A few last thoughts about the upcoming elections.

November 4, 2008 | By | Reply More

What is it that’s so bad about . . .

What’s so bad about Marxists? Is it that they exhibit a sympathy for the working class or is it their understanding of class in terms of differing relations of production?  I’m not a “Marxist” because I have some specific serious concerns about many versions of Marxism, but I’m wondering whether John McCain or Sarah Palin have any idea what it is they are criticizing when they criticize “Marxism”?  Would they understand that many Marxists claim that there is never yet been a country based upon Marxist principles, so that when they attack the old Soviet Union they might not actually be attacking Marxists?

What’s so bad about liberals? Don’t we owe liberals for many of the most important things about our culture? But would John McCain or Sarah Palin be able to recite the important social changes of our history that we owe to progressives and liberals? Do John McCain or Sarah Palin have any sense that the good things that they treasure (for instance, the ability of Sarah Palin to vote or run for office) wouldn’t exist except for the hard work of liberals?

And what’s so bad about redistributionists?  It’s been around for decades and it has been supported by virtually every conservative who has held office, because the most prominent form of redistributionism is our graduated tax system, one that taxes most higher earning citizens at higher rates.   Don’t John McCain and Sarah Palin know that we Americans have been redistributing income for decades?

And what’s so bad about those people whose ancestors lived in the Middle East, for instance, “Arabs”? Is it fair to paint so many people with such a broad brush? And what about gays? In the case of Elizabeth Dole, the attack is that her opponent, Kay Hagan, who claims to believe in God, doesn’t really believe in God. Now that’s a platform that will move this country forward.   That will solve our energy crisis!

Why is it that members of these groups cause so many conservatives to tense up and become vicious?  It’s just incredible how much the current Republican campaign has been about name-calling and ridiculing.

And what’s so bad about those politicians who would actually sit down and talk to our enemies. It’s amazing that conservatives, who brag loudly that they believe in Jesus, protest with horror that Barack Obama would actually sit down and talk to America’s enemies, as though there is nothing to gain by understanding each other. As though the Bible never mentioned that Jesus hung around with prostitutes, criminals and sick people. As though it doesn’t take courage to sit down and talk with those with whom we disagree.  As though it is a weakness (and not a strength) to better understand one’s “enemies.” As though knowledge is not power. As though avoiding a long bloody war is not one of the most important things a President can do.

The Republican Party excels at these sorts of attacks. These sorts of attacks say more about Republicans than they do about Barack Obama, however.

Based on their reaction to the success of Barack Obama, I suspect that conservatives mostly fear a perceived loss of control. Conservatives prefer to believe that individuals are autonomous and that it is weak (and even effeminate) to admit the extreme degree to which we are interdependent upon each other. Conservatives don’t want to lose control over their particular brand of morality either. They want to make sure that they are powerful enough to impose their moral beliefs on everyone else. You see, they see so many threats from others, whereas progressive thinkers most often see opportunities. Progressives see great power in cooperation and collaboration. For progressives, investing in the broad-based community is an obvious need, because progressives have a deep faith that we will do best when we work together and that we will work best together when we take the time to recognize the I-thou.

America is desperately in need of someone who can drive a more honest dialogue, not someone who threatens and villainizes and divides and polarizes. Running a country is much like running a household. To even allow someone in a household to run around ridiculing and vilifying other members of the family, instead of recognizing the common humanity of each other makes for a dysfunctional household. To refuse to sit down to try to understand each other and to try to see each others’ point of view is a sure recipe for constant pointless bickering and pain. That is what we have now in America. That is why the current pitiful style of campaigning actually works on many people. Mindless attack ads really work on many Americans and that is why I am afraid for my country.

Americans need to be better than we currently are. We need to turn off our televisions and actually study economics and history and English and science and mathematics. We need to learn to live within our means. We need to learn to live with each other. We need to learn to listen to each other. We need to learn to listen without being judgmental, even though we might disagree with vigor.  We need to learn to separate the sanctity of other people from the beliefs they utter. We need politicians who talk to us like they talk to their closest friends in private. We need to be inspired to look beyond the present and to plan for a difficult future, because that is where we are heading. We need politicians who actually understand the Constitution, the structure of our government, and the limits to top-down government and diplomacy.

We need to be suspicious of those who make bald claims as to what one will “do,”  It is much harder to actually get the job done, of course.  Knowing what is often easy, whereas knowing how requires a disciplined thinker who knows how to marshal resources and knows how to reach out to other people and work closely with them.  We need leaders who surround themselves with very smart people who will challenge them.  We need leaders who are not afraid to say that we can be better than we’ve been. We need leaders that will remind us that we need to avoid being self indulgent. We need to question ourselves and we especially need to question those things that we want to believe the most.

This is my civic faith.

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Category: American Culture, Politics, Psychology Cognition

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

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