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Trying to poke a hole in the dam


Herein lies the rub. I am not of a “kind,” nor do I think my way superior. That one side is so willing to demean the other bugs me. After all, at the Second Continental Congress, there was vigorous debate between those who would become anti-federalists and federalists over the nature of the Constitution and the New Republic. Both saw their way as the best way. Neither saw their way as superior. Moreover, they were willing to accept that they were not aliens and not alien to each other. Better yet, there was a willingness in that room to accept that everyone had a different idea, saw things working out in different ways, that, in fact, everyone in the room was individual and not of a kind.

Those who would tear us apart will have us believe there are kinds, that there are only two sides, that neither side can meet with the other on their common principles, which, as I said before, are democracy, liberty, justice, and individual freedom. While we are fighting it out, the Exxons, EIBs, ClearChannels, GEs, Raytheons, etc., are robbing us blind, throwing their garbage into the our common areas, and using systems meant to provide the best for the most for their own power and enrichment.

My students and I read both the fed and anti-fed papers for Western Civ II last semester. What I divine in them is a rich ferment of ideas that swing across the political spectrum—across the range, not just a side and another—allowing us the same access to those kinds of debates should we decide to get into them. As for Nina, well, Michael, I don’t think you will find an American, or at least not many, who like Stalin or authoritarianism much. As for Mein Kampf, I wonder, besides the Bible, if there is another book that can be applied to any situation, anytime, anywhere as liberally as that one—it is the major way, I think, to render the “other side” invalid.

With an open mind, I think you will find with an open mind that we evil liberals are not quite so. I am very conservative on things like the Constitution. But I also accept that times have changed and that the principles can and should be applied to modern situations. Yes, the Constitution is a living document. It is relative to the time and circumstances of it’s application. But the principles are certain, unchanging, and universal.

The Constitution is a guiding document that you should refrain from amending except for clarification. For instance, the 15th amendment clarifying the 14th amendment for the recalcitrant and racist. The 19th amendments clarified the 14th as well for the gender-inhibited.

I also will say that the difficult thing for all of us is to see how we can rationalize, or fit together, technological advance with means of social, cultural, and economic production and with the ideas of culture and morality that we hold dear.

Now, don’t let the terms “rationalize” or “means of production” scare you. They are the source of the arguments and debates over much of the last 150 years, the source of social convulsions in this country, and the continuing struggles with us today. Weber, Gramsci, Harvey, LeFebvre, Foucault, Horkheimer, Macuse, Habermas, Dewey—the critical theorists and historians—have been trying to get to the bottom of society and its adaptations and evolutions for decades. Sure, this is pretty ethereal stuff, but not far from the kinds of things we should be looking at, debating, and using for our worldly perspective.

Don’t forget that I have read, and wrote my thesis with the help of the thinking of Russell Kirk, L. Brent Bozell, William Buckley, and others. Edmund Burke, Benjamin Disreali, Thomas Malthus, David Ricardo, Adam Smith, and their modern counterparts, including Milton Friedman, Friedrich Hayek, and Richard Weaver. And I believe these thinkers and their ideas need to be in the debate along with the ideas of Karl Marx, Murray Bookchin, Rosa Luxemburg, Charles Fourier, Morris Hillquit, Eugene Debs, Bill Haywood, Samuel Gompers, Leo Huberman, Noam Chomsky, and many others.

(By the way, Buckley, agree with him or not, was the last, great conservative who welcome open debate. We seem to have lost George Will. Everybody these days is a Jonah Goldberg who has replaced Jesus Christ with Ronald Reagan.)

This is not just name dropping, but a serious attempt to say that the debate today is so limited, emotional, and sensational that we are all going to get run over. We had indulged our once-healthy anti-intellectual streak as to eliminate any input from “intellectuals.” And I don’t need to list the number of authoritarian regimes that have ground axes on the heads of “intellectuals.”

Hollywood Tonight, Fox News, and the bloated Rush Limbaugh and his ild steer out debate. We aren’t having open discussions and exchanges of ideas. The Republic is sick and it’s cure is nowhere to be found in this poisonous atmosphere. There’s not a trace of it. But I suspect we can breath purer, sweeter air and find the cure lies when we decide to engage in mutual respect and openness to others, their ideas, their principles, and their ways and means of communicating. In other words, real, democratic debate.

Change over time does not always mean slow change, but rather uneven change—at times fast, at times slow, in some sectors of economy and society slower and faster, etc. Swallowing these changes, perhaps even taking some control in the direction of them, is what we are arguing or should be arguing about. Not I’m liberal and want to destroy the country. You’re conservative and want to destroy the country. There’s a hell of a lot more than that, and a lot more than that at stake, Joe.

Despite the differences you see, I want you to think for a moment about the fact that viewpoints, arguments, and principles are valid springboards for discussions. I don’t own the debate anymore than you do. I am open to discussing, compromising, finding a way that we, Americans, can improve the Republic and bring it back to health. But while we see things as yours and mine, as my kind or your kind, as superior and inferior, that’s going to be very difficult, if not impossible.


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