Saturday, April 01, 2006

LIBERAL versus CONSERVATIVE- a Dialogue, not a Diatribe

Marvin and Jim are more diplomatic in their exchanges

(This column will appear in the April 6, 2006 THE ALBANY JOURNAL)


I have an acquaintance, Attorney Marvin Mixon, a Vietnam Veteran and a true patriot, whom I greatly respect yet with whom I profoundly disagree in regards to many hot political issues of the day. Unlike the shouting heads on Fox, we have exchanged numerous e-mails in recent years while passionately debating ideas, not slinging mud.

This exchange started out as a discussion on what a “liberal” is and whether President Bush should be impeached.


Dear Jim,

Your definition of “liberal” applies to the relationship between friends, relatives and socializing people in general. In the political arena, the definition of “liberal” is more like “government does it best”; “the masses are too incompetent to do anything themselves”; “let me have your money to spend for you; you will not spend it properly (almost a direct quote of Bubba Clinton in Chicago after his impeachment trial)”; “self-reliance, self-responsibility, respect for others” are dirty words and “socialism” is not really a dirty word and actually is somewhat better than “capitalism”; and “the elite know better what is good for society, the rest of you are too ignorant.” The last is where your paranoid concern about President Bush fits – liberals think they are so much smarter than he is, he doesn’t deserve to be president of the United States.

The idea that President Bush should be impeached because of the NSA monitoring of international telephone calls when one of the parties has suspected or known ties or connections with terrorism is really a straining stretch of the imagination. Have you knowledge of even one complaint filed by anyone because of this security measure? There are hundreds of cases of aliens being deported since 9-11 as the result of security measures.

Now I know where a big part of your problems arise. If you rely on the contortions and twistings of truth by the likes of “Fahrenheit 9-11” for your information, you are being blindly led in the wrong direction. You would do better spending some of your free time reading something like “Atlas Shrugged” or studying some of the Revolutionary Era personalities. The struggles, sacrifices and efforts to give us a form of government with the proper relationship between citizen (superior) and government (sub-servient) is being totally lost by the host of liberals who are doing everything they can to reverse that concept – and, unfortunately, they have made tremendous strides in that direction since World War II.

Actually, good ole FDR gave us a big shove starting us down that road in the 1930’s. And the steam roller of liberalism has been running full blast since the 1960’s. The most horrible example is that of Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society and his War against Poverty. His civil rights programs (done deliberately, he admitted, to attract and forever hold the loyalty of the black race to the Democrat Party) did more damage to the black population of our country in one decade than slavery did in 200 years.

MARVIN MIXON


Dear Marvin,

Why should I allow people who are self professed haters of freedom and equality to be the ones to define liberalism? If you think that only the guilty have their phones tapped, then you haven't been paying attention. The FBI's chief complaint about the intercept program was that the thousands of intercepts turned over by the NSA were a colossal waste of their time. Not one case has been made in 5 years from a phone intercept. As for complaints- how can you complain about having your phone or e-mail tapped if the program is secret and you never find out? If you think the government never makes a mistake in phone intercepts and only gets the bad guys, then how do you square that view with your assertion that liberal means "government does it best?" You can't have it both ways. If you subscribe to Ronald Reagan's view that "government is the problem, not the solution" and smaller government is better, then you need to rethink your contention that Big Brother is the way to go and never makes mistakes.

My liberalism includes balanced budgets, elimination of unnecessary government programs and departments, and focusing spending where you get the most bang for your buck (i.e. eliminating anachronistic Cold War defense spending on new nuclear submarines and F-22 Raptors and spending more on human intelligence and better pay and benefits for grunts). The dictionary defines political liberalism as including embracing progressive ideas and willingness to accept change where change is an improvement. That means that I realize the Cold War is over and we need to change to respond to security needs in 2006, not continue those designed for 1961.

My liberalism doesn't say anything about elitism or a belief that the masses can't do for themselves. My liberalism says that providing college scholarships to every gifted child is an investment in our future, and cutting those programs (as Congressional Republicans have proposed) is cutting back on our future. My liberalism says that a tax system should be fair and simple, and not rigged with deductions that favor the wealthy or special interests. My liberalism says that government should be open and not secret. My liberalism says that Congressmen, Senators, and other elected officials should not be permitted to solicit or receive bribes in any form- including so called campaign contributions or lobbyist gifts or favors.

My liberalism says that the press should be free, the people should be free to express themselves, and that government has no business telling adults how to live their lives upon pain of imprisonment, whether it be how to have sex, who to marry, or what books to read or movies to watch.

Your conservative friends used to say that they wanted (in the words of your Deity, Ronald Reagan) to get government off the backs of the people and to allow States freedom from federal interference. However, once in power, they have done the opposite, whether it be a universal marriage law (pre-empting state laws), marijuana use (California & Oregon law be damned), the right of the terminally ill to end their own lives (Oregon), consumer rights or safety (California), or any other issue that is red meat to the Republican religious right or their special interest business partners.


My liberalism also embraces the concept that the Bill of Rights is not tissue paper which can be thrown away whenever fearmongers and demagogues rail against unpopular groups. Did you favor wiretapping of Americans, indefinite imprisonment without trial or access to counsel, or torture of white American Christians in the wake of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995? Why not? Is it because you and the people you care about are white, American, and Christian? Do you recall that the first reports of the 1995 bombing blamed Islamic terrorists, and within hours death threats were phoned into mosques? Once Timothy McVeigh was arrested, the racist bigotry subsided. What does that tell you about "conservatives" and their willingness to lock up unfortunate, innocent Afghans and Pakistanis in Guantanamo even when the authorities concede their innocence? Answer: racist bigots. If those locked up in violation of the Bill of Rights and international law were white, Christian, and European in origin, your friends and fellow travelers would be storming the gates to free them.

So my liberalism is intellectually consistent. I believe in equal rights for all, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or religion or national origin. I believe that the rule of law covers everyone from the President on down. Conservatives no longer believe that, or else they lack the courage of their convictions.

I believe that freedom is not free and that freedom does not come without some danger. We could lock up every suspected criminal in the U.S. without charges or a trial, and we would all be safer. But we would no longer be a free country. Take your pick: freedom with some danger, or tyranny and some safety. Ben Franklin said those who would give up essential freedom for temporary safety would deserve neither.

JIM

Readers are invited to send in comments to jfinkelstein@earthlink.net. Be sure to put your full name and your city.

2 Comments:

Blogger ShayShay said...

You're saying what I'm saying, just much more intelligently. Thanks.

4:47 AM  
Anonymous Jeffre Jackson Rockville, MD said...

Did Marvin respond?

10:09 PM  

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