Musings on the state of liberalism

(11 am. – promoted by ek hornbeck)

I haven’t yet begun the cooking and family gatherings that are part of this holiday season. So I’ve had a little time to muse on the current state of liberalism as we wallow in this “no fly” zone between the election and inauguration.

A couple of comments today here at Docudharma got me thinking. The first was an exchange between Edger and Buhdy

Edger:  It may not be quick or easy.

And is that any reason to not have some fun while we’re at it?

So the guy isn’t perfect. Not even close. He’s part of their team. Not ours. We knew that a long time ago.

But at least he’s not an asshole (like george was and is), as far as I can see.

I know all that sounds a little bit like the old GOS mantra of not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good, but it’s not… not quite.

Self leadership, really when it comes down to where the rubber hits the road, is really all we can do. Tearing our hair out because someone way up at the top of the pyramid doesn’t climb down into the gutter and rail away at all the injustices of life with us would only result in us having less hair, I guess.

Buhdy:   It is MUCH harder to not have the clear stark black and white of Bush!

It really is up to us.

Edger:   Well, you know, it’s a bit weird I think because we spent most of a good eight years try to stop the president from doing things that were making everything fall apart.

Now it’s a gear changing thing I guess, to trying to make the president DO stuff to keep things from falling apart?

Buhdy:   zactly! We have to learn new skillz!

And next was something from Valtin’s essay.

Perhaps the disagreements elaborated herein are redolent of the old arguments of reform vs. revolution, or between stagist views of progress and change and those who see history as punctuated by qualitative leaps over old ways of thinking and doing.

Seems this is an age-old dilemma for progressives…reform vs. revolution. And if you’re like me, you’re struggling with it big-time right now. It wasn’t such a major question during these last 8 years. We could all coalesce around our rage at Bushco and our fight against everything he did and stood for.

But as Edger and Buhdy were talking about, now we have to change course and learn to utilize some different skills. But then the questions come…can I change course? how much cynicism is enough? what new skills? reform or revolution?

As I was thinking about all this, I read a diary at dkos by mka 193 titled Goodbye to My Old Friends of the Radical Left… She sent me to an essay by Tim Wise titled Enough of ‘Barbituate’ Left Cynicism (warning: never read anything by Tim Wise unless you’re ready for a few punches). Here’s his conclusion.

Or maybe it’s just that being a father, I have to temper my contempt for this system and its managers with hope. After all, as a dad (for me at least), it’s hard to look at my children every day and think, “Gee, it sucks that the world is so screwed up, and will probably end in a few years from resource exploitation…Oh well, I sure hope my daughters have a great day at school!”

Fatherhood hasn’t made me any less radical in my analysis or desire to see change. In fact, if anything, it has made me more so. I am as angry now as I’ve ever been about injustice, because I can see how it affects these children I helped to create, and for whom I am now responsible. But anger and cynicism do not make good dance partners. Anger without hope, without a certain faith in the capacity of we the people to change our world is a sickness unto death. It is consuming, like a flesh-eating disease, and whose first victim is human compassion. While I would never counsel too much confidence in far-right types to join the struggle for justice — and there, I think skepticism is well-warranted — if we can’t conjure at least a little optimism for the ability of liberals and Democrats to come along for the ride and to do the work, then what is the point? Under such a weighty and pessimistic load as this, life simply becomes unbearable. And if there is one thing we cannot afford to do now — especially now — it is to give up the will to live and to fight, another day.

And here’s mka 193’s conclusion.

I am of course angry at the persistent injustices that exist all around the world.  Yet, I also need to hold on to my joy.  I will continue to hold on to my skepticism without succumbing to cynicism.  I want to help build an inclusive movement that embraces many different types of people and that invites people to bring their “FULL” selves to the table.

And all that reminded me of the inimitable Molly Ivins (sorry for the jerky video).

So, I guess this Thanksgiving, I’m grateful for my hope mixed with skepticism and my anger mixed with joy. And I celebrate the humanity of that paradox!!!    


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  1. But thank the goddess for youtube!

  2. I really feel the dilemma you speak of. Torn between what I know and what will occur I pick the tricky line that will lead us to the promised land? will it won’t it I don’t know I’m a idiotic liberal citizen of this mixed and torn land. I have proof, I have my facts and links in line but yet it all boils down to what we we the people of good spirit allow to occur. Hard to fathom but I think it is the truth. Deep down I see that this land I live in is so diverse and so tweaked that healing must be the first step. Let it go? No I can’t the wound was too deep the rip too insane. Can it be mended? I do hope so. The best thing for me is to allow thoughts of compassion and change interrelated to bring some resolution. Perhaps the betrayals we see are just the stuff of change, or not. Who knows who can say jst let it go and drift for now.        

  3. …and i am appropriately sedated for the coming feast so my commenting, while sporting poor grammar, will hopefully not be as pissy and half-cocked as of late.

    the critique which has shook me, reading in the past few days, is that the push to elect Obama drew on the desire of many people, in that inchoate-projection-on-presidents sort of way, to seriously address the injustices an horrors of our society. We kind of knew better… we know these arguments….but at the level that resulted in so many African American an other minority folks actually going to the polls en masse, the turnout that made customary games of fraud impossible…i think that came from a genuine desire for change toward fairness and human decency.  It really was revolutionary, in part.  

    It is like giving the magic sword to save the kindgom to the flawed but noble prince, who then becomes, what else, a king.  Not a bad one, necessarily, but not one who will contest the very idea of kingdoms or peoples place in that order.  The sword of authentic populist desire for social justice is just one more weapon at his suddenly diverse disposal.

    I don’t actually think we’ll get much space for the revolution vs reform to happen in…events will probably render many of our concerns quickly hypothetical and historical.  we now know it takes about a billion dollars, two years, and an excellent leader of people to inspire via an authentic, humanistic populism, and win.

    For me, not having kids, it is tempting to fall back to survival, to try to get my own mangy house in order, maybe get to somewhere safer for me, accumulate resources and execute goals.  Breathing space.  It has been fascinating to watch and talk about, but my sense of touching something hot enough to burn has faded.  All the opportunities closed by bush may be opening again, slightly…for a little while.  run back to the wreck, or break for the shore in the lull?

    well, not pissy, but not coherent either.


  4. I’ve been a fan of Hightower’s for years, but I only knew of Molly from the quote in Youffraita’s signature line.

  5. And thank you for including mka’s great essay in it.

    We have passed through (well in a couple of months we will have passed through) a VERY dark era. We have to try to not let that darkness color the new world we are trying to build too much. WHILE making sure we learn the lessons of it.

    I can feel the anger of the Bush years melting away day by day, regardless of what Obama does. Some folks will want to hold onto it and just redirect it, instead of transforming the energy of that anger into something positive and using it to build. I hope we can avoid that trap.

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