Notes from Underground
It has been only a few days since I arrived underground. During that time I have been feverishly composing this manuscript while plotting with several others to break the blockade that police and military units established around the United Nations building and the International Settlements.
It is vital that I make contact with Hadiye Ataturk, the Turkish Ambassador. Dr. Ataturk is crucial to the accomplishment of my mission. We must reach her to have Professor Watanabe’s summation copied and distributed to the General Assembly and Security Council. And if she wants more, I would be honored to address the U.N. on the plight of the United States.
The Republicanization of this country affects the future of the global civilization. The world must learn the true nature of this bitter new America. I must expose reactionary propaganda and media doubletalk for what they are: skilled disinformation that diverts public attention from the truly revolutionary agenda of resourceful plotters.
To reach the Turkish Embassy and then the U.N. Building, I have devised an elaborate scheme. With the assistance of Brad Red Leaf and another Beneath liberal, Ernie Angstadt, my plan involves the use of advanced electronic equipment, a delivery van, fake identification papers, and various disguises. Unfortunately, we three must undertake this venture with no practice, no dry run. That’s because Judy Patterson’s duplicity compels us to move this evening. But Brad is an electronic genius, and Ernie is an accomplished stage actor, so I am relying heavily their talents to bring us success. Hopefully, there will be no gunplay because none of us will be armed.
As I gather my bravery, I realize that our assault this evening may prove fatal to one or more of us. So I must conclude my manuscript now with the hope that someone sometime will discover it and learn from it. I will copy it to a flash drive and carry it with me to the Embassy. But in case I don’t reach my goal, I will also try to put it on the internet. Brad has promised to online it if and when he gets back to his electronics shop in the suburbs. I trust him to do that, just as I will shortly trust him and Ernie with my life.
Let me sign-off with a few final thoughts before we leave for the embassy. I am a liberal and the Democratic Party is the political organization which embodies my understanding of how to attain the goal of liberalism: the best-possible civic life. It is neither a perfect philosophy nor a flawless Party. I find liberalism insufficient at times, and the Democratic Party infuriates me on occasion. But I stand with this Party because its philosophy of how to arrange society is basically fair and honorable to the greatest number of people.
I am sick and tired of my philosophy being sneered at and condemned by unknowing reactionaries who cackle and sneer amongst each other when discussing what I hold to be the best. I am fed up with Democrats who deny the effectiveness of the philosophy and prefer something between moderate and radical right, even if means thwarting or warping the popular will.
As for those who feel liberalism is not proactive enough, the left of the Democratic Party and beyond, I applaud their impatience with compromises; but I urge them to understand the game they play. Politics is an art form, not an exact science. It is clouded in nuance and style, and must be practiced gainfully in an atmosphere of countervailing passions and interests.
In a university, Political Science is a misnomer; anything to do with politics should be found among the Humanities, not the Social Sciences. Politics is a participatory sport in which integrity is important, but so too are amorphous matters such as personality, allegiances, regional interests, and ideological predispositions. Politics is debate, the constructive clashing of strong viewpoints for the purpose of problem solving. Knowing this, then, the art of compromising while still advancing humane solutions must be hailed as the highest form of democratic governance.
As a liberal I am committed to making life as enjoyable as possible for as many as possible. The Declaration of Independence—composed by an accomplished liberal—posits The Pursuit of Happiness as a fundamental right of national existence. Bravo, Tom Jefferson. But there is no reason why government cannot assist its citizens in easing the pains of that Pursuit. After all, government is people like you and I. And since when has people helping people become subversive?
Does this make me a Socialist, Fascist, Communist, Marxist? It actually puts me more in line with the Sermon on the Mount. Not that liberalism is religion heavy, but it is informed and inspired by humanitarian impulses that are basic to the world’s great faiths.
Liberal social programs such as Social Security, Medicare, food inspections, state scholarships, and student loans make life more enjoyable for millions of citizens.
Similarly, government programs such as state police, city fire departments, public education, registration of gun sales, workplace-safety regulations, and even maintenance of the armed forces constitutes reasonable protection of citizens as they pursue Happiness. These are proper roles for responsible government. They are not intrusive, they are enabling. They allow people to improve their lot. They allow a nation to thrive.
Yet, those who have now taken control of my country contend that life should be lived unfettered by government activity. Let me live or die with the free market, they proclaim. No regulation, please. Laissez-faire. Don’t tread on me. Life is a free-for-all, go get your own.
The conservative mantra to almost every situation is: let the market decide. General Motors is near complete collapse: too bad, they must have made bad cars. Let the market decide GM’s fate. No matter that thousands of jobs are in the balance, that thousands of families need paychecks to survive: let the Market do its thing.
Such conservatism is wedded to a mechanical economic model that emerged from unregulated capitalism early in the 19th century. But that model lacks sympathy and empathy because it is a lifeless, indifferent mechanism immune to the human condition. To conservatives, it is infallible. Someone wrote a book praising the free market in 1820—we dare not change the model now. Someone warned in 1945 that active governmental involvement in the economy leads to serfdom—we still can’t tweak the venerable system.
Actually, the miraculous Market is hardly a flawless instrument of economic regulation. A historic string of recessions and depressions proves that. History shows, too, that this Market, unregulated, can be grossly manipulated for personal advantage through malicious monopoly, fraudulent investment, manufactured panic, insider trading, economic bubbles, and other nefarious schemes of the “Me first/Where’s mine/Bah, humbug” crowd.
The ideals of the right-wing are often unexplored because they sound so logical. But a closer look reveals cracks at the core. For example, the libertarian proclaims, “Leave me alone. Don’t regulate. I even have the right to injure myself.” But there are civic costs that emerge from your injury. Who pays the medical bills for your hospitalization, especially if you are poor and uninsured? Who cares for your family during recuperation? Who helps the bereaved if recuperation fails? And how can affordable medical rates be maintained in the face of consequent rising demand?
To think, however, it all might have been prevented with a government-provided vaccination, cigarette warning, clean air law, automobile safety design, or recall of tainted meat. And, ultimately, with an effective government plan offering affordable health insurance for everyone.
Then there are the rightist demands for lower taxes, flat taxes, even no taxes. It’s a seductive song they sing. It’s a form of vote buying: think of the money you’ll save if you buy my Republican candidacy. Even the disadvantaged who pay so little now—some pay even nothing—join in the no-tax chorus chanting that “Someday I may be wealthy, so I oppose progressive taxation while I wait for my ship to come in.”
Among the wealthy, the motivation is often a matter of greed. But frequently it is also ideological. Here, tax reduction is a method by which to strangle government assistance to the less fortunate. Life in this mindset is one grand game, sort of TV’s Survivor spiked with intensified Social Darwinism. Victory is what it’s all about.
Whoever dies with the most toys is the winner!
We are a society of hundreds of millions. While our forefathers bequeathed us an intelligent system of liberties and laws, they could not imagine a United States as populated and complicated as this one. But they gave us a design through which to handle unexpected developments. Thanks to Jefferson, James Madison, Benjamin Franklin and others our society is organic. These founding architects did not create an inflexible republic meant to stand unchanged through time. Their vision was about growth, about the ability to adapt to unforeseen realities. They never intended reality to bend to the rules of their construct, as magnificent as it was for its time. Had they done so, they might have made hurricanes and floods unconstitutional.
No, they anticipated adaptation, reform, and constant reevaluation. They envisioned legal resolution of the future challenges of civic life. That legal flexibility is the secret sauce in our national recipe.
So, I conclude my testimony with an affirmation of my faith in liberal values and my support for the Democratic Party. To those who would drag us backwards for selfish ends I say we shall not be moved. To those who would pull us back because they see Utopia in our past, I say read a little history; you are way wrong. And to those who follow the reactionaries because they scream the loudest, I say wake up to reality: a big mouth is no guarantee of proper leadership, it just catches more flies.
So, I’m off to the United Nations to tell my story. And whether I meet with success or failure, I, LIBERAL will not be silenced because this is a fight that must be won, and there are others out there like me who will carry on.
Yes, I am not alone. I am not the last liberal—far from it. Instead, I am a part of a totality, part of WE, LIBERALS. And WE, LIBERALS will defend this enviable experiment in social organization and governance, this America, which we have struggled for centuries to perfect.
Sure, it occasionally needs changes; there is nothing wrong with adjusting the arrangements of power to widen and secure the embrace of liberty. But this experiment does not need to be destroyed in the name of some misunderstood mythic past that masks a power grab by self-absorbed, moneyed interests. Liberals will not tolerate it, and we are not going away. Reactionaries must learn that.
So, I defiantly stand up to the obstructionists, the haters, the mountebanks and declare that I am a liberal. No matter what those in power may do to me, I will not recant. I know I’m right. And, damn it, my truth will not perish.
Remember the forewarning issued centuries ago by Spain’s greatest artist, Francisco Goya, when he named one of his masterful etchings El sueńo de la razon produce monstruos—loosely translated, it’s an ominous prediction: When reason goes to sleep monsters take over.
To that end, dear readers, I implore you to stay vigilant and rational. Join in discussing the state of American liberalism today, and the role it will play tomorrow. Add your ideas to the conversation by participating at www.iLiberal.us and help envision the American future within a prosperous, liberal framework. Such is liberty, and liberty is the root from which our philosophy of civil society grows and blossoms.
Copyright © 2012 J. Fred MacDonald - All Rights Reserved.