Monday, March 15, 2010

Our side .. right or wrong?

As something of a footnote to my most recent blog posts, it occurs to me that a very real sign of the polarization in American society is the growing dominance of the "our side is always right" perspective, on both sides of the political spectrum. History shows that any group that concedes they aren't infallible is likely to be pushed aside and crushed in any confrontation between polarized opponents. The G.W. Bush Crime, Inc. administration made no bones about their position - "If you're not with us in everything, you're against us and therefore ripe for marginalization and suppression. We have God on our side and our view is, therefore, beyond dispute." As of this moment, the religious right-wing is seeking to return to such a government.

I find myself consistently in the position of saying that I'm not always correct and the ideas I cherish are not inevitably and infallibly correct. Therefore, I'm in the position of a "moderate" or "centrist". However, the polarized opposites in our society indicate that such a position is untenable. In their view, I must agree with one extremist view or the other. Agreement is the only option they're willing to recognize! In those times when polar opposites are in direct, violent confrontation (as in Weimar Germany between the two World Wars, or the time of the Provisional Government in Russia after the abdication of the Tsar during WWI), moderates are simply swept aside, crushed by both sides in a polarized conflict for hegemony. Moderation and centrism is simply unacceptable when both sides have dehumanized their opponents, and the opposition is defined as those who disagree with any aspect of their policies. Opponents are simply intolerable trash to be dumped in the dustbin of history, on the march toward some Utopian vision of the future where everyone thinks the same and toes the party line. Criticism is tantamount to subversion and worthy only of being crushed and suppressed. The Orwellian regime envisioned in 1984 is the dominant theme.

Lest we think we here in the United States are immune to all of the excesses of 1984, I beg to disagree. We Americans are not immune to sliding into totalitarianism of either end of the political spectrum! There's nothing inherent in our society that precludes the tyranny of the majority, save the constitutional protection of the Bill of Rights. Look around you at what is going on. I see the Bill of Rights being eroded by the siren call of the need for "national security". That's what the so-called Patriot Act is about. Fear is being exploited to subvert our personal liberties - including, among other things, the freedom to be free of religion. Curiously, the religious right supports wholeheartedly only the 2nd Amendment right to keep and bear arms within the Bill of Rights ... an ominous indication for their opponents in a political struggle for dominance!

The religious right-wing is pushing our nation toward irrationality and religious tyranny, and there are those on the left willing to confront them in a direct power struggle for dominance. By the way, the Obama administration is not a part of any radical left-wing agenda. They are too timid and too weak by far to represent any serious threat!

My position is that tyrannies from the right or from the left are indistinguishable. They are two sides of the same coin! Both come cloaked in patriotism and boast of their eventual victory as historical inevitability. Tyrants from the left or right have far more in common than might first seem apparent. In today's America, the notion of "liberal" has been corrupted to equate with the "radical left-wing" - see my essay for my take on this interpretation. I'm a centrist liberal, through and through. I dread equally any tyranny from the left or the right - tyranny, no matter what the ideology, is still tyranny! As of this moment, I see the religious right as our biggest threat to democracy - and I re-iterate a position I've made clear many times. Democracy is not simply the will of the majority. Its most fundamental characteristic is a concern for the rights of minorities! When minority rights are trampled upon, the majority imposes its will without dissent or opposition - and the moderates are forced to go along, or be swept aside for the sake of ideological purity!


Anonymous said...

In his famous book "It Can't Happen Here", Sinclair Lewis wrote the following...
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross"

Yes, indeed, it can happen here. Without separation of powers, separation of Church and State, and in the absence of a Democratic Republic where minority rights are protected... tyranny will run free.

Thomas Jefferson wrote:
"In every country and in every age, the priest has been hostile to liberty. He is always in alliance with the despot, abetting his abuses in return for protection to his own. It is easier to acquire wealth and power by this combination than by deserving them, and to effect this, they have perverted the purest religion ever preached to man into mystery and jargon, unintelligible to all mankind, and therefore the safer engine for their purposes."

llbigwave said...

Well written, Chuck.

My greatest concern about our society weaves together your essays from the 13th and this one. It seems that we as a society, with Congress as a specific example, have degenerated into judging ideas/proposals based on whether they were submitted by those who are "with" us or those who are "against" us. This is similar to the reasoning ability displayed on elementary school playgrounds when a skirmish breaks out, and other kids side with one combatant or the other based on which one is their "friend", with no concern for the facts of the particular conflict.

If this trend is indeed occurring, and continues/accelerates at the expense of digging for facts and weighing them, it certainly contradicts the Enlightenment, as you noted.

Anonymous said...

Wow - I agree wholeheartedly with what you're saying here, but I'm amazed at how WELL you said it. It really is scary to see people in power who have the attitude of "My way is the only way!" - especially when they try to bring back that "mandate from heaven" idea which you would hope intelligent people could see through at this point in history.

Point well taken about the rights of minorities as well - a film I watched recently (called TOWELHEAD based on a novel of the same name) really impacted me very strongly. I had generally thought of racism in terms of black and white. If you stop to think about people of Arab ethnicity or of a religion that requires wearing a turban - these people have to be in the most awkward position of just about any minority in this country right now. Watching that film and watching the discussion segments really made me sad. Wasn't the whole point of forming this country to get away from such oppressive attitudes?

And that was hilarious about the extreme right-wing only seeming to care about the right to carry guns. I know a lot of people who really think that way. And it is a little scary to ponder what must lead them to such thinking.