Friday, November 25, 2005

The Left I Fell In Love With

Well, I'm back from Rhode Island--hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving. I saw some family members I hadn't seen in awhile, which was nice. But alas, back to the old grind.

Fernando Teson has a post on PrawfsBlawg that I think is really important. It urges liberals to stop focusing on slamming President Bush, and instead "reconstitute itself and recover the great imagination about equality and freedom." Teson attacks those protestors who took to the streets not to call for the elimination of a genocidal monster, but instead to protest his elimination. There is simply no excuse for that.

I took Feminist Theory this last term, and it was very instructive on this count. I should hasten to say that the vast majority of the works I read were intelligent, thought-provoking, and in many cases spot-on. People who deride modern feminism need to read more of it, because it has a devastating critique of our modern world and brings up challenges that need to be addressed.

However, there were a few people who, in class discussions, I argued read less like serious liberal scholars and more like conservative plants meant to discredit the whole movement. These people reflexively attacked America on every front, defended despotic regimes, and offered no plan or suggestion for improving women's rights in other countries (regarding the US, of course, they were verbose in their criticisms). John Kerry and the Democratic Party do not "blame America first." These people blame us first, last, and always.

In some frustration, I wrote my final paper calling for a more active feminism (which, for this post, I'd extend to liberalism in general). One that wouldn't just talk about "injustice" and "oppression," but would actually take active steps to change them. This implies some level of political realism. Calling for the capitalist power structure to wither away and die from your Southwest Missouri State University ivory tower won't actually help anyone. Joining a coalition pushing for a multilateral intervention in Darfur just might. Seize opportunities when they present themselves--the purpose is to help people, not to win tenure or even elections. I should add once again that the type of person I mentioned above--the total America-hater who slams anything our country does and overtly props up dictatorial regimes is a tiny minority in America today. The vast majority of liberals are committed to a just global order and a better world--they're just blinded by (justifiable) rage at the current administration. But even still, I think that a principled left, dedicated to true reform and possessing a commitment to action, would be far more effective both in the world and at the ballot box, than what we have today.

UPDATE: I've got a longer addendum up addressing some further issues that have been raised since I posted (including those by Mister Commenter Guy).


RepubAnon said...

Don't let cropped quotes and Republican talking points trick you - there are ideals other than "Bush-slamming" out there. I recall a political science professor who used similar selected sources to run down the right wing. I was taking economics at the time, and so was able to bring in quotes from more reasonable right-wing sources.

Criticizing Mr. Bush's unwarranted Iraq adventure does NOT imply endorsing Saddam Hussein - it is more often a "plague on both their houses" situation. Remember that Donald Rumsfeld shook Saddam's hand shortly after Saddam gassed that Kurdish village, for which the left roundly criticized all concerned. It's just that the plans of those not in power don't get much press - but criticisms of those IN power DO get publicized.

pacatrue said...

I have to generally agree with you. I've been looking for ways to get more involved politically - as a liberal - and finding it annoyingly difficult.

On another note, I wandered by here from The Moderate Voice and was pleasantly surprised to see Carleton mentioned. I'm a grad of 94, so I guess, ummm, keep yourself safe playing broomball, don't get too drunk at Rotblatt, if that's your thing, and oh yeah, I've got Schiller.