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).