Tag: liberals

No, We Don’t All Need to Get Along

Good intentions abound. That’s the only reason people still embrace misguided ideas like “colorblind society,” despite the powerfully negative connotations that such phrases conjure up.

The latest nicey-nicey concept I’ve encountered (and no doubt you have as well) is the absurd notion that, for America to succeed, we need to put aside our differences. In essence, we all need to get along.

Where in the hell did this strange idea come from?

For the overwhelming majority of American history, we have not all gotten along.

For example, Hamilton and Jefferson didn’t say, “let’s be pals” when they were hashing out what kind of government we should have. They had more important things to do.

Even during the so-called Era of Good Feelings, America’s many slaves weren’t feeling the love and joining in group hugs.

Speaking of slavery, America didn’t even reach its centennial before we started shooting at each other over that touchy topic. And it was another century of violence and antagonism before the government said, “Maybe we should be nicer to ethnic minorities.” At no point in that process did we all get along.

Yes, one could argue that the country was united during World War II, but even in that case, all it took to bind us together was a global conflagration where millions of people died and the very survival of democracy was in question. In other words… good times.

More recently, we’ve come to blows over Vietnam and Iraq, over abortion and affirmative action, over gay rights and healthcare.

So when was this mythical time when Americans were of one mind? And why does anyone think this is a necessary condition in order for the country to thrive? Obviously, we’ve found a way to work around our internecine loathing.

The truth is that a nation as vast as ours — with its myriad subcultures, each enjoying a large degree of freedom — is never going to be truly united. To believe otherwise is to embrace the thinking of a child.

However, this Kumbaya concept is more than a pathetic pipe dream. It features an insidious aspect snaking below the surface.

We see this in the earnest pleas, even demands, for liberals to shut up and support Trump. Of course, conservatives would like nothing better than for progressives to give Trump a chance (which many liberals, inexplicably, are quite willing to do).

But why would leftists agree to a right-wing agenda that goes against every principle we have, and that could lead America into chaos? Apparently, we should do so out of blind patriotism and for the sake of the vague, abstract concept of “unity.”

According to this idea, striving to be friends supersedes the threat of decimating the country.

“Yes, thousands of people are dead now because Obamacare was repealed, but at least we’re all getting along, and that’s the most important thing. Yup.”

This is clearly insane.

And aside from the specifics of the current era — where a wannabe fascist seeks to make the nation great again for white supremacists — the fact remains that striving for unity at all costs is spectacularly naïve, even destructive.

The US Constitution is the result of Founding Fathers threatening to duel each other to the death. Slavery was abolished through warfare. Civil rights came only after decades of people refusing to back down, and not settling for getting along.

One of the virtues/flaws of American culture is our hyper-competitiveness. As such, one idea or principle usually emerges triumphant. Sometimes it’s a good idea… and sometimes it’s not. Still, as we know, the moral arc is long but bends toward justice (at least we hope it does).

However, progress is delayed even more when we smile and act polite in the face of idiocy or fanaticism or demagoguery. And there is no need to do so.

Because we have never all gotten along.

And we never will.

 

 


Is America Worth Fighting For?

Over the last month, the most popular activities for liberals have included the following:

  • Writing impassioned (and futile) emails to Electoral College voters
  • Muttering insults about the white working class
  • Staring off into space in abject horror and dread

You know what is no longer popular? That would be researching a move to Canada.

Yes, when push came to shove — and then kept on pushing right off a Trumpian cliff — most progressives dropped the fiction that they were packing up for Toronto or Costa Rica or Switzerland or some other place where unstable, genital-grabbing billionaires aren’t heads of state.

Instead, we progressives started talking about how we weren’t going anywhere, and how we had to keep fighting, and stand up for our principles, and never give up, and on and on until the Rocky theme was pretty much blaring over our heads as we spoke.

But I have a nagging question.

Is any of this battling for the heart and soul of America worth the cost?

Now regardless of your political affiliation, you most likely find that question insulting.

After all, conservatives view it as treasonous to even question if America is worth fighting for. And liberals view it as gutless to just acquire and let the right-wingers reshape the country.

But look past the knee-jerking, and you run into some disturbing facts about just how much Americans are awash in contradictions and issues about their country. For starters, both liberals and conservatives constantly bemoan our nation’s status.

Barely half of U.S. adults say they are “extremely proud” to be Americans, which is a new low in Gallup’s polling. Most Americans say the country is on the wrong track. And a large segment of our fellow citizens assume “that life will get worse for them over the next generation” (interestingly, a full two-thirds of Trump supporters believe this).

And if we’re not getting all depressed about America’s decline, we’re busy hating on our fellow U.S. residents. Polls find that “majorities in both political parties view their rivals not only unfavorably, but very unfavorably.” And almost 80% (a record high in Gallup polling) believe Americans are fundamentally “divided on the most important values.”

So if our relationship with America were a marriage, you would have to wonder if it’s time to call the divorce lawyers.

Now, I know it is un-American to just cut and run… well, except for all those times when we have done exactly that. So that’s not much of argument.

I will just point out that — with the exception of Native Americans — none of us would even be here if our ancestors hadn’t ditched their homelands. My maternal family thought El Salvador sucked, so they came here. My paternal family got sick of Ireland and Italy, so they got on a boat for a better life.

And your ancestors did the exact same thing. We come from a long line of people who actively avoided standing up and fighting for their homelands. They all said, “See ya, I got a better deal waiting for me in America,” and today we applaud their courage and fortitude.

So why is it so horrific or treacherous to follow their example, and leave for a better life?

Indeed, if you are a progressive like me, you no doubt are aware that the Scandinavian countries align more with our principles. And they are kicking America’s ass in just about every category, by the way. Why wouldn’t you be happier there? If we’re truly being honest, as progressives, there are lots of countries where we would fit in better and possibly even have a better life.

“Ha,” I can hear conservatives out there saying. “I knew you liberals didn’t love America enough to fight for her.”

Well, I must point out that when Obama won re-election, plenty of you conservatives were mouthing off about leaving the country and/or seceding from the United States. So I would rein in that smugness.

The truth is that whether you lean left or right, you have most likely thought, at some point, that the nation was going to hell. And at those times, it crossed your mind to just get out while the getting was good.

For liberals, such a time is now. In essence, do we have some kind of moral obligation to spend our lives vainly trying to convince our fellow citizens how absurdly idiotic they’re being? Maybe we should take the hint and say, “If that’s the way you want it, the place is all yours.” Maybe it’s smarter to just go live someplace where we will be less stressed.

And then we realize… plenty of people are not in a position to leave. They are tied here, by economics or familial commitments or some other anchor that makes talk of starting over in another country as probable as Trump grabbing a beer with Noam Chomsky.

For those people who do not have the luxury of packing up and flying to France, we would basically be saying, “Hope you’re not Latino, or Muslim, or gay, or anything else other than a rich, straight, white guy. Because you are on your own.”

And at those times, it seems like sticking around and fighting may be the only real option we have.

But if things get much worse… well, I hear Barcelona is nice.


Last Chance

I am going to break several self-imposed rules with this one.

First, I am going to adopt the dreaded open-letter format, which is an arrogant viewpoint for any writer (“Hey, everybody, here is my open letter to President Obama! I’m sure he’s gonna read it!”).

Second, I will employ the second person, which is a ghastly narrative device.

But you knew that already, didn’t you?

And most important, I am going to directly address Trump supporters, something I have avoided to this point in deference to my sanity and blood pressure.

However, we are rapidly coming to the end of this horrific, nation-scarring election season, and I have to say something.

And that is the following: Please, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter, don’t vote for that malignant clown.

I don’t say this out of some partisan desire to get out the vote for Hillary Clinton. We all know that she’s going to win, regardless of your vote — assuming, of course, that there’s not another October Surprise of the magnitude of Trump’s videotaped sexual-assault boast. Yes, unless someone has footage of Hillary Clinton shooting Vince Foster while selling arms to Isis and laughing about Benghazi, her odds are pretty good.

No, I say this because moral tests, on a national level, are actually pretty rare. For example, if you voted for Mitt Romney, history will not be harsh when judging you. Even if you voted for George W. Bush a second time, history might look at you askance and mutter, “WTF?” But you will not be portrayed as the personification of fear, anger, hatred, and bigotry.

But voting for Trump will assure you that place in history. Casting a ballot for or against him has become a moral test.

No, none of us can definitely say how future generations will appraise us. Hey, when I was a kid in the 1980s, it never crossed my mind that girls with sky-high mall hair looked ridiculous. Who knew?

 

malhair

However, please believe me on this one. It’s an easy call. In later years, the name Donald Trump will be lumped in with Father Coughlin and George Wallace and every other hate-monger who has become emblematic of ignorance, inhumanity, and xenophobic rage. Contemporary society shudders at the mere mention of these names.

And the infants of today, once they reach adulthood, will shake their heads in wonder, amazement, and more than a little contempt when they find out that 40 percent of America was so easily led into blind hatred.

Now, I know I’m not supposed to talk to you, Mr. and Mrs. Trump Supporter. As many of my liberal friends are quick to point out, the average Trump supporter is insane, repulsive, and/or outright stupid. You are to be shunned.

And I also realize that this plea is most likely futile. If you are still seriously considering voting for Trump at this point, you are most likely beyond the reach of reason, shame, or basic decency. In fact, you probably think that I am one of those Latino libetards who is hypersensitive about being called a rapist and is actively plotting to destroy America (or at the very least, determined to not let it be, you know, great again).

But I have to give it one more try.

After all, you don’t even have to take a public stand. You don’t have to risk alienation by your social group (however twisted your social group may be) by saying, “I’m with her.” And you certainly don’t have to be a Freedom Rider, risking your life for a moral cause.

You just have to refrain from pushing a lever or blotting out a circle for the most heinous candidate in modern history. It’s that easy.

I will leave you with one final thought. I’m a member of Gen X, so Martin Luther King was before my time. As such, I’ve often marveled at all the Baby Boomers who revere the man. However, common sense and basic math tell us that many of the senior citizens of today once despised MLK. They couldn’t all have loved him — it’s not possible. But they all say they do. And I wonder how many of those Baby Boomers who hated King would now give anything to go back in time and proudly march with MLK, so they could tell their grandchildren that they were ahead of their time and on the right side of history.

But they can’t.

As for you, there is still hope. And if you dismiss this final option, I guess that, several decades from now, you can always lie about voting for Trump. Nobody will find out.

Deep down, however, you will know the truth.

 

 


Quack Quack

Among the stranger aspects of this bizarre election season is the tendency of Donald Trump supporters to insist that their candidate is not racist. The hyper-defensiveness goes something like this:

When he referred to Mexicans as rapists, he didn’t specifically say, “all Mexicans,” so it’s ok. Right?

And building that wall isn’t xenophobic. It’s a practical way to keep out all those immigrants… I mean, illegal immigrants… wait, I mean, undocumented people… he’s got nothing against immigrants. And neither do I. Ha ha ha.

Banning Muslims would just be temporary. That’s key. And not bigoted at all. Nope.

OK, he wasn’t the quickest about disavowing the KKK, but we’ve all been there… I mean, he said they were bad guys… eventually… after being criticized for days… but yeah, he did it.

And all those unfortunate cracks about “the blacks”… well, he meant, um… Hey, you’re just being PC!

And so it goes. La la la la, not listening to you.

hands-on-ears

 

Oddly enough, liberals seem to have no problem identifying Trump’s many prejudiced remarks. And Latinos, Asians, and African Americans are pretty clear on the fact that the guy is a racist.

On the other end of the spectrum, white supremacists and neo-Nazis are lining up to endorse the GOP nominee. They also appear to have no illusions about where Trump stands on race relations.

Only two groups of people seem baffled about this issue. First, there are moderate conservatives who are struggling to maintain their fiction that racism is dead in America (and who are also striving to justify their votes for a blatant bigot). And there are stray ethnic minorities who explain away or ignore the obvious for reasons that I can’t quite comprehend (although I presume some self-loathing is involved).

Let’s be clear about this. The truth is that if you support Trump, you are aware on some level that the guy has tremendous hostility toward anyone who isn’t a white straight man. And as you stand in that voting booth, sweating through your rationalizations, you will be saying that you are fine with that.

Remember, if it looks like a duck, and it quacks like a duck, it’s probably a megalomaniacal billionaire pushing a racist agenda.

 


Semi-free Speech

I try to avoid the whole WWJD game.

And I don’t apply this rule solely to Jesus. I also avoid asking what would Gandhi do, or Abraham Lincoln do, or Jimi Hendrix do.

The reason is that we can’t possibly know what these individuals would think of modern problems because they are so very, very dead. And whenever someone asks that question, the answer is inevitably, “Well, Jesus would agree with my exact political views, of course.”

However, I am going to break my personal rule by asking what would MLK think of last week’s Trump rally in Chicago, where fistfights erupted, some crazy old lady flashed a Nazi salute, and the frontrunner to be the Republican nominee for president cancelled his speech.

trump rally

As I understand it, Martin Luther King was in his fair share of tense situations. And yet I don’t recall hearing of a single time when he shouted down someone who disagreed with him, or reveled in acts of violence. He simply didn’t do that.

And yet, I see plenty of liberals out there who insist that we “won” in Chicago. What kind of odd reasoning is this?

Shutting down one bigot for one night is hardly a victory for tolerance and respect. Because “even the most ardent anti-Trump among us should lament that a political speech was canceled due to fears of violence.”

Yes, I know that Trump is loathsome and would happily take away your freedom of speech if he could. That’s not the point. The issue is that “no matter how right you think you are, you are never so clearly right, never so without fault, never so pure, that you have any moral authority to shut down the other side with violence.”

So preventing Trump from speaking in Chicago was not a bold cultural statement. It is also not going to change anyone’s vote in November.

All is did was make leftists feel good about themselves for a couple of hours.

Now, I understand the frustration. And I don’t know why apparently rational Americans are supporting a man who loudly proclaims his bigotry and misogyny.

Maybe it’s what the late, brilliant monologist Spaulding Gray believed, which is that there are times and places where malevolence just appears. As Gray said, there is “perhaps an invisible cloud of evil that circles the Earth and lands at random in places like Iran, Beirut, Germany, Cambodia… and America.”

 


This Is Either the Best Idea or the Worst Plan Ever

So I’ve been following the advice of the Freakonomics guys, who advise us to think like a child and ask seemingly naive questions in the pursuit of higher truths.

At first, my childlike wonder led to such inquiries as “Why do men have nipples?” and “Can you hit a baseball thrown at the speed of light?” and of course, “If zombies aren’t alive, why do they need to devour the brains of the living?”

But let’s face it, some questions are just unanswerable.

questionmarkleaning

So I turned my attention to one of America’s big issues, and a subject that I have written about at length: immigration.

I asked myself, “Would something like the Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants be a good idea?”

For those of you who skipped U.S. history class to go smoke in the parking lot, here is a quick refresher: The Homestead Act was passed in 1862. It encouraged Western migration by giving settlers 160 acres of land. In exchange, homesteaders paid a filing fee and completed five years of residence before receiving ownership of the land.

So how does that relate to undocumented immigrants?

Well, right now, undocumented immigrants are either caught in an expensive, inefficient loop of deportation/return/deportation, or they live in constant fear of la migra. The system doesn’t work very well, which is something that both conservatives and liberals can agree upon.

And don’t fall for the classic mistake of saying undocumented immigrants should just wait in line to get their papers. It is well-established that for many people, there is no line and never will be.

So here’s my proposal: We say to undocumented immigrants, “Well, we can’t just hand you citizenship. But you can stay in the country if you agree to move someplace where your insane work ethic and tireless pursuit of the American Dream can benefit the nation.”

And then we give them the option of claiming an abandoned house in Detroit’s inner city, or moving to a small town that’s dying, or going to some other location where they can help reestablish a troubled community and work off their debt. If they live in the location for a certain number of years without getting into legal trouble, and pay a filing fee, they get citizenship.

Yes, that’s crazy. Because we can’t solve a societal issue by giving away vacant homes… except that we can. And an influx of newcomers won’t revive rural America or fading cities… except that it can. And the cultural clashes that would erupt over such a policy are insurmountable… except that they’re not.

In essence, there is a precedent for each element of this idea. It would be a massive undertaking loaded with political landmines, but hey, what isn’t these days?

Also, this would not be the only way for undocumented immigrants to obtain citizenship. It would be one of several potential pathways available to them.

Now, I’m not saying this a great idea. I’m just asking the question and looking for feedback. So what do you say? Is a new Homestead Act for undocumented immigrants worth pursuing?


Perception or Reality?

In the wake of last week’s horrific terrorist attacks in Paris, many U.S. presidential candidates are lining up to say how uber-tough, how mega-manly they are and how they would wipe out Isis in a weekend (three days tops) if given the role of commander in chief. It’s quite a display of fortitude.

Close up of man's arm showing biceps

Forgive me if I’m a bit incredulous.

But let’s leave questions about homicidal religious nuts and complex military strategies aside for now.

Instead, let me bring up a related topic, which is the GOP’s continuing image problem. And I’m not just talking about the Republicans’ struggles to connect with Latino voters.

You see, many Republicans come across as hostile to the poor, fearful of immigrants, and paranoid about the world. In addition, many conservatives are hypocrites about their ardent pro-life stance, in that they seem obsessed with fetuses but indifferent to children once they are actually born.

Fortunately, GOP presidential candidate Chris Christie has the solution to the Republican Party’s branding crisis. Christie doesn’t buy that he and his fellow conservatives are irrational, cold-hearted xenophobes who hate kids.

And that’s why he wants to prevent five-year-old Syrian war orphans from getting into this country and blowing us all up.

Hey, thanks for the perspective, Governor Christie.


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