I've been thinking a lot lately about the state of liberal ideology and policy in this country. I'm rather concerned. I'm not yet convinced that this country is going to attempt to re-corset women (or at least re-girdle them), but, I think that the moral and political center of this country is looking back to the 1950's with just a little too much love of late.
I begin to fear that too much of what passes for liberalism in this country today has simply become crass. I can recall reading an article (I believe it was on Salon.com) not that long ago about how Howard Stern can be thought of as a poster boy for liberalism in this country. Howard Stern? Pulleaaze. I can't pay attention to Howard Stern long enough to get past all the bisexual porn actresses and wannabees that he parades past a microphone to discuss their orgasms. Yes, he can be thought of in the Lenny Bruce-esque mold of challenging the boundaries of public speech... but I think we've gotten about as far as we need to go in terms of hearing words like "fuck" and "ass play" in American media.
I think we need to dig a little deeper than that and change a few minds. Let us make no mistake that minds need to be changed. Almost thirty years ago, Jimmy Carter endorsed the idea of legalizing marajuana in the 1976 presidential campaign. Would a Presidential candidate be able to say that now? I don't think so... because political and social conservatives in this country have been very successful in characterizing the use of drugs as an enemy that must be defeated, not as a social problem that must be solved. Forty years ago, conservativism in this country was associated with institutional violence towards blacks, the marginalization of women, and the perpetuation of an arms race with the Soviet Union that cost American capital and blood. Now, it represents a return to "family values", a "restoration of American moral purpose", and a "sense of courage and might". I think a high sense of moral purpose and courage is something that all Americans, liberal and conservative wish to embrace... but the conservatives have been able to put a better analogue in place to Lenin's "work, bread, peace" slogan that inspired a revolution. Liberals and liberalism are seen as being weak and immoral, or at least, morally dubious.
I think that liberals are neither weak, nor immoral. I think that liberalism embraces the best parts of the Judeo-Christian ethic -- at least I learned from the Bible that Jesus was willing to talk to pretty much anybody and look for good in all kinds of people, even those despised by the Jewish population at large: Romans, Samaritans, lepers, and tax collectors. Did Jesus demand that these people fundamentally change who they are before he would consider them to be people? No. Would Ralph Reed say the same today about AIDs victims, gays, and people from the Middle East? I sometimes wonder.
So I think that liberals need to get out there and show the community at large what they're really about. I think they need to be less concerned about Britney wearing a thong, and little more concerned about where and how their 13 year old daughters are hoping to follow her example. They need to be active in their communities, and display moral force... for fair wages, for decent housing, for aid for the poor, and to back that up with the resolution to reach into their wallets and help pay for it all. Middle America needs learn once again that a liberal is not an opportunistic creature, lacking moral backbone... and not one purely dedicated to corrupting American values.
So... I have a piece of homework for myself for the coming 12 months. I need to get more involved in the community, even if in just a small way. I don't know if it will be getting more involved in the Church community I belong to... or maybe working with Habitat for Humanity to build houses for the poor... but, my assignment for myself is to be more of a little bit more of a moral force in my community. I'll have to see where I can get in 12 months.
I've seen too many people in the last 10 years run away from problems, and be liberals only when it is easy to do so. Minds need to be changed, and that's often hard. If a lot of people can do just a little bit to change someone's mind about something... then it's a whole lot easier.
on 2004-03-18 at 1:24 p.m.
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