God, I’m hoping this doesn’t mark my, “and then he became a loner” moment. This is the moment I endeavor to piss off everyone, on the Left, on the Right and especially the middle. Why? Because nobody ever goes after the middle. That seems unfair to the Left and the Right, and I think the middle believes they are getting away with something by not picking a side, and that just pisses me off.
Maybe my disdain for the great wide dull middle is that I am hardly middle of the road on anything. You might say I’m an extreme moderate, a militant humanist and a revolutionary secularist, and I cannot stand people who can’t stake a position that doesn’t originate in group think, The Syrian issue was a case in point.
It seems, and I feel a bit validated that the threat of force against Syria for the use of chemical weapons on civilians seems to have driven a possible diplomatic opportunity to avoid airstrikes by the United States. I was advocating intervention aimed at stopping or punishing the Syrian government from using WMDs against civilians. That puts me in the unenviable position of defending a President that apparently no one else likes. And I would love not to be a lone voice on this, but the arguments most often heard are so weak that I believe they betrayed a growing and dangerous culture in American society.
Here’s what I mean. Americans, of all political stripes have become trapped in their own narrow frame of reference. Over the last 40 or so years we have allowed and nurtured a culture of contrarianism not debate, and a generation swathed in designer clothes, the latest iPad, hipster parties and laissez faire activism. To many of us revel in our Facebook activism and twitter acumen and quippy but largely meaningless dissent, and the exaltation of Noam Chomsky as some sort of pseudo-religious figure.. It is safe to be an activist here, pretending to revolution, as long as we can make it to the latest hip spot for the party. The problem is that we on the Left are losing.
We are losing everywhere. Of hundreds of protests I have attended and covered over the past quarter century, not one has really accomplished a thing. Schools, war, the economy, civil rights, immigrant rights, healthcare have all been lost causes. The Anti-NATO protests in Chicago in 2012 were a proving ground for government surveillance and control. They arrested the message from Occupy and Peace groups, conjured false narratives, terrified the population through their media surrogates then abused protesters with impunity. Since then they have honed those skills of state control. The revelations from Snowden and Chelsea Manning should have terrified and outraged the nation and any self-respecting libertarian. Instead it was internet fodder destined to be forgotten just as surely to the detriment of the Bill of Rights and our humanity. The so-called Progressive media dubbed both individuals traitors and criminals.
Which brings me to my alarm over the Left’s reaction to the Syrian issue. I believe it betrayed either a fundamental naiveté on the Left, a knee jerk idealism informed in insular perspective, or more frightening, that there is not as much daylight between the Right and the American Left as many of us might believe. In fairness, there is one argument that gives me pause, http://www.blackagendareport.com/content/us-biggest-user-chemical-weapons-history-asserts-right-protect-syria, but the rest fall pretty easily to any scrutiny, or at least can be parceled off to the same fear-think affecting us since 9-11.
The argument that we have used or help to proliferate Chemical and biological weapons does indeed give me pause. I am haunted by the images of children deformed by Agent Orange in Southeast Asia and by the cancers and birth defects caused by our depleted uranium shells in the Balkans and Iraq. I am sickened by my government’s penchant to act pragmatically and greedily rather than morally and humanely. Two answers. First, do we never begin to atone or move forward? Must every act be met with “you did it once?” No one is a saint, but necessity requires action, not endless debate. Emergency demands decisive action, not endless recriminations. And second, if you are being beaten to death and a bank robber comes to your aid are you going to say, no thanks, you robbed a bank once, I’ll wait for the first available saint to happen this way? No. You need rescue at that moment!
My worry is that all of us, regardless of what we might have wish have been nudged and acculturated farther along the Rightwing path than we might have imagined. There was no daylight between what I was hearing from the Left or the Right, or those pain-in-the-asses in the middle. During the Bush administration, and after the September attacks many on the Left sought answers and understanding. Repulsed by the actions of Al Qa’eda, many of us tried to understand American actions that might have contributed to such a crime. We also decried human rights abuses in other nations, but also by our nation. The Left championed the Chemical weapons treaty, going so far to denounce the US for dragging its feet on signing, and now we’re retreating from enforcing it?
This week my co-host and I went to a fundraiser demanding an end to deportations of Economic Refugees, otherwise referred to as Undocumented immigrants. Not so long ago the Left was calling for an end to borders, one world. The banner on the fundraiser called for an end to borders. We spoke with a first nation friend, part of the hip-hop duo “Shining Soul” who spoke about how his nation and family were astride the US/Mexico border. On the TV show a member of Iraq Veterans Against the War described that with clan and tribal affiliations, the borders of Iraq, Syria and Turkey were all but impractical. And now the Left retreats in a knee-jerk fashion to “those people” and “it’s not our fight?”
Worse is to say, “I feel terrible about what has happened over there but…” As progressives we eschew war. I’ve been to war, and I am committed to its eradication. But that commitment must not be built on naiveté, or the selfish notion that we must help “our” people first. That is a wall that must be torn down, and given the opulent wealth and waste of this nation it is hardly an and/or question. War is the darkest part of us, but when innocents are being slaughtered, the surest way towards the ultimate dream of eradication is to denounce hypocrisy and rise to help those in need. That is why I am a Progressive, unless the definition has changed. If it has, and I am out of lock step with everyone else, then I guess that does make me a reactionary. And if that is the case, so be it.
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