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On the right wing's ideological sleight-of-hand, unenlightened self-interest, and the humanitarian legacy of Cousin Eli

Page Two

Gutter Rat Liberal Plowings

In today's e-mail: " says Bush = Hitler? Is this not treason?

"I have never before been so incensed by the Liberal Media as I am now. I am a God Fearing, Freedom Loving Christian. Therefore I consider myself to be quite tolerant towards most of the blatherings of the left. Their First Amendment rights are protected along with mine under our beloved US Constitution as ordained by our heavenly Father. But this time these ingrates have gone too far! A radical Left wing organization ... has sponsored a most despicable advertisement campaign on its web site,

"There were two 30 second ads on comparing President Bush to Adolph Hitler. ... Thankfully, the hand of God has moved our leaders at the GOP ... into demanding an apology from [There were] over 1,500 entries into its Bush in 30 Seconds ad contest that urged artists to "tell the truth" about President Bush. The truth is that 6 million Jews dying in the Holocaust isn't really the same as a measly 21,000 -- MAYBE -- 55,000 dead Iraqis.

"Those cowards at MoveOn have done the right thing and taken those vile ads off their web site, but to find out what these perverts are up to one can go to the site of the Republican Natl. Committee and see them both!

"In MoveOn's own words, these offensive ads slipped through the cracks. Yes, they sure did. They slipped through the cracks of the sewage system where these gutter rat Liberals hide out like Saddam Hussein while they plot the destruction of our esteemed Judeo-Christian family values. Besides, Hitler invaded countries that had never attacked Germany!

"In Prayer,"

Where even to begin! That MoveOn removed the ads but the Republicans are still hosting them? By pointing out that Iraq never attacked the United States, or just highlighting "a measly 21,000 -- MAYBE -- 55,000 dead Iraqis"? Finally there's "gutter rat Liberals hide out like Saddam Hussein while they plot the destruction of our esteemed Judeo-Christian family values." Now that's generous, good-neighborly Christian thinking.

The continually unnerving aspect of current events is the combination of glee and paranoia that comes from some on the right. Some Republican partisans are showing real glee in watching their political opposition suffer electoral defeats and legislative mauling. Read their letters, listen to speeches, follow the Web sites: This isn't simply politics, but righteous believers conquering the immorally corrupt (conservative/Republican the former, liberal/Democrat the latter). Contemporary political/social disagreements are not between patriotic, well-intentioned people of differing opinions but instead are good Americans confronting bad Americans.

Perversely, the right, while celebrating its God-guided triumph, still cultivates an overarching paranoia. They've won. They will continue to win. Those who disagree with them are doomed to extinction. Yet those miserable liberal/communist/Democrat/atheist followers of the dictates of the devil and Karl Marx are still in control. Everything bad that happens can be laid at their feet.

In almost-disbelief the other day, I listened to one of the more mainstream talk-radio hosts castigate the Democrats for Congress' overspending, only at the end chiding Bush slightly for not vetoing more of this legislation. Yet the House and Senate are both controlled by Republicans, with this legislation driven by the president. Reality is gone.

This need to feel embattled, almost overwhelmed, is at the core of a philosophy of blame: If only "they" could be stopped, everything would be better. The biggest problems facing our society are not complex social issues but the consequences of the actions "they" have committed. How can we do the improbable: Substantially decrease revenue but improve schools and maintain necessary infrastructure? Easy; the problem isn't genuinely difficult situations but that "they" have squandered money doing all the wrong things. Defeat them, and the world will be a better place, all its problems solved.

This philosophy is not only inherently anti-American, dismissive of both the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, but an unapologetic assault on democracy. It is also wrong. There are real problems that offer no easy solutions -- and vilifying a segment of the population is not a solution.

Unenlightened Self-Interest

In an Oct. 16, 2003, New York Times piece, Alan B. Krueger begins by noting that both conservative and liberal observers wonder why so many Americans supported Bush's massive tax cuts, which mostly benefit the richest Americans. "Adding to the conundrum, in public opinion surveys Americans routinely express support for spending more on government programs like education, opposition to government budget deficits ... which are in conflict with a regressive tax cut. ... Larry Bartels, a political scientist at Princeton University, gives a simple but persuasive explanation: 'unenlightened self-interest.'"

Recently, we printed a letter lamenting, "In time all of the 'liberal agenda' will be accepted as law, and everybody will think in their philosophical terms." This was offered as a paranoid warning by a true believer convinced the country is being subverted.

Ironically, I agree with him. As the current administration deals with horrific budget deficits it created, even more social programs will be scrapped, joining the many national, state, and local ones that already have been. Yet, almost all the social welfare programs will someday, in some way, be restored. This is not because I believe in a deep-seated Marxist conspiracy or that the bleeding-heart liberals who live in a fantasy world not occupied by the down-to-earth conservatives will reassert their idealistic nonsense.

Government's purpose is not limited to defense and security. Government is the system by which we all interact with each other and maintain the well-being of our society and country. Certainly any massive social spending program is going to have any number of problems, some a lot more than others.

Anecdotal flaws and systemic failures are obvious. But, in general, such a good job has been done that everyone takes government's successes for granted. Taxes thus seem even more excessive, as it appears they provide almost nothing for the taxpayer. But instead of conspiracy, a desire to steal your money, or even just the "liberal" agenda, most of those programs were created to deal with very genuine social needs that weren't being addressed in any other way. This massive social support structure wasn't imposed on the American public by an insane liberal cadre but instead developed over a long period of time. The creators were not only bipartisan, but also legislatures and courts led by presidents, governors, social leaders, and lobbyists and influenced by business, political, and consumer groups, all responding to legitimate public needs.

The least the right could do is accept their victory with some graciousness. Their agenda is well along. Dismantling institutions, agencies, and structures built over decades is going to be relatively easy; look at the speed with which it is being done. Demonizing and marginalizing liberals/Democrats hasn't proven that hard either (Democratic leaders have certainly helped). Blaming almost any problem on one group of Americans or another is convenient and widespread. Cutting taxes, again, is very easy. But the problem isn't "they," and it isn't simple. In fact there are many, many problems.

When it's all over, we'll see where we end up. If right-wing thinking is on target, with the most basic problems being evil people imposing corrupt ideology rather than ingrained human or social conflicts, the world will soon be a better place. Fewer taxes, along with less government and forced dependency, will accompany greater personal responsibility and more freedom.

If that vision of government is wrong, however, within a few years of this massive dismantling most of those social structures will begin to be slowly rebuilt. The social safety net, carefully constructed if still undeniably flawed, offers everyday solutions to real problems. Its destruction will see a plague of the social ills and widespread familial and personal problems that led to its creation. Once again, these will have to be addressed. As it was, it will be. But consider how many will suffer in the interim, as well as the extravagant costs necessary for beginning to rebuild.

Motivation here is not revolutionary anarchism or one-world solidarity. The dictating sentiment is not to steal from the rich, neuter the creative, destroy the family, or morally corrupt society. Inspiration comes not from Marx, Engels, Saddam Hussein, Mao, or the Antichrist.

Motivation is that a functioning, integrated society that tends to everyone, as well as offering access and opportunity to all, is a healthy society, which will nurture our grandchildren's grandchildren. Belief is that one should do unto others as one would have done unto one's self and that we are our brothers' and sisters' keepers -- not from some misguided idealism, but because we are very obviously all in this together. Finally, inspiration comes from the Lord our creator and an understanding of one's self as a human in a community of humans.

R.I.P. Cousin Eli

My mother's cousin Eli Friedland passed away a few days back. While stationed in Central Texas during WWII, Eli developed a deep, lifelong friendship with John Henry Faulk. It was always surprising to discover that Cousin Eli and Doris, his wife, knew so many more of Central Texas' legendary independent political voices than I did. Giving lie to the myth that one-party Republican Texas is either different from or more conservative than one-party Democratic Texas was the uphill fight of these people against the conservative Texas political establishment; champions of freedom and compassion, they were also in the minority, but they never gave up. They fought for common decency and human dignity when it cost dearly to do so. Driven by a commitment to social and economic justice, they understood that a fair society was healthier for all its citizens, regardless of race, religion, economic status, or social standing. Always to the left of me, never relenting in his passions or deep concern for humankind, Eli will be missed. This one is for him. end story

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letters to editor, Postmarks, MoveOn, Bush Hitler controversy, Bush in 30 Seconds, MoveOn Bush ad contest, Republican National Committee, RNC, Republican revolution, social spending, tax cuts, social safety net, right-wing, Republican, liberal, left-wing, conservative, Democrat, New York Times, Alan B. Krueger

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