Friday, February 01, 2002

Listening to GWB's State of Union address, I was stuck by how Bush co-opted so many Democratic positions - from jobs programs to national volunteer corps to using the US military to defend human rights abroad (don't knock it - Clinton won by swiping a lot of Republican positions). That's when it struck me - our nation's War on Terrorism is a struggle to protect the gains won by Liberal America.

Mind you, I'm not talking about Liberal in the sense of America's currently minuscule far left (which is so fractured it can't even organized a cool Open Mic Night, left alone a functioning political wing). Instead, compared to the rest of the countries and societies in the world, America is a progressive nation standing fairly far to the left. Put totalitarianism and communism on one side (the far right) and America is way over there near Sweden. Sure, we sometimes list dictators as leftists because they're friends of Castro, but dictators deserve to be listed on the right as they are against the progress of democracy..

America believes in personal freedoms and human rights. We don't force woman to dress in burkas and in fact offer them a fairly even shake in society. Economically we are extremely liberal in that anyone with an idea can start a business and anyone with a few dollars can own a company via stock. We're generally tolerant of different religions. And socially, we're one of the few nations in which people can move up or down the social ladder. Yes, we have many, many problems and we're not perfect. Nobody is. But compared to most of the world, we're far ahead in breaking down barriers.

There's a reason the rest of the world - even those who hate our government - want to come here and it ain't because they want to join our fine Christian churches. The reason is the USA is more liberal than other countries, which means greater opportunity for those willing to take a chance and work. Liberalization - no matter how much conservatives might hate the word - is our strength.

If you consider all the things GWB mentioned when explaining why Americas will fight the unknown enemy of terrorism, they boil down to rights, freedoms and benefits fought for and won by people who could have been described as the liberals. Woman's rights didn't happen because conservative church goers supported the issue. Human rights weren't a great cause of conservative slave owners. Social mobility didn't occur because aristocrats needed new blood at their parties. Hell, America didn't split from England because conservative Tories were ready to pick up arms and fight. In every situation, liberal thinkers pushed opened the door. Do they go to far? Yeah, sometimes. I'm still not sure about the whole somebody else is to blame for my problems cult of litigious victimhood. But we are a nation built on liberal causes, which eventually absorbs those causes which are accepted into the mainstream.

Think about it - one of the fiercest contentions between America and Muslim societies is the treatment of women. Did Rush Limbaugh in his wildest dreams ever imagine the US Army marching to fight for the rights of FemiNazis?

Sure, within our own country we bicker and argue about left and right, fast or slow, liberal or conservative, but it's all just posturing for power. To the rest of the world, it's a moot point. We're Americans and the divisions we create for ourselves are meaningless to them. When I lived in Hoboken, everyone who was twentysomething and white was considered by locals to be a Yuppie. It didn't matter that my friends and I were young, white and poor musicians and artists. No, they viewed us all as white, money-grubbing yuppies who should be charged the highest possible rents.

The point? Hang as many flags as you want, sing patriotic songs and rise up and down in applause whenever the President strings together a sentence - it doesn't matter. The fact is, when this country goes into battle, it's not just defending conservative American ideals. It's defending the rights of citizens to read Mother Jones or download porn; the rights of Noam Chomsky to criticize the government ad nauseam, the right of rocks band everywhere to plug in, turn up and play loud, the rights of Rosie to admit she's a dyke, the rights of 60 million Americans to drink beer and watch the Superbowl this Sunday.

Get used to it - we're all liberals to someone else.

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