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Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Leftward Ho: Ratcheting Our Nation to the Left

I had an interesting conversation with a faculty member yesterday that had me thinking all night long. He is of the opinion that our nation is, contrary to current appearances, moving ever leftward, toward liberalism and not away from it. I, of course, expressed a lot of skepticism. His outlook is a lot more optimistic than my own.

The examples he offered to prove his point seem unassailable. It took a civil war, but we ended slavery. We had prohibition, but we repealed it. We had deeply divisive McCarthyism, but we overcame that. We had institutionalized racism, but we enacted civil rights reforms. We had a deeply unpopular war in Vietnam, but an anti-war movement ended it.

His said our society is prone to pendulum swings, that we make progress, but then we take some of it back. Two steps leftward, one step right. But taken in the long term, he said, our country has been slowly ratcheting leftward. After all these years of hearing conservative voices bitterly complaining that our country is tilting toward liberalism, this professor was actually offering evidence that it is true. I remarked that his argument seemed to validate the conspiracy-theory world view of militia movements and Tea Partiers. He tenatively agreed.

The professor said that he believes we will have tighter gun controls at some point. Not necessarily the "take them all away" kind that the NRA and Gun Owners of America uses to scare its members into action. But logical, sane, gun restrictions that make our country a safer place to live.

Most of the night, I was pleased by his contention that our country is trending ever more progressively liberal. Then, unfortunately, sober reality returned with the cold light of dawn. Rachel Maddow presented an exceptional program on Monday night. The whole hour (now viewable online at provided link) was devoted to Tim McVeigh, the blower-upper of the Murrah Federal Building. The program centered around hours of audio tapes that McVeigh made after the bombing, an agreement he made with a journalist to tell his side of the story.

At one point on the tapes, McVeigh quoted a famous bumper sticker that says, "When guns are outlawed, only outlaws will have guns." He said that he preferred more direct message:
"When guns are outlawed, I will be an outlaw."

Leaving aside questions of McVeigh's psychology -- whether he was a narcissist, a sociopath, suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder, or was scarred by bullying in high school or by his parent's lousy parenting -- the sentiment he expresses above is still valid. That determination to resist any attempt to take away or control guns, that suspicion of the motives and direction of government, that worldview that says he and others of like mind are the only true representation of the intentions of the "Founding Fathers," are the very same things we seem to be hearing from many in the Tea Party movement ... indeed, from the entire Republican "conservative" apparatus.

Even if it is objectively provable that our culture is moving inexorably to the left over the long term, there is no guarantee that the trip there will be easy or without violence. There are many instances in American history where resistance to change has become violent, and the outcome of change was uncertain. The Civil Rights movement is an exceptional example of that, as we are still waiting for the promise of change to be fulfilled; for the dream to be realized and not deferred.

I believe there are those in our nation who will go to any length to resist and thwart liberal change: health care, gay rights, gun control, economic reform. Telling them that our nation will continue moving to the left will only further enflame their passions. And there are also selfish, power hungry, greedy, dishonest and insincere politicians and journalistic prostitutes who will stoke the fears and hatred of that element for their own political and economic gain ... the welfare of the nation and its citizens be damned.

In the long term, our nation may become a liberal paradise, where people like myself feel welcome and appreciated. In the short term, I'm betting we will see more instances of McVeigh-ism: violence seeking to overturn and up-end any strides toward a more liberal democracy and society. In my opinion, the only real unknowns are when it will happen, and how successful, damaging and destructive the violence will be. The depressive realist in me believes it is not inconceivable this nation could very quickly and violently turn toward a much more strident, assertive and aggressive anti-liberalism. After all, those who peg their identity to the term "conservative" seem much more amenable to cracking heads and shooting guns than liberals like me.

© Francisco G. Rodriquez, 2012

1 comment: said...

It's good to see you back in Bloggerstan, Frank. Keep it up.