Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Who Ya Gonna Believe?"

Consider please the commentary posted by John McLaughry on VtDigger, as found in the link in the title of this essay.

Let me not, then, dwell too much at length over the hyperbole, distortion, selective use of evidence, and demagoguery, in which Mr. McLaughry so passionately engages.

Let me just call to mind the pole to which he is drawn: He believes in the privileges of power and scoffs at the idea of a community in which we - everyone - are mutually accountable. That society might be a community of equals escapes him, and that poverty for many might attend prosperity for a few, is irrelevant. That taxation might be a legitimate way to maintain well-being, and even a healthy economy, across all income grades, is simply unthinkable to him. The only ideal, as for so many Libertarians, is individual "freedom", which to me looks like "red-in-tooth-and-claw", "I'll-do-what-I-damn-well-please-no-matter-how-it-affects-anyone-else" misanthropy.

But here is the worst part: HIS IDEOLOGY, as Libertarians are known to say, IS NOT COMPATIBLE WITH DEMOCRACY. At the kindest, he elevates junk logic and demagoguery (Mr.McLaughry, please notice I am attacking your words and not you) to the status of commentary in the name of free speech. At the worst, he reflects (his rhetoric is consistent with) the views of people who would like to overthrow the United States Constitution and replace it with a Christian theocracy.

If the flaw of this intention is not obvious, the briefest clue I can offer is the one I can ask:

       In whose world are we all free to live: that one which
       values everyone and in which everyone has a voice, or that
       one in which only a selection of fortunate elites benefits
       from the Earth's bounty?

The objection of the extreme (and present) right is that wealth is taken for general good. Oh the horror! Once earned, again multiplied, under the efforts of the individual, it is unjust, it is wrong, they say, for the government to take that wealth to meet the needs of the community. Mindful that the government is where the people conduct their business, the radical right calls it oppression by democracy, the theft of wealth by people who did not earn it, through the autocracy of the mob. As rhetoric, these claims might seem sensible, but in any realistic sense they are laughable. If the conditions of democracy and mutual accountability, in which wealth is taken to support government services, are too constraining, would a state of chaos, such as Somalia today or Europe over its centuries of warfare be better?

The complaint of the left is that the right takes no responsibility for the general good. How, except by violence to people and the planet, is privilege to be maintained? At issue is whether our societies will provide opportunity to all of its members, through equal access to education, health care, housing and healthy food, or only to those endowed by prior good fortune to have the money to buy opportunity.

And of you I would ask: From what plate do you eat? Do you live in a silo of wealth making you immune to the slings and arrows of the modern world? Or are you dependent upon the good will of family, friends, strangers, and that institution upon which we depend to effect the common good, our government, for your safety and prosperity?

This is a values war. If you haven't heard a liberal say this recently, probably that is because the tradition of liberal democracy was thought sacrosanct, a foundation so precious we didn't think it needed defending. Yet it is. To witness the policy goals of the Far Right, it bears saying: We do not tug across a pit of mud from which all will emerge to pull another day. We pull across an abyss from which the loser will emerge, if not a corpse, then badly damaged. Sounds crazy, but those are the stakes. Push back time (for the benefit of my metaphor, "pull back time") is now. What are your values?

Not every Republican will want this battle. And it really is not a battle of right against left. It's a battle of absolutism against the messiness of the pragmatic middle. I would hope that practical, community rooted Republicans will be as scared as I am of the Corporatist-libertarian anti-democratic agenda. If you want to save democracy in America, Now is the time to say so, and to push back against the radical right agenda to destroy government.

To see a prominent intellectual connect the dots, go to Democracy Now! and watch the War and Peace news program for August 17, 2011, and the profile of Michelle Bachman in particular.

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