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To top of this day's posts Wednesday, July 02, 2003

Originally posted on June 20, 2003:

"In every political community there are varying shades of political opinion. One of the shadiest of these is the liberals. An outspoken group on many subjects. Ten degrees to the left of center in good times. Ten degrees to the right of center if it effects them personally."

This is how Phil Ochs introduced his song, Love Me, I'm a Liberal. My favorite is Outside of a Small Circle of Friends.

I hope that I'm not a liberal.


10:09:45 PM  To top of this post

Originally posted on June 13, 2003:

Individuality and Freedom, the good stuff that we are always fighting for, the stuff that constitutes Our Way of Life. Of course I'm talking about us Americans. Who else on this planet can really know the value of these unless they are fortunate enough to be in our tutelage? This is our myth and we're entitled to it.

I have the habit of saying that my first years in the US were like a breath of fresh air, having known nothing outside an environment where adherance to communal mores superseded individual fulfilment. My individualism is perhaps what helped me overcome the pangs of being uprooted and find my place in my chosen home. However, even in those first, honeymoon years, I couldn't miss the contradictions of American Individualism. It seemed strange that a people who so revered individuality were by and large less than accepting of the presence of those who didn't share their milieu. It didn't make sense to me that one could claim to value individuality but only in those of one's own stripe.

I am told that our Individualism is of the "rugged" kind. Nothing in my experience leads me to believe in this fantasy of an individual thriving solely by virtue of her own endeavors. This however seems the cornerstone of today's conservatism. Unless those advocating it see themselves as the "fittest" who must be the only ones who "survive," this looks like a cop out to me. My individualism does not let me ignore those whose individuality is compromised not because of their inner weakness but because their options are limited or non-existent.

Freedom works the same way from where I sit. The fight to keep power from being concentrated in a handful of entities is a noble one but not if its aim is to favor one entity over another. Sure, governments often need to be reined in but so do private corporations, which weild awesome power by virtue of their financial muscle. Today, unfortunately, these two are in bed together and shamelessly so in full view of anyone who cares to look. I'd take calls for curbing "big government" more seriously if those calling for it were not blind to the obscene influence that big business has on said government.

Bill Moyers' recent speech on this is not only more eloquent, it also provides a fiercely American context. I'm with him, I ain't giving up.


10:06:41 PM  To top of this post

Originally posted on May 30, 2003:

In last Sunday's Magazine of that stalwart of the Liberalmedia, The New York Times,  John Colapinto writes about arguably some of our brightest youth who've apparently found themselves as fervent conservatives. On Point on WBUR, Boston's NPR - anything with "Public" in its name could only be infested with liberals - station, discussed what being a young, conservative, college student is all about. One of the guests was Charles Mitchell, an activist from the Bucknell Conservatives Club (BUCC).  Regardless of our ideological ilks, I think what these kids - I use that as a term of appreciation, not diminution and I'm not saying this to be politically correct, honest! - are saying needs to be listened to, where they are coming from appreciated and what this might say about our future leaders pondered.

It took me a couple of minutes to get over the envy that I felt at the clarity, confidence and feistiness of these 20-year-olds that I might only have dreamed of garnering when I was their age. Thankfully it passed. They're defending the Individuality and Freedom, they say, that has been under attack by Groupthink Liberalism. They're mad as hell about Political Correctness and they're not going to take it anymore...well, so am I. I can't stand all the four-letter words being bleeped on my favorite late-night shows on Comedy Central and I've given up watching network TV because it's so damn sanitized...that must be why they're called the Liberalmedia...but I digress. Anyways, yes, Individuality & Freedom good, Political Correctness bad but what I'm having trouble understanding is how legislating civility and good taste can be considered liberal, seems quite the opposite to me. Isn't it liberal on the other hand to cherish and defend the freedom of expression no matter how vile it might be considered?

College campuses in particular ought to be environments where the open exchange of ideas and opinions is encouraged and even initiated in the classrooms. This applies as much to Liberal Arts schools as to those devoted to Science, Business or any other field. Do any Business schools of repute have courses that might entertain the notion that unfettered Capitalism might not be universally applicable as a means to effectively meet our needs or substantively enhance our lives? I don't doubt that there is an entrenched orthodoxy at these places and, although its specific ideologies may vary with the times, it is likely to always be at odds with those whom they seek to educate and thank god for that. The educators especially ought to be thankful for without that their own education might be at a dead end.

As I listened to Mr. Mitchell on On Point, I sensed a kindred spirit so later I checked out the BUCC website and his piece on racial preferences in college admissions in the April 28 issue of The Couterweight, their periodical. This is what he says (wish it were in HTML so I could copy-&-paste):

Part of why we have affirmative action programs is the fact that blacks and Hispanics are disproportionately poor and living in inner cities, with terrible schools and no access to the Land Rovers and SAT training with which many Bucknellians have been blessed. We should have affirmative action for those very reasons - to make up for socioeconomic status and other factors beyond students' control that artificially conceal less fortunate students' qualifications. It is great that Bucknell doesn't just do its recruiting in posh New England suburbs.

Why it might be that "blacks and Hispanics" are "disproportionately" disadvantaged was perhaps beyond the scope of his article but this is what he calls the "conservative vision":

Instead of simply relaxing standards once kids get to college, let's fix the intolerable schools and broken institutions that foster the decay of our inner cities.

Right on, brother! Let's stop pussy-footing around our responsibility to our children and end the restraints on their access to quality schools based upon the "socioeconomic" conditions where they live. Before the next tax-cut for the wealthy or spending hike for our already awesome military let's demand the funding to "fix the intolerable schools." What could be better use of our tax-dollars than investing them freely in all our children? 

In the same issue Michael Boland and Kyle McNeel take on "multiculturism" in separate articles. It runs counter to the aim of appreciating our diversity, they say. This subject is particularly close to my heart. With my longer-than-I'd-like-to-admit life split in continuous halves between my country of birth, India, and now the US, I can pretty confidently claim to be multicultural. The existence of a dominant culture is a fact in every society and ours is no exception. Like it or not, "Whiteness" may be as apt a name for it as it is crass. The aim of multiculturism, as I understand it, is to assert that in a pluralistic society legitimacy cannot be reserved solely for the traditions, myths and mores of a single culture. In other words, this is not supposed to be an attack on the dominant culture, only on its dominance. I realize that 'dominant' is a strong word but the dominance I'm talking about is not necessarily the kind that seeks to victimize; rather, it's the kind that ends up victimizing because it is unable or unwilling to appreciate experiences other than its own. Of course, no culture, dominant or otherwise, is immune to this inability or unwillingness so I'd expect a true multiculturalist to strive to make this a two-way street. I don't know if this new "ism" has indeed become a rallying cry for people who want to vilify everything "White" but if it has then Mr. Boland and Mr. McNeel's objections are justified. I do wonder, though, whether challenging prevalent attitudes is getting confused with vilifying their ethos.

So far I'm having a very hard time thinking of these kids as conservative. They're rebelling against orthodoxy and intolerance, they value diversity, they don't like the standard-issue "paleoconservatives" and they're not coy about our class disparities.  Yes, they don't like liberals but what they don't like about them are the ways in which some of them have become illiberal. I can't help thinking that they're a version of me when I was their age but, heart-warming though that is, I wouldn't for a moment claim the "conservative" label.

Sadly there's a political machinery involved in ways that might not always be obvious; that's my explanation until I come upon a better one. It's not all bad though. How could it be if today's conservative kids are so...well, I gotta call it like I sees it...liberal? Liberals, take note.

I want to stay with that happy thought awhile so I'll leave musing about Individuality and Freedom for another day.


10:02:55 PM  To top of this post

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