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Liars, delusional, petrified, hypocritical, idiotic.
I often can’t decide which of these most accurately describes regressives when I’m listening to their insane rants. Maybe it’s all of the above, in some combination or another.
The right in America loves its canned tropes, but perhaps none so much as the ‘government is evil’ one. Ooooooohh! Look out. Big bad government is coming to get you.
Here’s a recent example, from a regressive fellow living in the South (I know, I know – what a shocker that is!):
“I am a grown man. I do not need liberals telling me what to do. If you want to live like slaves to the government in your big cities and left wing states, that’s your problem. Keep your mitts off my liberty…
“Liberalism takes away freedom. Liberalism is inherently controlling over free people. Liberalism seeks to take away freedoms that have been historically rooted and guaranteed.
“I don’t need you to tell me to eat my vegetables. I don’t need you to tell me to buy health insurance. I don’t need you to tell me to use less water when I shower. I don’t need you telling me to buy a less gas guzzling vehicle. I don’t need you telling me to use mass transit and live in a tiny little European-style apartment rather than the big, sprawling house I want. I don’t need you requiring me to build my house with green materials.
“You really think modern American and European liberalism is about freedom? That’s a joke. It is about you deciding how everyone must live. It is a hard fist of tyranny cloaked in a velvet glove.”
Wow, eh? The hard fist of tyranny is haunting big cities!!
First of all, let’s leave aside any observations our good friends in the field of child psychology might have about the upbringing of someone so devoted to himself that he adamantly reserves the right to sprawling houses, water-wasting showers, and big, gas-guzzling cars, regardless of the impact that might have on the environment we all must share. No wonder this guy doesn’t want to be told to eat his vegetables. One gets the sense that he never was. I think he might also have been absent that day in kindergarten, when they covered that whole sharing concept.
And let’s also disregard for the moment the logic that has liberalism assaulting “freedoms that have been historically rooted and guaranteed”, when of course it was precisely progressives who did the fighting (and sometimes dying) to wrench racial and gender equality away from moss-backed reactionary regressives clutching “historically rooted” oppressions in their conservative little hands (along with their guns, of course). And, I might add, it was progressives who also did the same to end slavery and even liberate the United States of America from British imperialism as well, all in opposition to lovely “historically rooted” and even biblically sanctioned traditions.
Finally, let’s also leave aside the “big-city, left-wing state slavery” which I am deeply surprised to be informed that I’ve been living in. What’s most astonishing is the degree to which the Stalinist government has so artfully hidden my chains. They don’t even rattle when I drink my government-approved latte. I hardly notice them as I run to catch my mandatory subway ride to the communist indoctrination movie I’m forced to watch each and every evening. So clever! So insidious!
Hey, and how about those Wall Street slaves, too, working in Manhattan and living in Connecticut, two ultra-lefty big-city bastions of liberalism? Don’t you feel bad for them, enslaved by the government, and forced to make tens of millions of dollars in financial transactions so unregulated by the government that they can crash the entire global economy? That’s some real oppression, pal. And I know they weep for their lost freedom each time they climb in their helicopters for the weekend trip to the Hamptons, where they are forced by the government to live on sprawling mansions and have decadent parties all night long. If only there was an underground railroad to whisk them away to the opulence and freedom of the rural South!
But, let’s leave all that aside for the moment, and just think about this notion that liberalism is the ideology of big oppressive government, and conservatism is the ideology of freedom from government repression. I dunno. Seems just a wee bit dubious if you scratch the surface a little. Ironic, even.
Is the fear of an intrusive big brother the reason why conservatives want the government to regulate women’s reproductive systems, instead of allowing them to handle it themselves?
Is that why conservatives want the government to prevent people living in agony with terminal diseases from choosing to end their own lives?
Is that concern about big government why they want it to decide which substances people can imbibe?
Is that why they want the government to prevent doctors from prescribing medical marijuana to help retching chemotherapy patients stay alive?
Is the conservative commitment to freedom from an all-powerful government the reason why they’ve spent the last decade gutting the Fourth Amendment protection against searches and seizures without a warrant?
Is the commitment to small government the reason our regressive friends favor laws controlling who consenting adults are allowed to sleep with?
Or who they’re allowed to marry?
Or if they can use birth control?
Is this what they meant when they demanded that the Republican Congress pass legislation intervening in Terri Schiavo’s family medical tragedy? Is this the freedom from a repressive nanny-state they had in mind when they applauded George Bush for flying across the country in the middle of the night to sign that bill?
It all seems a little confusing to me. I hear the regressive right talking tough and thumping their chests, all about the big bad government which takes away our liberty, and enslaves us. You know, like the French. Those people who are always out on the streets protesting their government, en masse. Because, as slaves, they’ve been forced to… protest… their… own… government… Er, somethin’ like that…
Yep, somehow, these kooks have decided that they’re the small government people. And yet when I think about what the right favors with respect to anything involving personal liberties, sexuality, freedom from repressive government intrusion, even the decision to end one’s own life – it’s always just the opposite story. More government intrusion and regulation, in the very most personal aspects of our lives. Hmmm. It just doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense.
Here’s the deal. There are basically two categories of government interference in people’s affairs we can distinguish, the economic and the social.
When it comes to the economic side of the equation, old-fashioned real conservatives always did favor less government. Less taxation, less spending, less regulation and less government ownership of industries. Today’s regressives, however, are really just kleptocrats. When Republicans like Ronald Reagan or George W. Bush come to power, they actually spend more than Democrats (who aren’t terribly liberal, but leave that aside), by far. Reagan tripled the national debt in eight years, and Bush doubled it again, from $5.5 trillion to $11 trillion. The only real difference these days is that so-called conservatives use big spending for purposes of funneling money to cronies like Halliburton or Exxon-Mobil, while so-called liberals do a bit less of the same, and maybe also throw a bone or two to the middle class every once in a while.
On the social side, however, the conservative trope about theirs being the ideology of freedom is a total joke and an ugly lie. These are the people who want the government in your underpants, who want the government reading your mail without a warrant, who want to control who you sleep with and who you marry, and who even want to force you to live in agony when you just want to crawl off and die. These are the people who stood in the doorways blocking the movements for racial and sexual equality.
I’m sorry, I can’t really think of freedoms more personal and more crucial than these. And every time I turn around, I see sickening demands from sickened regressives to take these away from all of us. (What they then do themselves, privately, of course, is another matter entirely. Just ask Larry Craig. Or Mark Foley. Or David Vitter. Or Jimmy Swaggart. Or Ted Haggard. Or Mark Sanford… Or…) As if that isn’t bad enough, then we have to be lectured on how they’re protecting us from the big bad nanny state, come to deprive us of the very freedom they are in fact trying to get the big bad state to deprive us of.
Nor is their ultimate vision of freedom from governmental intrusion particularly appealing, to put it gently.
Call me crazy, but I don’t want my neighbor on the right to have the freedom to build an abattoir on his land, and my neighbor on the left to be able to construct a sulfur processing factory.
Call me nutty, but I don’t want parents to be free to deny their children an education, or to prevent them from seeing a doctor when they’re seriously ill.
I also don’t think parents should be able to punish their kids in any way they want, and I’d like the government to make sure children aren’t harmed and abused.
Similarly, I’m just a bit old-fashioned about things like child labor laws. I don’t have a problem with the nanny state keeping kids out of factories, where they used to work twelve-hour shifts. Yes, it’s an intrusion on the freedom of the magical marketplace, but I’m okay with that.
Indeed, maybe it’s the knee-jerk Trotskyism in me, but I like the idea of the government making sure that working conditions are safe for all workers.
I like the government mandating a forty hour work week.
I like the government monitoring my food and drugs for safety.
I like the government requiring that the cars and airplanes I ride in are safe.
I want the government to make sure that industries don’t pollute the land and air and water we all share, padding their profits through environmental destruction.
I know, I know. It’s weird. But somehow I think that’s a better country than the one my regressive friends have in mind.
Speaking of whom …
Liars? Delusional? Petrified? Hypocritical? Idiotic?
I guess it is all of the above, after all. Petrified and delusional regressives tell massive lies about supposed freedom that are riddled with idiotic hypocrisy.
I hope they’ll forgive me for choosing my big-city, left-wing, European socialist, liberal slavery, radical vision of the good life over theirs.
After all, it goes better with my government-restricted, nanny-state regulated, mandatory latte.
DAVID MICHAEL GREEN is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York. He is delighted to receive readers’ reactions to his articles (firstname.lastname@example.org), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. More of his work can be found at his website, www.regressiveantidote.net.