My liberal friends are leaving the country. At least, that's what they threaten over their grande frappuccinos and copies of the New York Times. They're boogying, cashing out, and moving over seas to be with their like-minded brethren in England, Italy, and - gasp, the horror - France.
I don't blame them in the slightest. The country is badly fractured, and contrary to what Barack Obama claims, America is not an ideologically united land where the thread of patriotism binds Wall Street exec to Indianan farmer.
The rich are too rich, the poor too poor, and the intellectuals are exploring far-left options seen only in socialist countries. It's like someone took two puzzle pieces that clearly don't fit, mashed them together, threw some duct tape around them and said, "TA-DA! America!"
Symptoms of this polarity are everywhere. We are progressive, yet oddly backward. America is a country where politicians debate the possibility of Universal Health Coverage at the same time the government uses satellites to spy on its own citizens. The technology found in American hospitals is the envy of the world, and yet our schools are a global joke.
We have a thriving satirical community (The Daily Show,) and yet our mainstream news is censored by the viruses of apathy and greed. People have Iraq fatigue, and newspapers just want to make a buck.
The result: In Iraq, the war's single deadliest attack (thus far) occurred yesterday. Yet, Lindsay Lohan is in rehab, scrubbing toilets. The fact that I know this shows there is something deeply wrong in this country. Lindsay Lohan should never occupy the front page of any newspaper even if she invents a teleportation device.
Okay, she can be front page news if she invents the Insta-Go.
Liberals seem to think "revolution" means "to leave." I was one of those liberals. Man, do I want some of that sweet, sweet universal health coverage overseas. And yeah, it'd be nice to crack a Bush joke in some bar without waiting to hear "You ain't from around here, are ya'?"
My friends have every right (and reason) to leave the country. The economy is floundering, Cheney masturbates hourly to the thought of a mushroom cloud over Tehran, and the government is totally disconnected from its people. Voting Democrat won't get us out of this hole because, as my former roommate used to so eloquently say, "It's the same shit, different toilet." An upper 2%-er is an upper 2%-er, regardless of party affiliation, and Hilary, like Rudy, has no concept of our daily struggles.
I guess the only reason they should stay is if they want to fight for the idea of America. Except, the idea of America, and more specifically freedom, is vague.
If you ask Cheney what freedom means, he'll point you the NSA's way and claim we need more governmental security to protect our freedom, which apparently means allowing rectal exams at airport security. Rumsfeld would claim bombing the crap out of the Middle East is preserving freedom. Rosa Parks and Bertrand Russell would say living one's life as every man's equal is freedom. Michael Moore would say the truth is freedom. Sam Harris would say the death of religious dogma and the investment in intellect are freedom. Eugene Debs, the famous American socialist, would say the end of poverty means freedom.
America has a lot of muddled ideas about freedom and democracy, but what's important to note is that these conflicting ideas are all known and seriously debated. Sam Harris was never dragged out of his home by gunpoint and executed on his front lawn for arguing the major theologies are an evil brand of fiction.
We have the right to stand up and say, "You, sirs, and madams, are full of shit." This particular definition of freedom is why liberals should stay.
"While there is a lower class I am in it; while there is a criminal element I am of it; while there is a soul in prison, I am not free". -- Eugene Debs
I hate to sound like your conservative neighbor's grandfather, but America is free in the sense that I can write this article without waiting for agents to come crashing through my windows. We have lost many freedoms, but the freedom of speech (theoretically) remains. Corporations threaten that freedom, and so does conglomerate ownership i.e. Rupert Murdoch, but that is precisely why we need liberals in this country to fight for our rights.
Were you to leave all this behind - the Christian radicalism, the intolerance, the overextended military - you would not live out your days in peace. Ignoring a cold doesn't mean the virus leaves on its own. Indeed, the virus spreads unchecked. It makes healthy cells sick.
While you sipped your Sgroppino in Milan, the same problems would arrive at the shores of your new precious liberal bedrock. The only way to solve these issues is to confront them, head-on. Fight them with whatever strength you have. If you're serious enough to leave, be serious enough to march on the Mall, write petitions, call your congressmen. Kill the virus.
All this comes from a person who once had her passport in her right hand, her wallet in the left, and was seriously (very seriously) considering leaving.
Why do we stay?
The simple truth is: there is too much good left. There are too many honest, hardworking people who need help. The framework of the country is shaky, the foundation porous, but we still have time.
This is why you should all stay, my dear liberals. However, we need to operate differently. Here's where I will digress from the usual "What's Wrong with the Country" blog and suggest some solutions:
1. Wear a suit to your protest. The hippies of the 60s and 70s were radicals in their day because they were anti-establishment. At the time, Joe McAverage wore a crew cut and horn-rimmed glasses so by painting flowers on their faces and wearing giant peace signs on their asses, the hippies seriously shook the foundation of America.
Those days are over. Nowadays, everyone dresses like a hippy, and if you smoke pot on a grassy knoll in Central Park to "protest the war," you're just another stoned liberal accomplishing nothing.
If you really want to blow some minds, show up en masse at your Congress representative's office in suits with briefcases. Look serious. Scowl at them. Use big words like "constituency." Don't ever say things like, "tripping," or "dude".
2. Organize locally. If you're disillusioned with the Democratic party, guess what? You're not alone. Liberals have excellent noses for detecting bullshit, and the Democrats are swathed in the stuff. Just because the government now lets women and dark people in their little meetings doesn't mean it's still not a Boy's Club. They still don't represent our interests. Find other people in your community who think like you, befriend them, buy suits, and go talk to members of your government.
Go here: http://pax.protest.net/ to find activism groups in your area. Go to the meetings! BUY A SUIT!
3. Don't fear the third party vote. The next time a person tells you, "A vote for a third party candidate is a vote for the Republicans," spit in their eye. Seriously. Hock a big, fat loogie right into their pupil.
"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Margaret Mead
If you don't vote for change, you won't get change. If we all keep voting Democrat, they'll keep recycling the same tired commonplaces: children are good, terrorists are bad, sunshine and puppies are good, etc. Show them you want radical change and watch the Democrats climb over each other to find the farthest left niche.
4. Vote in 2008. Vote local. Vote always. The Republicans will try to knock you off lists via voter caging, sure, but make them work for it. Volunteer at voting stations. Guard those votes like their the cure for cancer. Call your local papers and demand they cover voter-caging stories. Make the reporters get off their fat asses and watch for cases of voter intimidation. This is particularly important if you're reading this in the south or a red state.
5. Learn to write a letter. To a congress representative, getting a hand-written letter in the mail is like finding a gold nugget. People write e-mails, some even call their offices, but almost no one writes letters anymore. As a result, they take hand-written letters very seriously. They know that if you took the time to write your beliefs, you must mean serious business.
6. Realize this is a priority.
Chuck: Hey Larry, you want to go protest?
Larry: You KNOW I do! I love protesting. What day?
Larry: Ooo...Tuesday is no good. I have my cardio class.
See Larry's mistake?
Liberals are frequently mislabeled as pussies, and this doesn't entirely happen because we are, for the most part, peace-loving people. It also happens because we're disorganized and lazy.
Have you ever seen a Republican rally? It's like the Third Reich, but scarier. Those people know how to unite on issues instead of disintegrating into bickering special interest groups, which is why they kick our asses every time.
If you have something scheduled the day of a protest, cancel it. During the months leading up to the Iraq war, several of my liberal friends called out of work to attend protests in Chicago and New York. They risked their jobs to have their voices heard, which is brave, and necessary.
If you ever find yourself debating which is more important: your job or your voice, consider these two different historical readings:
- I would have gone to that protest, but I was working
- I realized the world is more important than my work
Above all, do not permit the 24-hour news world to make you apathetic. Hundreds of people died in Iraq yesterday. Imagine if hundreds of people had died in Manhattan. The news would be all over it, there would be pandemonium in the streets. An Iraqi life is an American life, their values the same. Except, the Iraqi people have little power of voice. We need to help them. Equally important, we need to help ourselves. We need to preserve the delicate reality of personal freedom.
And so this is why we need every liberal here, in America, ready to fight to reclaim what has been stolen from us.