Please help me. I want to be a good person; I truly, truly do. Right now I’m not. Zach Jones told me so.
In Jones’ “Working to win the South wastes Democrats’ times and resources,” (4/7), he suggests that the Kerry campaign (which he works for) should simply abandon the South as electorally useless. Southerners, he says, won’t vote Democratic no matter what, and therefore are to the Democrats what “blacks, Jews, and all good people” are to the Republicans.
Catch that? “All good people.” Being Southern by upbringing and conservative by temperament, it seems I’m just plain out of luck. I’m an Aristotelian as well, though, and as such I believe that by practicing virtue one can become virtuous. That’s where y’all come in. I want you to help me become a good person. I want to become a liberal. Show me the way.
I think I’ve got the outward manifestations — the epiphenomena, if you will — down pat. I kind of like the aggressive-yet-whiny tone of liberals from John Kerry on down, and the martyr complex, too, has its charms (this is what causes guys like Al Franken to worry about liberal media alternatives when liberals already have ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, The New York Times …). I can proclaim “I care about the children!” with nigh-upon Hillary Clinton-esque conviction. I’m pretty good at pettifogging, insinuating, obfuscating; I’m practiced at dishing out low blows, hatchet jobs, and cheap shots (granted I’m not in the Al Sharpton league, never having incited racial violence — remember Freddy’s Fashion Mart? — but I’m at least playing Single-A). When it comes closer to the heart of liberalism, though, I’m at a loss.
I can’t, for example, get a handle on liberals’ topsy-turvy attitude towards the power of words. They treat the promises of deranged gangsters like Kim Jong Il as sacred writ, but regard the Constitution as a set of vague suggestions — for example, they think that “the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed” can mean “the right to keep and bear arms shall be fringed, repeatedly, based on little more than hysteria and junk science.” They are sure beyond a shadow of a doubt that hate crimes laws will stop murders but laws mandating the death penalty won’t. Closer to home, Benita Singh (“U.S. stakes in Iraq break Internat’l law,” 4/8) believes that the United States is in violation of international law because we didn’t follow, to the letter, Iraq’s 1990 constitution (“Article One: Saddam does whatever the heck he likes. Article Two: for any questions, refer to Article One, then bend over and kiss your butt goodbye”), but I’d bet good money that she’s cool with the entirely imaginary “right” to gay marriage that the Massachusetts Supreme Court recently discovered in their two-century-old state constitution. I just can’t get my head around this.
Nor can I master the doublethink necessary to victim-group politics. I understand that the left in America is a broad coalition of (in no particular order) blacks, gays, feminists, Greens, peace activists, and so forth. What I don’t understand is how to hold that coalition together intellectually, since if you put members of all those groups in a room it should look more like a Steel Cage Death Match than the Glorious Rainbow of Diversity. A lot of blacks don’t like gays, for instance (there’s a large groundswell of support for banning gay marriage coming out of black churches), and if the feminists were consistent they’d have a problem with the peace crowd, since Saddam’s Iraq and the Taliban’s Afghanistan weren’t exactly down with Girl Power (gays would have a similar problem, for similar reasons — fundamentalist Muslim regimes are pretty proactive about expressing their disapproval of homosexuality, what with the beheadings and all). The Greens are against the science and technology that make activism itself possible — after all, it’s pretty hard to find the time to complain about stuff if you’re a subsistence farmer plowing your fields by hand. Now, I understand that disliking Republicans, the white male, and the Designated Hitter goes a long way towards unifying these groups, but it still takes a very strong kind of anti-logic not to be troubled by the inconsistencies. I need help with this, too.
Come on, y’all — I might be dumb, but I’m not evil. I seem to recall some philosopher saying somewhere that bad is simply the ignorance of good. Well, that’s what we’re in college for, right? To remedy ignorance? I can change; really I can. I just need me some reeducation.
Thanks for reading.
Brian Donovan is a graduate student in the History Department.