards from the good work that we do for them. They earn the profit while we struggle to make ends meet. And at every turn in this nation's history, it is the wealthy who are exclaiming the unfairness of the system towards them, and undermining the middle class. It's understandable from an a-moral standpoint: if all you're interested in is making yourself richer, then having to pay your workers, or limit the hours that you work them, or pay them more for overtime, or invest in their pensions, or pay for the overhead to keep your factories or offices safe and healthy is a burden. And one that seems (in your highly insulated world) to be wholly gratuitous and unnecessary. "After all," the rich often proclaim, "I provide jobs for a great many people!" And, "If it weren't for me, this economy would collapse and there would be no jobs!"
But these are pathetic half-truths. Without them another could easily fill their shoes (and quite happily). They don't bring much to the table at all, usually, except capital. Yet that capital entitles them to the lions share of the profits of the business. "But we're the ones taking all the big risks - so we deserve the big rewards!" they exclaim! Bullshit! As anyone with eyes and and three functioning brain cells to their name can plainly see, rich people who gamble on a losing proposition are bailed out by the very government that they hold hostage. Rich people don't risk anything much at all. They speculate with their employee's pensions, and when those are wiped out or massively devalued (which happens depressingly regularly), they're not held accountable. Rather, the workers are out of their hard-earned retirements, and tough shit! While those same wealthy folks are insulated from the consequences of their actions, and in many cases, still retain the ill-begotten gains from the many years of such abuses by moving funds from company holdings into personal wealth (which cannot be extracted from them due to the very nature of corporate law once the mishandling has been discovered).
So the inconvenient middle classes and poor are regularly undermined and disempowered by the wealthy, all the while they scream "hardship!" Woe is their million dollar cars, and planes, and boats, and second homes, and vacations, and health insurance policies, and so on. The taxes they pay are "unfair!" or "a burden to competitiveness of this nation!"
What is going on in this nation is a disgrace. It will one day be looked back upon with as much distaste and horror as we feel now when we look back upon the conditions of the middle ages - nay, the dark ages. And because we are all a part of the system that allows this kind of exploitation to continue, we are - each and every one of us - in some part personally responsible for what is happening.
I will also often hear intellectuals try to reason with those on the political right. But I think it is important that we give up our delusions that we're having the same experience that they are. Liberals, Intellectuals, thinkers try to approach a problem and find an ideal, or at least workable, solution. Conservatives, Republicans, Religious people do not approach the world from this perspective. And more so right now with the strong anti-liberal, anti-intellectual, anti-humanist rhetoric spewing from the many media faucets of the Republican-Corporate money machine.
Liberals are deluding themselves every time they think that we are engaged in a rational conversation with conservatives. A conversation requires that both parties be honestly seeking a real goal to solve the problems at hand. They require some degree of personal and intellectual honesty and integrity. They require that you be willing to listen to and think through as many consequences of a choice as possible, and to weigh a number of choices to find one, or refine ones, until you have something workable (if never entirely perfect). But people of a religious, fundamentalist, conservative foundation don't entirely believe in a rational conversation, don't admit of the power of ones senses to guide them to a reality-based, testable conclusion. For them, magical writings in a book, religious authorities, and traditions hold by far the stronger sway. God will see to the future, and in the meantime "what I can obtain" is their only discernible goal.
This political hell we're in isn't about rational argumentation, or even about reality at all. Rush Limbaugh will continue to spew his vitriol, as will Glen Beck, Sean Hannity, Sarah Palin, and all of the others. They're not trying to be polite, or to arrive at a well-reasoned conclusion, or to weigh the ongoing and ever-accumulating evidence. They've made their minds up. They know the only possible answer: America is about the power to do whatever I wish whenever I wish and go fuck yourself if you don't like it! This is America: Go Suck It!
They don't believe that they owe anyone anything for this. It is their right - and the right of all red-blooded Americans. God intended it this way. Our dominance in the world proves that we are right, and that God is clearly on our side. And they're not about to compromise anything: compromise is for Sissies! (And Liberals!) They know who to be angry at: those who threaten their way of life - their unfettered greed and use of power: Bleeding-heart Liberals. Intellectuals. Those damn nerds from middle school who were always so much more clever than ever they were, yet so easy to pick on! Those people are all pathetic and sad for those who are picked on because they were picked on too! They're all blubbery pussies bawling at every little one of life's scrapes! Man up! Suck it up and deal with it! This is the real world, and if you can't take it, get out of my country!
These are their attitudes. And their tone of discourse is not civil. It is not rational. It is not honest. It is not helpful. It is not something that we can reason with.
To win the hearts and minds of Joe Plumber, we need to expose the greed, the hypocrisy, the lie in everything they say and do! We need to stand up and say "You're hurting your fellow American! You're throwing out good people onto the streets! Women, children, babies! This?! This is the America you believe in?!"
John Stewart and Steven Colbert are both very polite people (gags notwithstanding). As are the folks on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, etc, for the most part. Niceness and civility isn't the answer. Rational argumentation isn't the answer. We're playing by two totally different standards: rational inquiry vs. emotional pandering and hate-mongering. They're in it to win at all costs, and their goals are to use deceit and rhetorical persuasion to win the hearts and guts of as many folks as possible. Their aim is to shut down people's ability to think, to use emotion and appeals to "woe is us" to shut down rational thought about any of the stuff that is going on in the world today. It is an appeal to the sense that things are not working out for them, and they should be angry (and it's true, they should be), but that it's all the fault of the liberals and illegal aliens! Liberals aren't in touch with the common man. They're all rich (somehow in a way different from Rush & the Republican politicians). Their message is that these folks should be angry! They have a God-given right to the American dream**, and it's being stolen by those Harvard jerks from the East Coast, and by the illegal aliens who are swarming into this nation and taking up all the good American jobs and wasting our hard-earned tax-payer dollars, using up everything and giving nothing back, those lazy good-for-nothin' ILLEGAL aliens!
These are not honest words. They are not open to rational analysis of the facts and honest, clear-headed thinking about the difficult economic, social, political realities of life here, today, in the real world.
If you really believe that they honestly have a point, then I challenge you to have a three minute conversation with a tea party or conservative that doesn't run squarely into entitlement coupled with a sense that they're the minority, they're the ones under siege in this Socialist-Obama'ist-nation. Their brand of self-pity is disgusting, callous, shallow, and deeply self-deluded.
As liberals, we dislike confrontation. Its base and uncouth. It is human nature to feel uncomfortable when we're in the same space with someone who is outwardly angry. It makes us feel awkward, and we want that person to stop being angry - it feels unsafe and scary. But goddamit - WE NEED TO BE ANGRY.
It is NOT OK to pay the CEO fifty, let alone two hundred times as much as the line-worker in his company! It is NOT OK to give tax-breaks to the 0.1% of the populace who already take 73% of the profits! It is NOT TRUE that illegal aliens are responsible for the economic crisis. It was NOT TRUE that there were WMDs to justify our invasion of Iraq (or even that this was the real reason why that administration went to war in the first place). It is NOT OK to throw working Americans out of their homes because of unregulated Republican-greased Wall-Street financial gambling practices that devalued our entire economy! It is not homeless people's fault that they are what they are (nobody in their right mind chooses to live on the street, eat garbage, and talk incoherently to the lamp post).
These things are important. These are morally righteous issues. Having compassion for your fellow man is a virtue. And by sitting by, and being complacent with what's going on around you, you are condoning and abetting these crimes against ourselves. Silence and a refusal to engage these issues at this time is no different than anytime in history when good people just couldn't be bothered or were too afraid to shake the boat and contest the system on behalf of their fellow human beings. And tomorrow it might be your job that is gone, and your house that is at stake. You, and I, and everyone you know has a deep self-interest in addressing these grievances, now, before they get worse.
Those who are illegal aliens in this country have no rights. They are here because conditions where they came from were even more hellish - but that is no excuse to treat them poorly, or to ignore the conditions that we force them to live in here! They do the work that nobody else will do at horrible wages, working stupid-long hours, and under often-times abusive working conditions. They are exploited and have no recourse under our laws so that you may have cheap vegetables for your dinner.
Homeless people starve every day in this nation. These are sick, mentally ill people dieing of malnutrition and simple exposure every single day. But somehow the Republicans are far more concerned about whether a man and another man should be allowed to love each other carnally than they are about any of these facts - these real and actual crimes against their fellow human beings.
The church, that they so earnestly claim is the source of moral wisdom, is far more concerned about avoiding the use of condoms in overpopulated and AIDS-riddled Africa than about the fact that many of their priests are sodomizing children! Conservatives, Republicans, Religious people are the hight of hypocrisy. There is nothing moral, or right, about what they profess or what they do.
Americans are more and more focused on "woe is me: my taxes are too high" while simultaneously collecting their Social Security, Disability pay, Medicare, and every other government program that they can finagle for themselves, but "hey, that's okay, I'm a Real American, not like those illegal aliens and minorities just trying to live off the government doles!"
The entitlement, the I'm the victim mentality, the anger towards the very people who need and deserve our compassion and aid, is wrong! So very, very wrong! It is a moral obscenity!
It is not unreasonable to be angry and to say things, even sharply worded things, that brings attention to this charade, this lie, this vast distortion of the truth by those whose only interest is in greed and power at the total cost of everyone and everything which stands in their way.
Freedom is not the same thing as living without constraints.
Freedom is not the same thing as living without a duty to your fellow man, your community, your nation, the entire world around you.
Right wingers, conservatives, religious folks are the most gullible in our society. They are, by-definition, poorly educated in the sense that they cannot reason very well, due to the fact that religion precludes robust rational thinking skills***. They are the ones that the Rushes, Hannitys, Becks, and Palins prey upon most. They're simple folk, who are indoctrinated from infancy to unquestioningly trust authority. They're provincial and ignorant about the motivations of Fox/Murdoch/The Republican-Corporate money machine. And being Americans - they're soft, insulated from hardship, entitled their whole lives; they're highly susceptible to being told that they deserve everything and it should cost them nothing at all. Sacrifice (other than nationalistic/militaristic in nature) isn't in our public ethos anymore, and hasn't been for a couple of generations. We are experiencing first-hand the consequences of the "me! me! me! generation."
You may not like how I express myself. But my guess is that if you take a minute to really honestly evaluate your own reactions in your heart and your soul, you will be forced to admit that most of your dislike for my expression is due to the content, not the way it is being said. What is happening right now, in this nation, is ugly, wrong, inhumane, and cruel. It is amoral, unconscionable, and hurtful to ourselves, our communities, our future, and our children. By not standing up and saying "NO!", by allowing this all to continue and hide behind the simplistic "Democrats and Republicans are all the same" is, at its very bottom cowardly and disingenuous. By your inaction and complacency, you are creating the space for this to happen.
We must all stand up, do everthing in our power to set things aright - now - while we still have a hope of talking our way out of this rapidly accelerating catastrophe. Otherwise I fear we will be doing so with bullets and blood in the not-too-distant future.
For America cannot stand united if we no longer stand for anything of real value. We have shed almost every moral and ethical value I associated with America growing up, all in just my short lifetime. We no longer stand for Justice and Equality (Habeas-corpus is rendered moot via Extraordinary rendition). We no longer want "...your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses." We no longer fight for the underdog. We are not the land of the free, or the brave, but the bastion of corporate greed and entitlement. We absolutely revel in our ignorance and worship blind faith in authority and religion. This is not the country I grew up loving.
I love the America that would never commit torture. I love the America that strives for social equality. I love the America that shows compassion to its sick and its weak. I love the America that we once represented to the world the hope of a truly egalitarian society where all were born equal, all have the right to the pursuit of happiness, and where justice is applied equally to all.
I do not love, but rather loathe this gutted rotting corpse that is stinking to the far corners of the globe, reeking of moral and ethical hypocrisy and debauchery.
Please help me, if not for yourself, for your neighbor, your mother, your siblings, your children, and do not stay silent any longer. Stand up and be counted. Make your voice heard! We Americans stand for something, and it is not torture, it is not pathetic whinny entitlement. It is justice, honesty, compassion, and genuine equality for all.
* There are rich people who are generous. America has a strong and long-standing tradition of philanthropy. There are many decent people who are wealthy and generous, and who seek to serve the common good in some way. I do not mean those people, but rather the self-serving pricks of the world who think nothing of anyone they figuratively murder in their quest to fulfill their every waking whim.
** American Dream has become twisted into something resembling the idea that we all should get as much as we want without sacrifice. We owe nothing to our neighbors, to our government, to our communities. We deserve everything, and should give nothing in return. It is a mental-masturbation about entitlement and sloth.
*** For a more in-depth analysis of this fact, I encourage you to read any of Sam Harris or Richard Dawkins excellent books on the topic: The End of Faith, and The God Delusion respectively.