Tag Archives: American politics

Be the Solution. Please?

Surely you’ll succumb to Puppy Dog Eyes?

So, things are contentious around here. The right figures the left (including me) are out to steal their guns, insert tracking chips in their brains, and destroy the country. Meanwhile, from the left are those who figure that the right-wing is out to suppress all minorities, squash all opposing speech, and install a fascist dictator forthwith, thus, of course, destroying the country.

Well, they can’t both be right. Which means (can you hear them) that each side is shouting that they are the side that’s right about the other side. Oy Vey, I say.

Yes, racially motivated violence has increased. Due to an unfortunate series of events, those who are prone to such execrable behavior feel more able to express their urges. And, yes, one of the two major parties seems determined to gerrymander its way into taking over the government. Not good. (We should check out preferred choice voting, but that’s for another time.) And, sure, I lean left, but there are some absolute idiots on the left. Not the people the right thinks are idiots, but those who think it would be a good thing simply to split the country and, so to speak, go home. As I said, idiots. And some on the right would be happy to get together with them to make that happen. More idiots. Still . . .

Since idiocy is well distributed, there’s no cause to hurl invective. You can’t persuade someone to pay attention to your position by insulting them. It’s fun for a minute, then very much counter-productive. What to do? Listen to your “enemies.” All anybody wants out of a political system is to think that their position has been seriously considered. Really, that’s just about it. It doesn’t have to be adopted, but definitely must have been seriously considered. Are the urban, left-wing progressives letting the more rural conservatives think they’ve been heard? Are those conservatives considering that the urban folk have needs as well? I won’t answer, just think about it.

The honest truth is that every few generations we get into a mess like this. A couple of messes ago it got so bad that some Southern states pretty much lost a generation of young men. Not pretty. But, as in every cycle, so far, every time, things end up shifting a bit to the leftward. That is happening now, and I completely understand how those not familiar with the problems confronting urban dwellers feel threatened by the way things are going. (I’m not putting forth an opinion on that here, just stating that it is happening.) At the same time, the urban population, being majority-minority, feels threatened by what seems to be a vendetta against their very existence. Again, that’s easy to understand.

So, respect is what we need. Respect for each other, even those we have huge disagreements with, as human beings with human needs. (Yes, I hear both sides screaming that “those guys” don’t do that.) They’re right. So, instead of continuing to make things tense and awful, how about we all just afford each other, Bernie lovers and MAGA hat wearers alike, the dignity and respect due to any human being. Seriously.

I mean, considering everything, what’s to lose by trying?

Conservative? Liberal? Really?

I did not make this up. I’ve seen it in several places, including The Times of London. The idea is that to someone not from The United States, every single person in The United States of America is a Liberal.

Okay, I’ll wait for you to quit choking on that assertion. Take your time.

Now, what I mean is in the view of the world before our country was founded, everything about the United States of America represents a Liberal viewpoint. That is, we believe in freedom and opportunity and the basic idea that anything not forbidden is okay to do. From the point of view of a world in which for thousands of years only the king and a few of his friends had that sort of freedom, this is an exceptionally Liberal position. You mean you actually elect your entire government? And you throw them out if they displease you too much? You can do that? As an example, my wife tells the story of her first husband, a Palestinian by birth, and his friends, who were appalled that Americans criticize the President all the time. Traditionally one didn’t criticize the chief executive, who was, after all, chief lawmaker, judge and jury at the same time. Our American habit of expressing derision for our leaders is, to the old world order, exceedingly Liberal. Exceedingly.

(Sure, some countries, particularly in Europe, have copied our Liberal ways, but rarely so completely even today.)

So, in the grand and classic sense of the world, we’re all Liberals. Well, that’s like saying we all drink water. True, but useless for telling one from another. So what do we mean when we say we’re Liberal or Conservative? It hasn’t always been true, but these days Republicans are pretty much all Conservative, and Democrats are pretty much all Liberal. If you’re a strong partisan one way or another, try to pull back from your prejudice just while you read this. It will make you feel better in the end, I promise.

Liberals, or Democrats, tend to apply the principles of liberty to individuals. The “poor distressed folks” that the “bleeding heart liberals” speak of are an illustration of this. Conservatives, or Republicans, tend to apply the principles of liberty on a more general, or corporate (not common stock corporation; I mean the broader sense of the word) sense. For instance, as the Great Depression got wound up, Hoover, a Republican, went into deficit spending (no, that’s not a Liberal plot, just an economic theory) on a corporate level, and also applied wage and price controls, none of which did much good, and some of which made things worse. Hoover got voted out, and Roosevelt started his famous “New Deal” which also did a lot of deficit spending, but this time on programs aimed directly at individuals. Some of this might have helped a bit, and some of it probably made things worse. Just like Hoover’s efforts, amazingly enough.

But, one thing to be gleaned from that bit of history is that deficit spending is not a Liberal or Conservative idea! It’s just an idea, and it was a very popular one for a while. (I’m pretty sure its originator J. M. Keynes also said you had to put aside a surplus during good times, but that’s been more problematic.) Also, you can see that being Liberal in America is not being close to Communist, in fact there is no spectrum leading from Conservative thru Liberal to Communist. In the “old world” yes, there is that spectrum, but in America, we’re all just Liberal on that old scale. There’s nothing government controlled about Romney’s Massachusetts health care plan, for instance, and Obama’s National one is the same thing, so it’s not a government plan either. Both plans are leaning to the American Liberal side, though, as they involve applying government influence directly for individuals. That fact is probably more of a problem for Romney than it is for Obama just now, but it’s a fact either way. Sorry, Mitt.

To sum it up, then, we are all Liberals in this country. I think that’s why Communism really never took off here: we’re a different sort of county, philosophically, than the Germany or England where Communism was formulated. That’s a really good thing, because Communism is a part of that “old world thinking” that we blew out of the water in the eighteenth century. The only bad thing is that some people keep mistaking American Liberalism with the old kind, which can make you think that the country is going to Hell when in fact, it’s just going along pretty much like always. It’s kind of a big old mess, isn’t it? Glorious!

*****

Want to read a refreshingly neutral account of our Country’s development? Try The Mental Floss History of the United States. Franklin invented What?