You keep using those words…

…and I’m not sure what you mean. In fact, if the debate on the Panic post is any indication of the matter, we appear to be differing over the nature of the terms.

In his fantastic book, The Conscience of a Liberal, Senator Paul Wellstone discuss the nature of our country’s politics. Are we “left, right or center?” Wellstone cited all sorts of data on the issue, ending with his belief that our country is “Center-Left.” In effect, when asked about the issues, American’s lean Center Left.

When asked to self-identify, American’s appear to have interesting answers. Lewis cited the poll where in 60% of American’s identify as conservatives (page 16). Yet Fifty Five years ago, President Eisenhower was identified with so-called Liberal Causes. What happened?

In fifty-five years, Liberals got a bad rap. Even Saul Alinsky mocks them. What does liberal even mean anymore?

For that matter, what does Conservative even mean anymore? Frequent readers (and friends) have identified them as fiscal conservatives, social conservatives and straight up conservatives. Even I’ve said I have a fiscally conservative approach–and I don’t think anyone would confuse me for a potential Republican voter. (That being said I have voted for one big ticket republican before. It was a local election, and I voted against my union endorsed candidate for president because he was a tool. So is his son…but that’s a post for a different time.)

I have heard various pundits (and read a number of op/ed pieces) that suggests that the main difference between the Left and Right is a question of basic human character: Leftists believe that people have a tendency towards benevolent/generous behaviors while Rightwingers believe that people tend towards selfish/greedy behavior. Therefore, leftists don’t have an issue with “big government” because, with the right (leftist) people in power, government will work for the betterment of society. Rightwingers will want to limit government because they only have their own interests at heart. Thomas Frank discuss this on Bob Edwards Weekend.

What’s your take on this idea?

On like the Belief article, I’m going to post my first thoughts here. As an aside, I am still working on the belief post…Flickr ate it.

I’m not sure about this. I first this heard Thom Hartmann and David Horowitz debate this on Air America, and it appeared that they agreed on the issue. Hell, they were more explicit, using terms as “good” and “bad.” Then on Bob Edward’s show, Thomas Frank made the argument that because conservatives think that people are inherently selfish, they wreck government agencies so that the private sector can fix it. Agencies have too much power, so the concentrated power inherent in the private sector somehow limits bad people being in control. At least, I think that was the argument.

Obviously, political philosophies are significantly more sophisticated than, “people are good/people are bad.” However, I do think that there may be some merit in this idea. I do believe that provided a level playing field and all the information, most people will do the right thing. The less level the playing field, the harder it is to be altruistic; however, I have seen families living in abject poverty reaching out to their neighbors to help them.

And yet, at my job I have seen horrible things that people have done to each other. I have met kids who have been failed so thoroughly by society that they never had a chance to be anything but “bad.” I have also seen a few kids, given all the opportunity in the world, turn out to rotten to the core. Some would even use the term evil to talk about these kids…

All in all, I think that how people see others–inherently good, bad, smart, stupid, selfish, whatever–helps form the basis of their political ideology. It doesn’t explain all of why I believe what I believe, but it is a good start to it.

What do you believe?


Prayers Today

Originally uploaded by marrngtn (Manuel)

The posts regarding Christian Nationalism has led me to ask, what do you believe and why?

I was raised Roman Catholic and I want to believe in the tenets of the church. I really do. At the same time, I am drawn to Secular Humanism as well. The question I consistently deal with is “Do I still believe in God?”

So, dear reader, what do you believe. If you want to quote something, please expand on the quote. I am extremely interested in reading about other’s beliefs. I’ll write up more about mine after work tonight.

update 1:
Anonymous sent this to me in an email. Here is a snippet of this person’s insightful thoughts.

I’m also incredibly sensitive to (and rather put off by) very public displays of faith, but I think that’s a personal overreaction to where I went to college (a private, southern baptist university) than anything else. It was blatantly obvious when I was there that often the loudest proponents of anything (public displays of faith in particular) were often the people I most disagreed with about what it means to “walk the walk”. I think being told by well-meaning but … not well-thinking people that they would pray for my mortal soul to not be tempted into Hell by the doings of Those Damn Catholics had a lot to do with it too, really.

I’m a huge fan of Chesterton (and Lewis, but less so, and not particularly Narnia), and his way of explaining how faith makes sense in this world. He argues that rather than the world being sane, and Faith being madness, that instead it’s the world that is mad, and faith that brings us a breath of sanity in the midst of the madness. He’s oft called the “Apostle of Common Sense” – which endears me to him all the more.

“There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth.” -GK Chesterton, Orthodoxy

Christian Nationalism

In this election cycle, both major party tickets are talking about their Christian faith. Obama has been discussing his since 04. McCain has been not been comfortable discussing his–and he has had some controversy with his own party over the religious right. Even Biden and Palin discuss their faith, and it is only a matter of time before both Vice Presidential candidates receive additional scrutiny for their faith. In fact, I believe before the election cycle has finished, a conservative catholic bishop will inform his diocese that voting for Obama is a sin, and they will not be eligible for Communion . In fact, its already started.

The discussion of the candidates faith led me to this article, a discussion of Christian Nationalism. Two years ago, the author, Michelle Goldberg, appeared on Fresh Air. I plan on listening to that when I get home tonight, because the teaser she has on the Talk 2 Action site is unbelievable. Michelle talks about Dominionism, which she summarized on the website as:

The goal of Christian nationalist politics is the restoration of the imagined Christian nation. As George Grant, former executive director of D. James Kennedy’s influential Coral Ridge Ministries, wrote in his book “The Changing of the Guard:”

“Christians have an obligation, a mandate, a commission, a holy responsibility to reclaim the land for Jesus Christ — to have dominion in civil structures, just as in every other aspect of life and godliness.
But it is dominion we are after. Not just a voice.
It is dominion we are after. Not just influence.
It is dominion we are after. Not just equal time.
It is dominion we are after.
World conquest. That’s what Christ has commissioned us to accomplish.”

This is terrifying. The core idea–that the US is fundamentally a Christian Nation–is wholly incorrect and inappropriate.

If we swap Jesus Christ for Allah, we’d have language fit for radical fundamentalist Islam. Why is the language okay for JHC, but not for Allah?

I am not anti-religion. I firmly believe that everyone has the right to worship, or not worship, as they see fit. When I don’t want to hear it, I’ll walk away. When they want to make it state law, I’ll put up a fight. This language of the Dominionists make it clear that they want religious law in place of secular law. This view is incompatible with the constitution–and individuals who hold on to this view of Church and State have no business in any government office where they swear to uphold the Constitution.

More on Anger

So a reader-a person who I know but would prefer to know better-commented on the anger post and I took it personally. I was rather indignant, and not in a cute way, that while I am angry (even outraged) I still enjoy life. I believe I can still engage in reasoned, rational debate, even though I am frequently outraged at what is going in the world today. I took it personally simply because I am tired of the association of “angry knee-jerk Liberal,” especially given how hard i try to be anything but that image.

I realized how debilitating that image was a few nights ago at a certain bar on the south side. I got into a political discussion with a few folks who I am aquatinted with, and I did my best to talk about things rationally and reasonably. Thankfully, I didn’t have anything to drink. Booze and politics manifests with a huge increase in the snarky, sarcastic (and, regrettably) belligerent OPB.*

Politics and beer are the rhetorical equivalent of drunk driving.

Anyway, one of my acquaintances was railing against both parties and saying how “Both are fascists and we need to get rid of both of them.”

While I argued with him, and a few others in this particular bar, I realized a few things. First and foremost, I totally saw where this dear reader was coming from. That kind of outrage has got to have a terrible impact on one’s life. I don’t think I often say, “fuck ’em all!” and typically not without reason.

The second thing I realized was how convoluted our political language has become. When my acquaintance was talking about fascism, another one said, “if you can tell me how they’re fascist or tell me what it means, I’ll start paying attention to you.” Nobody in the bar could agree to what fascism meant.** Without a commonly agreed upon language, we can’t really have a discussion. Getting the common language up and running should be a priority.

Finally, and a complete non-sequiter, I’m wondering if I should start blogging about WoW.

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