Wednesday, December 01, 2004

The Politics of Destruction

Often, when discussing the politics of hatred and destruction that have become the mainstay of the right, someone will tell me that politicians on the left and the right are both slimy, neither anymore or less than the other. But I think there is a difference between how we on the left view things and how many on the right do (for example, my mother).

Here is what I think is the key difference: I hate the policies of the neocons, the conservative agenda, and especially the right-wing assault on the civil rights of Americans. What I don't hate is that the conservatives exist. Nor do I hate them for having the temerity to express their ideas. I hate the way conservatives distort facts and use lies, cheating, push-polling, and other unsavory methods to get their ideas across, but I do not challenge right's right (heh) to express them.

What disturbs me about the modern conservative movement, or at least the most vocal segments of it, is that they believe that dissent is Wrong, capital W (Dubya pun not intended but still enjoyed). The right have such faith (faith, n., meaning "to believe without a shred of evidence") that they are right that they cannot envision anyone questioning their ideas in good faith. So, in the view of many conservative's, anyone who questions the agenda of the right is de facto acting in bad faith and thus can be ignored.

Further, the ideologues of the right believe the country is better off the further right it goes. They do not perceive that it is possible to go too far to the right nor that there is any danger in doing so. These segments of the conservative movement believe that dissent from the left serves only to put a drag on the country's march to the right and is therefore Wrong and those who express it should be destroyed and silenced.

In contrast, I believe that dissent is the lifeblood of democracy. I can truly
say that no matter how much I hate the policies of the conservatives, it has never
occurred to me that it was either possible nor desirable to destroy the right as they now seek to destroy the left.

Further, I believe it would actually not be a good thing if we were to rid ourselves of the right, as much as it might make my blood pressure drop a few points. The reason is simple: Just as it is possible to go too far to the right, it is also possible to go too far to the left. The right serves as a check and balance on the left, a needed one.

I see myself as a libertarian with moderate socialist leanings, though I don't generally identify myself as such because America's two-axis political radar has no place for libertarians anymore (nor for Goldwater Republicans, for instance). Looking off to the left of my position, there are the hardcore socialists, the communists (not in a perjorative sense of the term, but those who truly believe that Marx's communal utopia is possible but just has not yet been really tried), and the social engineers, all of whom have agendas I oppose just as vehemently as I oppose the agenda of the neo-conservatives.

For instance, many on the far left, such as Ralph Nader, want to dismantle the military. I don't think we spend a lot of our military money wisely, but I certainly don't think the answer is to do away with the military, nor to reduce military funding levels below where the military can accomplish its mission. Others on the far left would use the government as a tool to compel vast changes in society, turning the government into a politically-correct 'thought police' that would decide what people should think, feel, and say. As a passionate supporter of civil rights, I shudder at the thought of such an agenda being implemented.

So, in order to avoid America going too far to the left, I see value in the right as a dissenting voice and counterbalance to the left. Also, it's good to have more than one opinion, because anyone, including those on the left, can be wrong sometimes, and only through dissent and debate can we find the best path. No point of view is infallible and without dissent the left would make mistakes as grievous as Bush has made by refusing to listen to dissenting views.

My conservative mother, on the other hand, told me the other day that it was "sick" to vote for Kerry. She doesn't just disagree with the left. She thinks the left is Wrong and that therefore America would be better off if the left ceased to exist. The Bush administration, telling the American people before the election that there would be terrorist attacks if Bush lost and that "dissent is the same as giving aid and comfort to the enemy," along with many other similar statements, is saying the same thing.

The neocons and many others on the right see no value in the balance of positions between the left and the right, see no value in dissent, and seek to utterly destroy the left to end any dissent. When Ann Coulter calls the DNC "the spawn of Satan convention" and when Michael Savage says, "hell must have been full" because Clinton survived his heart attack, I find it hard to believe that they have any interest in the kind of full and spirited political debate that helped make America great.

Rather, they want to root out all left-leaning political thought in the US and destroy it just as McCarthy tried to destroy communist thought in the 50s. Jon Stewart, on The Daily Show, was right on the money when he lampooned Zell Miller as saying, "How dare the Democrats field a candidate! And in an election year!"

It's funny because it's true.

That's the difference. It's not just hating Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft, or Rumsfeld,
or the administration (or regime, as I have decided to call it), or even the neocons. It is okay to hate your opponent as long as you respect your opponent's right to exist, have opinions, and voice those opinions. The left doesn't hate the right enough to lie, cheat, steal, and put the fear of Osama Bin Laden into the American people on a daily basis in order to utterly destroy the right and thereby achieve total victory.

By and large, I don't think the left wants to destroy the right. Even Clinton, one of the biggest victims of the right wing's politics of destruction, didn't. Wanting to beat your political opponents is one thing. Wanting to destroy them utterly and thereby end political dissent in
America is another. That's what is scary about the politics of destruction the
conservatives are now practicing.

That is the biggest difference today between the right and the left. It is also why the right's politics of destruction have been so amazingly successful. If you think you're in a friendly bout and your opponent is actually trying to kill you, it's no shock if you get killed. The left has been showing up to knife fights with bare knuckles and unsurprisingly getting its ass handed to it. The right is trying to destroy the left, but since the left has no such goal, the left ends up foolishly traipsing along unaware of the danger. "They couldn't really want to destroy us, could they? No..."

I think it is good to have the choice to vote for Bush or Kerry. I actually wish
that there were more viable candidates to choose from. My mother doesn't. She
thinks that voting for Kerry is so Wrong that it shouldn't even be an option.
And I think a lot of neocons and others on the right agree with her.

Someone, I don't remember who, remarked of Cheney's statements that dissenting about the war in Iraq gives aid and comfort to the enemy noted, "So, Cheney wants democracy in Iraq, but not in America." While I don't think Cheney and the neocons literally think thoughts like, "Democracy is bad," I don't think they realize that the ultimate result of what they want would be the death of democracy in America. They don't understand the importance and value of dissent and that doing away with it would cripple the democratic process in this country.

In my opinion. I could be wrong. But since I'm not, I shall brook no dissent.


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