Wednesday, November 04, 2015

You're hostile? Me too. See how much we have in common?

I came across this essay titled, "Dear Liberal…Here’s Why I’m So Hostile" by Jeremy N. Choate the other day (it's over two years old but I haven't seen it before). It was presented by someone (I presume they hadn't seen it before either) who declared it "insightful" and another reader called it "...the most succinct description of the difference between liberals and conservatives that I have read."
With respect to those who made those comments as well as Mr. Choate himself, I'm not that impressed. In fact, it made me feel hostile. I'd like to ask your indulgence for the chance to take up a small chunk of internet in explaining why.

Mr. Choate begins by telling us all the terrible, stereotypical Conservative things he isn't:
"Lately, I must admit that my hostility towards your political ilk has ramped up, pretty dramatically.  No, it’s not because we, at this point in my life, have a half-black president in the White House, and I’m some closet racist who is becoming increasingly frustrated at the prospects of the White Man’s power slipping through my fingers."
Well, that's good. Somebody shouldn't be that. It's not a good thing to be that. It's also not good to put too much stock into stereotypes, so I can see why he would want to get that out there right off the bat. Nobody likes being painted in broad brush strokes.
This is a terrible portrait of me.

For that reason, it confuses me that he spends basically the rest of the article preaching to/railing against all the stereotypical traits assigned to liberals:
"...let’s establish who I’m talking to.  If you believe that we live in an evil, imperialist nation from its founding, and you believe that it should be “fundamentally transformed”, lend me your ears.  If you believe that the free market is the source of the vast majority of society’s ills and wish to have more government intervention into it, I’m talking to you.  If you believe that health care is a basic human right and that government should provide it to everyone, you’re the guy I’m screaming at.  If you think minorities cannot possibly survive in this inherently racist country without handouts and government mandated diversity quotas, you’re my guy.  If you believe that rich people are that way because they’ve exploited their workers and acquired wealth on the backs of the poor, keep reading.  Pretty much, if you trust government more than your fellow American, this post is for you."
See, I happen to identify as a Liberal and this description doesn't apply to me any more than the one above applies to Mr. Choate.

  • I love America and I'm very happy to live here. We're not perfect but we've accomplished lots of pretty awesome stuff.
  • I don't believe people who are successful should be punished or penalized for doing well for themselves. 
  • I don't believe that people who aren't interested in contributing in a positive manner to society are entitled to being taken care of. 
  • I don't even believe everybody who enters a race deserves a ribbon just for participating. Sorry, some things in life are a competition and there have to be winners and losers.
  • I'm not only sure our government is not always a model of competency populated by the Best and the Brightest but that they're capable... and guilty... of some severely heinous acts.
  • I don't want the government to take anything away from you (okay, for a few hours after the latest mass shooting, I fantasize about all of your guns disappearing, but I recognize that as pure escapism). 
But I have two fundamental beliefs by which I try to live my life and guide my decisions. One is that there are situations that are unfairly unjust and that efforts should be made to correct them. The other is that there are some good people who need help and that if the resources are available, efforts should be made to get them the help they need. Apparently, it's necessary to sort people into bins and those two beliefs land me in the one with an "L" on it. So be it. The decisions I make in life aren't duly influenced by that label, but whatever. I don't automatically embrace every person identified as a Liberal as someone who is intelligent, enlightened, compassionate and incapable of malice. I don't automatically disregard Conservatives as the opposite of those ideals either. I know some really stupid and mean Liberals and some wonderfully sweet and kind Conservatives (one caveat: I think Sarah Palin and Donald Trump are incredibly mean and stupid and if you're a supporter of either or both of them, well...)

Mr. Choate goes on to say:
"If I choose not to give to the poor for whatever reason, you won’t simply try to persuade me on the merits of the idea – you will seek to use the government as an instrument of plunder to force me to give to the poor.  If we are walking down the street together and we spot a homeless person, using this logic, you would not simply be content with giving him $20 from your own pocket – you would hold a gun to my head and force me to give him $20, as well."
What utter horseshit.
What simple-minded, paranoid, complete and utter horseshit.
Are there people who identify as Liberals who feel that way? I'm sure there are. No question. Probably about the same amount as there are Conservatives who believe that poor people should be burned as fuel. That leaves out a whole lot of people, including myself, who don't fit into those two narrow slots. And before you say that Mr. Choate was speaking metaphorically, he didn't give that level of benefit of a doubt to The Second Bill of Rights proposed by President Franklin D. Roosevelt (whom Choate labels either "a shallow thinker or simply a shrewd, Machiavellian politician") in 1944, when he says: "You might protest that FDR only meant that we have the right to pursue those things, but that’s not what he said, and why would he?"

I'm not going to quibble the entire essay point-by-point. The reason I don't find it particularly "insightful" or "succinct" and why it makes me feel hostile is these two paragraphs which summarize the whole thing:
 "Everything that modern liberalism accomplishes is accomplished at the barrel of a government rifle.  You do not trust in the generosity of the American people to provide, through private charity, things such as clothing, food, shelter, and health care, so you empower the government to take from them and spend the money on wasteful, inefficient, and inadequate government entitlement programs.  You do not trust in the personal responsibility of the average American to wield firearms in defense of themselves and their families, so you seek to empower the government to criminalize the use and possession of firearms by private citizens.  Everytime (sic) you empower the government, you lose more of your personal liberty – it’s an axiomatic truth.

What angers me the most about you is the eagerness with which you allow the incremental enslavement to occur.  You are the cliched and proverbial frog in the pot who has actually convinced himself that he’s discovered a big, silver jacuzzi.  Somehow, you’re naive enough to believe that one more degree of heat won’t really matter that much."
Ultimately, this is just another cliched chapter in the proverbial Divide And Conquer instructional manual.  It's saying, 'these people are this and those people are that so we're inherently opposed to each other and that's just how it is' and 'one side is always right and one side is always wrong' and 'if you're a Liberal, you want to be a slave to the institution' and 'for God's sake, you have to pick a side!'. This is the kind of thing that keeps people from talking to each other as individuals who all want basically the same things in life and realizing they have more in common than their leaders (or people like Mr. Choate) would like them to believe (even if they have different ideas how to get there) and far more to gain from working together on important problems than opposing each other on every single Goddamned little thing. Keeping the people divided, ignorant and mistrustful of one another benefits the institutions, not the people themselves. So who's the one really advocating for willful slavery here?

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