---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Wed, 08 Jan 2003 14:37:00 -0800
From: radtimes <email@example.com>
Subject: The New Radical Left (And the Old Folks Who Fuel It)
November 11, 2002
A BUZZFLASH READER COMMENTARY
The New Radical Left
(And the Old Folks Who Fuel It)
By Maureen Farrell
They say people become more conservative with age. Until recently, that
seemed so. For the legions of us who came of age as the left became a
cartoon, a rightward shift was inevitable. We grew to distrust all of it:
long overdue advances in civil rights were accompanied by open season on
anything white and male; the women's movement was hijacked by champions of
unwed childlessness; and valid opposition to the Vietnam War gave way to
factions shamelessly spitting upon soldiers. It was distasteful and
disgraceful and we gravitated towards the center.
Nevertheless, what was real and honorable about the left stayed with us,
always. We didn't understand why universal medical care was so scary, for
example, particularly considering America's runaway corporate welfare. We
weren't sure how helping the less fortunate became so threatening, since
taxpayers blindly fund a defense budget of nearly $400 billion per year.
We also wondered why people were up in arms over welfare to single
mothers, but not over the $2.3 trillion the Pentagon misplaced. "Every gun
that is made, every warship that is launched, every rocket fired signifies
in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those
who are cold and not clothed," Dwight D. Eisenhower once said. Would Ike
be "too liberal" these days, too?
We thought we were just average citizens, with average concerns, until we
woke up to find ourselves part of the radical left. We're not sure how it
happened, mind you. In fact, we didn't even realize it until a chorus of
pundits started steering us a certain way. When MSNBC's Lester Holt
happily explained how daisy cutters work, for example, we were filled with
queasiness in lieu of national pride. We believed Scott Ritter was telling
the truth, no matter how often Paula Zahn warned us not to. And despite
the president's assurances he'd like to avoid war, we trusted Newsday's
observation that his administration "appeared to be purposely setting the
bar too high for Hussein to comply."
Chants about "blaming America first" aside, we have always been
uncomfortable with our legacy of coups d'etats and assassinations -- and
of replacing democratically-elected leaders with tyrants of our own. We'd
prefer to spend that money and energy aggressively seeking alternative
energy, so babies need not die in our names. And we can't ignore the role
we've played in creating problems named bin Laden, Hussein, Noriega and
Pinochet; or inconsistencies in official stories; or hidden agendas,
regardless how often we're chided by "the liberal media elite."
Citing others' misgivings over everything from Wellstone's death to 9/11
to JFK's murder, for example, Ron Rosenbaum recently joined Nicholas
Kristof in describing ways the left has gone off track. Certainly,
Wellstone's death could have been "one of those things"; Condoleezza "no
one would think of flying planes into buildings" Rice might have suffered
from memory lapses; and, despite suggestions otherwise, Lee Harvey Oswald
may have acted alone. Rosenbaum's absolute certainty regarding all of this
is disarming, however, especially to those of us who still have questions
-- and realize, once again, that there will never be honest investigations
into any of it. Ever. How can we not be "dumbed down" when it's taboo to
even question? Do they not see it, too?
We're told to forget or ignore history and are asked to not even ask.
Questions regarding the 2000 election are met with "get over it;" Greg
Palast's report about 91,000 voters wrongly purged from Florida rolls goes
largely ignored; and an independent investigation into 911 looks as if
will be stonewalled into oblivion. Will we ever hear another word about
Wellstone's crash? We are foolish even in the asking. How can we expect
journalists to pressure officials for answers, when they're too busy
telling us to look the other way?
Unlike those in the sixties who took cues from members of their own
generation, we unlikely radicals rely largely upon our elders. "Remember
every question is legitimate." Helen Thomas recently said. Every question
is legitimate? Imagine that.
When Thomas explained the difference between this president and others
she's covered, we were grateful that someone, somewhere was saying
something. "I have never covered a president who actually wanted to go to
war," she said, adding, "it's bombs away for Iraq and on our civil
liberties if Bush and his cronies get their way."
Then, too, Jimmy Breslin's recent comparison of Bobby Kennedy's campaign
to the 2002 election gave us a glimpse of what we've lost. "I don't think
that anybody today can understand the sheer thrill of a campaign that was
based on uncomplicated good," he wrote. "Vote for the guy and you could
stop people from getting killed. Your own vote could save a life! Vote for
the guy and you could get a roof for somebody in Brooklyn and food for
children in Mississippi. People got so excited they couldn't sleep.. . . .
Nobody wanted war. People weren't crazy.. . .and poverty [wasn't] ended by
throwing more of the poor into the streets."
Though we want to feel as if we're rooting for "uncomplicated good," we
hold our noses each election and vote for more taxation without
representation. When corporations are calling the shots, progressives are
at a distinctive disadvantage, as veteran journalist Bill Moyers pointed
more than a decade ago. And now, following the 2002 election, we can once
again count upon Moyers to address our concerns. While self-proclaimed
liberal Chris Matthews giddily hosts right-wing pundits like Bob Dornan
heralding in "the beginning of the end of liberalism," Moyers chronicles
the dark times we foresee. Confronting threats to the environment and to
government transparency and to a woman's right to choose, he openly
wonders how working people willingly voted against their own interests.
"If you liked the Supreme Court that put George W. Bush in the White
House, you will swoon over what's coming," Moyers explained. Does that
underscore why Chris Matthews delightedly characterized G. Gordon Liddy,
Pat Buchanan and Dornan as "whooping it up" over what's ahead?
It would seem so. Because while the Regressive Right is often given a
forum, the Progressive Left is not. When 20 antiwar congressmen recently
held a press conference before the Iraq resolution vote, the media didn't
cover it, as the congressmen were "out of the mainstream." We're not
talking Noam Chomsky or Robert Fisk, here, we're discussing U.S
congressmen. Nonetheless, Congressional Progressive Caucus chairman Dennis
Kucinich was reelected with 74% of the vote, vice chairman Barbara Lee
captured 81% in her district, Major Owens received 86%, Bernie Sanders,
65%, Peter DeFazio 64%, Nancy Pelosi 80% and Jesse Jackson, Jr. nabbed 86%
of the vote. And remember Congressman Jim McDermott, who was demonized for
visiting Baghdad and for (rightfully) saying Bush would mislead America in
order to go to war? 74% of the voters in his district voted for him again.
Needles to say, if McDermott had lost, you would have heard braying
But none of this signals it's time to start singing "Power to the People"
just yet. It's important to remember that the seismic shift that's
occurred in parts of the country is very real. Democrat governor Roy
Barnes, for example, lost his bid for reelection for having the gall to
remove the Confederate symbol from Georgia's state flag, and though he
lost three limbs serving in Vietnam, Max Cleland lost his bid after being
attacked for a lack of patriotism, because he held out for an inclusion of
worker's rights for Homeland Security employees. President Bush, Karl Rove
and Ralph Reed orchestrated much of this -- and we can't help but wonder
of Jesus Christ were elected to office, how quickly the Religious Right
would be calling for His head.
Given this, it looks as if we're in for the fight of our lives. And we are
going to have to rely on old mentors even more. For generations,
enlightened writers have been, to paraphrase Obi Wan Kenobi, our
"guardians of peace and justice." This was "before the dark times, before
the Empire," mind you. But luckily, while some journalists are telling us
to close our mouths and close our minds, as we face the darkest times in
recent memory; we still have some old standbys to offer us light.
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