Today’s blog was inspired by fellow blogger spinnyliberal in her piece “Sometimes the Base Drives Me Crazy”. It struck a nerve with me as perhaps it has with other political junkies who are aware that amongst us are fringe elements that make the rest of us look out of step with reality. I can’t count the number of times I’ve been accused by conservatives of holding “liberal views” that were real or imagined, but that I shared no part with.
Spinny’s issue is with her objection for allowing federal funding being used for abortions except in the case of rape, incest or the mother’s safety. This created some flak from those on the ultra-liberal blog, The Daily Kos, where she made this belief known. It is taken as gospel by many on the Left that federal funding for abortion is acceptable across the board and so spinny felt some extremist wrath as she was called a “troll” or “not a very good Liberal” by people who she would likely be in agreement with on most other issues.
I think all Liberals and a lot of moderates were outraged at the Supreme Court’s decision to stop the Florida vote count in 2000 and by default put what now appears to have been the more incompetent man in the most powerful seat in the world. Eight years later we’ve had an economy that’s been this nation’s worst since the Great Depression partly as a result of taking a budget surplus and turning it into an historical deficit at the time by borrowing money to pay for two wars, tax cuts for the wealthiest 2% and the Big Pharma-friendly prescription drug bill.
Our image abroad has perhaps been damaged beyond repair by the imperialistic attitude of Bush and Cheney and the corporate friendly legislation that was railroaded through GOP majorities in the House and Senate has created the widest income gap in our history between the haves and have-nots.
The anger that this aroused in many Liberals took a direction for some that still today lives in the vitriol that they can sling at people like spinny, who is in their own camp, but who disagrees with a popular liberal view. It’s much like the Tea Party who represents a right-wing reaction to conservatives who would dare compromise with the opposition Party. Somehow the notion that we must dig our heals in and oppose anything that seems to align with the other ideologies out there has overridden a sensible approach to creating bridges for that which divides us.
I know most who engage in serious political activity often get inundated with e-mails from political action committees that urge us frantically to act and donate now to “stop the terrible destructive actions” of our political adversaries. The pressure is great for those of us on the Left because there is still that sense that we must never again fail to prevent groups like the neoconservatives who did serious damage to that part of our government that serves the general welfare while opening the floodgates for war profiteers and their like.
Over the last few years I have learned to shut out such pressure from these liberal groups, primarily because I only have so much financial resources, time and energy to give. Like the pressure I get from legitimate charities I have to pick and choose those interest I not only feel are more important than others but are the ones I know the most about and can defend in a rational debate with those who hold an opposing view.
For me there are basically three areas that I focus on and give of my money and time to promote – the effects of man-made global warming from fossil fuel use, health care and since I am now at that age, the needs of the elderly. In a lot of ways they are related and by fixing these I feel we can also fix many of the other important areas like job creation, increased income for middle class families and education.
But defending them often runs up against concerns raised by opponents who feel that the free market should address these issues and that governments should steer clear. To many people the notion that government is more bad than good and tends to be the source of our problems is an idea that has some legitimacy. Yet there is a case to be made that governments can equally serve our social and economic needs as it works with free market to achieve a balance where more people benefit than if they depended solely on capitalism or pure socialism.
Liberals tend to support a “good government” philosophy while conservatives fear more an over reach by government. The radicals within both mainstream ideologies lock into their worst fears of the other and draw lines in the sand that no one should cross or even consider as a meeting point.
I have come to learn that no one ideology has the all the answers. We need to rethink what is most basic to our survival and utilize that brain trust from all perspectives who share a common goal that is realistic and attainable.
“Humanity is our business” Ebenezer Scrooge told others after he became aware that self-interests are the most hurtful to even those who seem to have it all. Our views on how we achieve this may be disparate but ultimately our goal should be to work towards a healthier, nourished and peaceful world.
Sometimes that may entail a little generosity on the part of those who have more to give and sometimes it requires a willingness by hardliners to extend a level of trust where none existed before. But always our focus should be to establish a process by which each truly has the opportunity to provide for themselves.
A give and take on both sides needs to occur routinely to achieve this. Too often we get stuck on issues we decide will hurt us rather than allowing sensible efforts we are uncertain or suspicious of to move forward and make changes as circumstances dictate.
In spinny’s case I would defend her right to hold the view she does and challenge those who would berate her by asking, “What can you do to ensure that any woman doesn’t have to face the painful decision to abort an unwanted pregnancy?” It ought to be clear to everyone that we haven’t allowed federal funds for abortions since 1976. Yet both sides feel this isn’t sufficient, where one side wants to include federal funding for all abortions and the other doesn’t want the right for this choice to exist at all.
If we listened more to each other and spoke respectfully to all views it’s possible that we could distance ourselves from the narrow-minded people at both extremes that hold us back as a civilization? Let’s be honest. The haters will always be there. I’d like to think however that our cynicism has not reached a level yet that inhibits our social evolution, or worse, kicks it into reverse.
Spinny did the right thing by standing up to what she felt was an assault on reason even with those she shares much with. We all need to do that more so some of those extremists will come around to a more amenable approach of working with their perceived enemies or else face the possibility of fading away as an ineffectual group.