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Che and Marty
Movements “morph” over time. And the labels they once used no longer fit what the movements have become. Revolutionaries become oppressors. Conservatives become Progressives and even the primary change agents.
Disclaimer: This essay is not for the irony- and humor-impaired. I am not promoting any partisan political view. I am just pointing out how words change their meaning over time and no one seems to notice. And how “true believers” of any “line of thought” are more than ready to accept huge contradictions for the sake of their cause.
For the record (I always lay my cards on the table): I am a family-values free-market guy.
I just see some cracks in the ice, and think it’s a good idea to tell you where they are…
Also, there is a PG-13 woodcut coming up. Commissioned by Martin Luther. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Think about these five words:
The meanings of these words change over time. In a few generations, a total 180-degree-shift in meaning is possible.
German Reformer Martin Luther was an almost-crazy, authority-taunting radical. He was the “Che” of the 16th century; except that Luther was more influential than Che over time. Che, on the other hand, was more iconically photogenic and had a cooler rifle. Both are responsible for much violence and bloodshed as a result of their charismatically resistant posture. They both also had streaks of bigotry a mile wide.
Luther’s most ardent followers today are anything but radical. There is no word “rigid” enough to describe some of his most enthusiastic students. Luther wouldn’t spend five minutes with these “hyper-Lutherans” if he were alive today. He would drink too much beer, make fun of them, and probably get some world-class artist to do woodcut-cartoons of them with animal heads. Like the one below he had done of the Pope:
Pardon the PG-13 nature of Luther’s propaganda. He was a tad earthy. Well…more than a tad.
“Lutheranism” is a prime example of radicalism, over time, under the same banners and labels, becoming entrenched “conservatism.”
And today’s self-proclaimed political “conservatives” are anything but conserving. Especially here in California. They are trying to reform a bloated, decadent societal core–grown fat on entitlements, and trying to accomplish this more or less from the outside. Hint: the ones chopping away with hatchets are not those who are conserving things.
California will be electing a governor this year, maybe the one in the EBay pic above. “Conservatives” are running as the ones who are going to dismantle, not preserve/conserve the “large public sector” system. Thus, “conservative” is the wrong word for them. They are the progressives, but they are afraid to use that word.
And, liberals are liberal? Hardly. They seem to be the ones who want more, not less, regulation. Liberal should have a “laissez faire” economic and social vibe, as it does in Europe. The word “libertarian” is a close cognate, but true liberals won’t return their phone calls.
Liberals want to tell me that I can’t have a weapon in my house potent enough to protect my family and neighbors should there be large scale social unrest (already happened here in LA twice in the past couple of generations), even if the US Constitution is crystal clear in saying that I can.
After Lexington and Concord, the founding fathers saw the value in a lethally-potent local militia of gun-owners powerful enough to chase away trained (Red Coat) armies. Such combat-quality weapons today are “California Unapproved.” What’s liberal about that? Not saying I want or need such a weapon, but telling me I can’t have one is not very “liberal.” Liberals, if they are true to their label, shouldn’t want the government to have a monopoly on force. They should be NRA members.
By the way, famous British “red coat” general Burgoyne surrendered 8,000 of the best trained soldiers on earth to the barely-trained American citizen militia at Saratoga during the Revolution in 1777 at least partly because one regular American guy, Tim Murphy, put a bullet through General Simon Fraser’s heart (from 200 yards out) with his own rifle, which was better (sporting newfangled spiral rifle threads) than any muskets with which the Red Coats were equipped. The gun was made in the USA and not registered anywhere with the authorities.
Every time I’m in Europe discussing politics, someone reminds me that our liberals in the US are not really liberals. Liberals in Europe (like the Free Democratic Party-FDP in Germany, or the VVD in Holland) are the free-market, no-regulation people.
Liberal is Latin for “freedom-oriented.”
And our “Conservatives” are actually big socialists when it comes to military spending. They love huge socialized military (Think about it, we are 4% of the world population and we spend over half of the military money on earth). This outrageous spending, along with other entitlements (much of which are going to people who don’t need them–many of the people getting social security would be fine without it) are the reason you have to work most of the first half of the year just to pay our taxes.
Somehow it doesn’t count as big government if it’s armed. If you break the economic back of the country through military spending, somehow that’s not big government. We won’t mention that, by far, the biggest office building in Washington is…the Pentagon. If aliens landed in DC, they would go there to find the leaders.
Conservatives used to be against foreign wars and “entangling alliances.” Now they want to build aircraft carriers that cost a bazillion dollars and sail them all over the world, way far from home, poking our noses around where we have little business being. What on earth were we doing in Kosovo and Somalia? Would we want Chinese aircraft carriers (thank God they don’t have any) sailing around in the Gulf of Mexico? We do the equivalent to everyone else all the time, our Nimitz-class carriers commanding sovereignty over an area bigger than California wherever they go. No wonder we have PR problems.
The Russkies sent one old navy cruiser and a destroyer escort to Venezuela in 2008 and we had a cow.
And all of this, and we can’t, a decade after 9/11, with stratospheric spending and the ability to read license plates from orbit, find ONE guy behind the WTC attacks. Not exactly a lot of bang for our (countless) bucks.
Please hear me, I’m not anti-military. I think a draft would be a good idea, as long as draftees had a choice between military and non-military public service. And I am proud of our soldiers and sailors, who do their best given the decisions that our leaders make.
There are lots of valid opinions on this, I just believe that our true security interests are:
1) Ensuring stability, free trade, and prosperity in the Western Hemisphere, in cooperation with local governments.
2) Protecting the nation from incoming missiles from rogue states.
3) Foiling the efforts of yet more nations to achieve nuke status. Ideally through diplomacy. By stealth and sabotage if necessary.
4) Making sure there is never another 9/11 or Pearl Harbor.
5) Finding the guys who plot 9/11 schemes and bringing them to justice (Bin Laden types). Best done by special elite forces, not by invading whole nations (Iraq and Afghanistan).
6) Ensure that air travel is safe and convenient.
We don’t need tanks or aircraft carriers to pull off any of the above. WW2 was over in 1945. Nostalgia continues to craft our military budgets.
Just my opinion (and there are lots of good opinions), but I think we should pull out, militarily, of the Eastern Hemisphere altogether. Especially the Middle East. If we got cut off from their oil, it would force us to become self sufficient–and it’s about time we did learn how to provide our own energy needs.
How about another word that has changed meaning? “Progressive.”
The two Republicans on Mount Rushmore were arguably two of the most progressive statesmen we ever had. Abraham Lincoln hardly conserved the status quo. He deconstructed the Southern social/political/economic system by force. He was willing to take casualty numbers in single battles as high as all of our casualties in Vietnam put together (biblical-level battle death) in order to enforce central Washington DC control. Played fast and loose with the Constitution all the time (made Nixon’s line-crossing look like a mischievous choirboy). Hardly a states-rights anti-Washington guy. Phenomenal leader; he did what he had to do. He wouldn’t get to first base with today’s Republicans. Not a strict constitutionalist. Not a church member. Not afraid to shed American blood. Too intellectual. Unable to carry the South.
If you can read his Second Inaugural Address without shedding a tear, you’re not paying attention.
And Republican Teddy Roosevelt kicked the pooey out of established big business, robber barons, and monopolies through…get this….massive new government regulation and federal takeover of HUGE tracts of the Western US for conservation. Lincoln believed in powerful centralized government at the point of a bayonet. TR would be kicked out of today’s Republican party for being “business unfriendly.” His enemies (think today’s Wall Street barons) had to figure out how to put their political teeth back into their mouths after meeting with him.
I think that today’s Republicans are economically progressive/liberal (they want change). The Democrats are the ones who want to conserve big government and create regulation. Except for military, where the Republicans are socialist conservers.
I used the word “progressive” once to describe, favorably, a certain kind of missional evangelical Christian. I was warned by MANY afterwards not to use that “P” word or people might think I’m a liberal…but not liberal in the sense that the word liberal really means :-).
The Mount Rushmore darling of the (so-called) liberals, Thomas Jefferson, hardly believed in the rainbow coalition and diversity. Current Democratic party conventions would bewilder him. He kept slaves…for a lot of reasons.
He is often invoked by the ACLU to halt school prayer and town square manger scenes, although most all the explicit (and very moving) spiritual/God references in our founding documents come directly from him. He (although quirky-deist in orientation) considered himself a devout follower of Jesus and did several stints as a vestry elder in the local Episcopal congregation.
And his views of US-American rule of the continent were decidedly imperial. More American Indians had to move and go somewhere else because of him than because of any other one person. He planned the Euro-stock settling of the whole Northwest Territories (why it looks like a checkerboard to fly over), which the British had reserved for the Indians, and bought the whole Louisiana purchase to the west of that without really thinking about where to put these Indians (who aren’t from India, as you well know–another word with a total shift in meaning).
And then we go all PC on them with the term Native American. “Native” is Latin for “born here.” Thus, I am a Native American since I was born here (My wife and my son are not–Asia and Europe births). And American? From Amerigo Vespucci, the Italian who finally figured out (unlike Columbus) that this wasn’t Asia. Thus, the First Nations (this Canadian term is way better) peoples that the Europeans found here are “native” (as I am) and connected to some Italian (i.e. “Native American”)? “Native American” is just as odd as calling them “Indians.”
Any why are pro-life people (and I am one of those) usually for the death penalty? Only super-spiritual Catholics seem to come out as consequentially against abortion and the death penalty.
And why are many pro-choice people afraid of laying out all the choices for a woman with an unexpected pregancy and against giving her a day to think it over and make a choice? Or offering her a solid alternative choice to abortion? Seems like only pro-life people show up on the sidewalks of abortion clinics offering women the choices of food, shelter, and long term help. My head swims when I think of this stuff.
And we talk about a woman’s right to choose. What about the 50% chance that there is a woman being formed inside the mother? Is anyone asking that woman if she wants to be born or not? If we’re going to affirm the right of a woman to choose, why not both of the women involved?
And one of the most universally held beliefs out there (left and right) is that late term abortions are (way) yucky. The more you learn about them, the more you think so, no matter how you label yourself. And yet, in a democracy, we still do them. How does that work? Go ahead and google an image of a late term abortion. You won’t forget it.
And the religious far right has to come to terms with the fact that the two of the three most outspoken presidential followers of Jesus in my lifetime were Democrats. Bush the younger is the lone Republican with enough explicit faith even to have had the potential capacity to teach a Sunday school class.
Hint: One of the two Democrats on the explicit-Christian list wrote a book called Born Again and still teaches Sunday School every week.
The darling of the Republicans (also a hero of mine, by the way), presidential-wise, was apparently more interested in astrology readings (yes, I know his wife dragged him into it) than Bible class. But the conservatives forgive him for that. Because…well, I don’t really know. It is not unthinkable that “conservative” Christians will help nominate a Mormon in 2012 to try to unseat a Black evangelical. Never mind that this Mormon instituted the same health care concept for Massachusetts that Obama passed for the USA.
Many of these same hardline “conservatives” believe the bizarre conspiracy that our current president is a Muslim. Never mind that he’s one of two presidents in my lifetime that can describe his explicit concrete born-again Christian conversion experience in any more than somewhat evasively vague terms.
Granted, it’s strange to me that he’s pro-choice. But then, what about American politics isn’t strange (the whole point of this essay).
And then “conservatives” want a free market when talking about goods (which is why you are right now within reach of something made in China) but not with labor (which is why they try to close the borders).
A market cannot be partially free.
A free market does not work without freedom of labor to find its way to capital. If you close the border to labor, you have to close it to goods too, or they will flood in from the outside, manufactured by someone else’s cheap labor.
Unless you are a liberal in the true sense of the word and open it to both (goods and labor).
We don’t make things in America anymore because we seem to be afraid of freely mobile (and cheaper) labor coming into our country.
Not saying I understand all of this, but the contradictions on this topic are not only bizarre, they are heaping up a trade deficit that God himself could never pay off. The result is that capital is leaving our shores in search of overseas labor. Why would we want that? Why not attract BOTH labor and capital in OUR direction? Isn’t that how we built this country in the first place? Isn’t that what brought your ancestors here? Labor seeking capital.
If our immigrant ancestors had faced today’s paperwork immigration regulation jungle, they wouldn’t get in either. It took less time to process a non-English speaker with little meaningful documentation at Ellis island than it takes to change your oil. We basically just checked them for lice, spelled their names wrong, and let them in.
And less than a third of all American immigration (from 1609 onward) was ever documented. If you don’t believe me, try finding all the immigration entry points in your family tree. Even the Mormons can’t find them for you. Widespread passport use wasn’t even common until around World War One.
My ancestors came in legally!
That’s because it was easy back then, usually easier than getting a driver’s license today at the DMV. Or that for a majority of us, no one was even watching.
Picture Title: “Our Trade Deficit”
And all the talk about “securing the borders.” Have you ever flown from LA to Houston with a window seat? Right over the border. Our whole military could never pull it off. The distances are VAST. And most of the Canadian border doesn’t even have a fence. God bless you if you want to “secure the borders.” Good luck–it simply is not physically possible. Your grandmother can cross the Canadian border at will wherever she wants to at any point along the line, night or day. And Canada is so big it doesn’t even really have borders. Certainly no one is able to watch their coasts! I don’t think there are enough Canadians, total, to play red rover with us at the border.
You can believe whatever you want about immigration. But securing the borders is not physically possible. Go ahead and build another Iron Curtain. But remember how well the first one worked. Even the best walls leak…a lot. The Great Wall of China (similar dynamics gave rise to it) never worked. Ever.
We are a funny people. Myself included. We get all caught up in group thinking patterns that spin us away from the truth. We are so off balance that surveys can prove that a few catchy sound bites and a couple negative campaign ads can convince us to vote for just about anything.
So, liberals aren’t “liberal” when it comes to guns or economics. Today’s conservatives lean toward dismantling, not conserving, the political and economic status quo (especially here in California). These true progressives are afraid of their own label. But Republicans are also socialists when it comes to the military; an over-funded, under-focused military which is still designed to fight World War II. Pro-choice folks are wary of too much choice for women with distressed pregnancies. Pro-life people tend to be pro-death when it comes to nasty criminals. Free-market Republicans want to close the borders to mobile free-market labor, and conservative Anglo-white Evangelicals would rather vote for a Mormon who “feels” like them than for an African-American Evangelical (most all of whom tend to be Democrats).
Once again, I am not taking stands on these issues, just trying to point out the truly bizarre nature of current American politics. And the need to start “thinking straight.”
What if we all started believing in real truth again, and started with the assumption (as I do) that no one of us possesses it fully?
How about: There are flaws in my thinking and I want to find out what they are.
The truth is out there.
What if we started valuing it more than our opinion patterns?
Please pass the link to this essay to everyone. I write these things because I want everyone to read them :-). LINK: http://wp.me/pGQxY-9y