The Virtue and Logic of Progressive Politics
By: Dennis Rahkonen - 10/03/03
Are you tired of having rightwing radio thugs beat up on "liberal" beliefs?
This article attempts to set forth the principles behind our views, showing we're not depraved members of a nefarious conspiracy.
Here's an issue-by-issue antidote to conservatism's poisonous slanders against us:
Abortion isn't pretty, but it's sometimes necessary, and only each individual female has the right to determine what constitutes need in her specific case. It's both ludicrous and the height of unacceptable moral imperialism for Republicans in Posh Acres to make the "choice" for a woman or girl thousands of miles away, with absolutely no knowledge of her unique circumstance.
It's even worse for government or the church to do the same. As anti- choice zealots irrationally, unscientifically glorify the fetus, they invariably cast aspersions on those who decide to abort. They're either construed as sluts or murderers, or both.
Meanwhile, men are absolved of guilt in unwanted pregnancies. It's always the female who carries the onus of "irresponsibility" that's supposedly caused by feminist influence. Date rape? Forget about it.
Because men will continue to make women pregnant against their wishes, abortion will likewise continue. Let's keep it safe, legal and readily available, because we don't want to add our sisters, aunts, nieces, mothers, wives or lovers to the huge global death toll that results from abortion being outlawed in backward, benighted countries.
Regrettably, America has a longstanding history of abject racism. Its impact on our minorities has been staggeringly harmful. Decades of discrimination and opportunity denial have placed those minorities a figurative fifty yards behind the starting block where a typical white man begins his "race" to reach the good life.
Affirmative action is nothing more than fairly bringing all citizens to the same beginning point, recognizing that failing to do so will compel many thousands -- indeed millions -- to forfeit a contest in which they could otherwise never hope to equitably participate.
Affirmative action benefits everyone, including white workers, because it helps dry up the low-wage labor pool that's always used to hold down our pay, or replace us with those whose desperation forces them to toil for much less than we'd accept. Supporting affirmative action builds multi-racial, working-class unity, the only entity strong enough to put an end to Big Business and High Finance oppression and exploitation of us all.
It's been thoroughly documented -- especially on Illinois' infamous death row -- that capital punishment falls disproportionately on those who are either poor or nonwhite.
I work in a community in which, back in 1920, the bias that assumes guilt before innocence in cases of low income and dark skin...resulted in a white mob breaking into a city jail and dragging away three black carnival workers who'd been falsely accused of raping a white girl. They were lynched from a street-corner lamp post.
It can be argued that all criminal convictions fall unfairly on minorities and the poor, and that the far greater sins of our ruling elite -- ranging from corporate crime in the suites to murderous wars of neo-colonial aggression -- are ignored, sometimes even glorified (witness Iraq).
Apart from being cruel and unusual punishment, the state becoming a murderer violates Jesus' teachings. We condemn our foreign adversaries for their death penalties. What makes theirs wrong and ours right?
Years ago I read a book by Gus Hall, general secretary of the Communist Party USA. It was called "Ecology: Can We Survive Under Capitalism?" and presented a disturbing case that our economic system's perpetual need for escalating profit would not only rip off human labor, but massively damage the planet itself.
Irreversibly so, bringing calamity, unless an environmentally aroused populace intervened.
Mutated frogs, melting glaciers, severely polluted streams adjacent to Maquiladora sweatshops, depleted uranium poisoning in Iraq...
Do you see the writing on the wall?
Not motivated to join Green Peace, or even the Wilderness Society?
Tell me, dear conservative, why would you want to help prove a communist correct?
42 million Americans have no medical insurance, a grim reflection of the humiliating reality that we're alone among developed countries in being without national healthcare.
The World Health Organization rates 36 nations ahead of the USA in their ability to care for their sick and injured.
People routinely fall ill or get hurt, but only the richest among us can afford top care.
With income gaps between the wealthy and everyone else alarmingly broadening, most of us must apprehensively rely on private insurance that's very costly, yet riddled with coverage exemptions, high deductibles, and increasing co-pays.
Our patchwork system's failures and inefficiencies are legion, and huge sums are wasted on scandalously poor administration.
Compared to the rest of industrialized society, we're as backward as Neanderthals in this vital area.
It's time to replace outrageous profiteering in U.S. healthcare with an affordable, single-payer plan that celebrates and unequivocally advances our public health -- which must be championed as a basic human right.
Right-wingers are guilty of the greatest hypocrisy of our time. They profess to champion liberty, but they simultaneously try to keep us from exercising our freedom regarding matters such as abortion and sexual preference.
Quite involuntarily, most of us arrive at a heterosexual orientation. Just as involuntarily, others turn out with a same-sex attraction. It's a natural process that's essentially the same as winding up either left-or right-handed.
Being gay is neither good nor bad. It just "is". Negativity and harm arise in human sexuality only when relations aren't consensual, or turn exploitative.
I was thrilled by the Supreme Court striking down anti-sodomy statutes. Government has no business snooping behind closed bedroom doors. The religious Right's supremacist moralizing and smug piety are nothing but cruel intolerance in a Godly guise.
May the day soon arrive when gay and lesbian couples feel entirely at ease holding hands and kissing in public. That's vastly preferable to small children at playgrounds -- too young to understand -- replicating their parents' homophobia and calling each other "fags" when they quarrel.
It's from such beginnings that intergenerational gay bashing springs, and it has to stop.
It takes no genius to figure out that more violence, whether intended or accidental, will ensue if more guns proliferate in a society beset by sharp prejudices, deep insecurities, and open hatreds.
Concealed carry is a favorite rightwing cause these days. If a criminal can't be sure whether a "law-abiding citizen" is carrying a hidden gun, the argument goes, the would-be mugger will be less likely to try anything.
Actually, the criminal could simply fire to kill from the get-go, taking no chances of possibly precipitating a shoot out.
Almost all responsible police groups are opposed to concealed carry. They know what dangers this thinly veiled vigilantism poses.
The NRA says crime has dropped where concealed carry is the law. In fact, violent crime declined across the board during the past decade. Was it because of hidden handguns, or factors like a stronger economy, more cops on patrol, or the effectiveness of the Brady Bill's background checks?
Be very wary of armed, conservative white men who imagine themselves virtuous every bit as emphatically as they think certain, highly identifiable groups are automatically and violently lawless.
America's bigoted cops have gunned down enough innocents. Now paranoid, presumptive citizens are poised to do the same.
If you make lots of money, you should pay lots of taxes, not just as a fair proposition in the abstract, but as gracious payback to a society that's allowed you to prosper, but which has many social needs that would go grimly unmet if tax evasion were taken to its illogical, selfish extreme.
Rich folks and profitable corporations have armies of lawyers and lobbyists -- and a puppet in the White House -- all working overtime to give affluent special interests tax-evasion openings big enough to accommodate an eighteen-wheeler.
Joe Average, however, who struggles from payday to payday, couldn't drive a used Geo Metro through his "loopholes" without scratching all hell out of the paintjob!
What's it gonna be? Billionaires buying slightly shorter yachts and maybe only two limousines, or America's schools going bust because churlish fat cats don't want to share the wealth? (Which is nothing but expropriated worker-produced value in any case.)
Without labor unions, American workers would be virtual serfs, or slaves. We'd be making 37 cents an hour, have no benefits, and be missing fingers and other appendages due to unrelieved shop-floor dangers.
A good thirty years ago, a radical analyst told me that one day U.S. wage earners would be peonized to a Third World extent in a viciously rapacious job environment where justice, dignity, and safety all went by the boards as reactionary monopolists took over the economy.
Idle fear mongering?
Name one member of the present administration who favors a living wage, thinks unions are vital, and is gladly willing to spend money to address health/safety needs, or clean up corporate pollution?
It's clear we'll have to embrace trade unionism's all-for-one-and-one for-all credo, or go down the tubes together, while the boss laughs his way to the bank.
War isn't some sanitized video game, despite the poofy, nerf-ball characterization of battle the Pentagon disinforms us with. It's bloody mass murder, and the complete undoing of Shakespeare's belief in the magnificence of our species: "What a piece of work is man..."
War is a little girl running down a Vietnamese road, naked, smoking from a napalm attack. It's bullet-riddled civilian bodies (babies included) in a ditch at a place called My Lai. It's huddled noncombatants incinerated together in a packed air-raid shelter in Baghdad. It's Johnny and Ted, Billy and Walt -- or that skinny red-haired kid you'd see in the hall but never got to know -- going from being carefree high schoolers one day...to body-bag filler not that many days later.
War should always be a last resort, not a first choice. And it ought never be launched for lying pretexts to achieve imperialist conquest (see the ongoing travesty that is Iraq).
There you have it. Undoubtedly, I've missed some issues, and I don't pretend to exactly reflect every liberal's or radical's views. These are generalized left-of-center positions on matters most in the news these days.
Progressive politics are based on populist democracy, social and economic justice, keeping our world clean enough to live in, and peace.
We long ago stopped being a nation of, by and for the people, with decisive control instead switching to greedy, Enron-corrupt corporations and twitchy war addicts.
Taking America back -- prioritizing public welfare and the common good -- is the undeniable imperative history now places before us.
Let's demonstrate the staunch unity and iron will required to bring this great task to full fruition.
Dennis Rahkonen, from Superior, WI, has written for Liberal Slant, www.yellowtimes.org and other various progressive outlets for more than thirty years. He was long associated with the Finnish-American Tyomies (Workingman) progressive publishing house. He can be reached at dennisr[email protected]
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