Sunday, July 09, 2017

27.7 - Thoughts prompted by the Fourth

Thoughts prompted by the Fourth

The is the week after July 4th and as usual I didn’t think about a holiday until after it had happened so I didn't talk about it last when when I should have. Nonetheless, let me say now that I hope you enjoyed your Fourth and I hope you got to see some fireworks and  to spend time with friends or family or better yet both and what with the Fourth being on Tuesday and all that, I hope you got the extra day off for beach or barbecue or baseball or whatever.

So still being in the afterglow of the Fourth, I wanted to end this week's show on this. Quote:
We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
That, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that, whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

Prudence, indeed, will dictate that governments long established should not be changed for light or transient causes; and accordingly, all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
But, when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same object, evinces a design to reduce them under absolute despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such government, and to provide new guards for their future security.
These words should form the backdrop against which the Fourth is seen. Our national birthday should not be a time for celebrating the status quo or for patting ourselves on the back in an orgy of national self-congratulation, but rather a time to reexamine and rediscover the truly revolutionary heritage which America has.

Even more than that, it should be a time to rededicate ourselves to the ideas and ideals of the Declaration, to recognize that it is, as the Declaration says, our right and our duty to resist invasion of our unalienable rights.

It is our duty to resist the CIA and FBI and NSA when they try to poke, prod, pry, and probe into every secret of our private lives;

it is our duty to resist attempts to muzzle, restrict, intimidate, and otherwise restrain freedom of speech, of assembly, and of the press;

it is our duty to resist a militarist US foreign policy that is at war in multiple nations and a militarist US federal budget that proposes to spend an overall total of $825 billion on the military and our various wars this next year while human needs go unmet and racial and other injustices go unaddressed;

it is our duty to resist governmental policies that favor big business at the expense of the general public, that favor the rich over the poor, the haves over the have-nots.

We here at What’s Left do not believe in violence, but we do believe in revolution - nonviolent revolution. And we believe that we are fully within the revolutionary heritage of America when we say we believe it is our duty to demand our rights and our duty to make the changes necessary to secure those rights, for ourselves and for all others.

Our heritage as Americans includes a great many idealistic values - but the conservative appeal to the worst in our heritage: to selfishness, to suspicion, to fear, and to “what's-in-it-for-me.”

Which raises something I have been meaning to talk about, something that I think clearly divides the left from the right, indeed impacts whether you are a person of the left or the right. It’s called reification and it is the ability to perceive an abstraction as a reality.

It’s often described in negative terms, using as typical examples people who convince themselves that Sherlock Holmes was a real person or that Hogwarts is a real place.

But it also means having the ability to see the reality that lies behind the abstractions of statistics.

Consider health insurance and the fact that 22 million people will lose their coverage under the latest proposed version of TheRump care. To the right, that’s a number, a statistic, a politically unfortunate statistic to be explained away, yes, but still a statistic. To the left, it’s 22 million actual people, 22 million living, breathing, struggling, human beings who will have less access to health care - and therefore be at real risk of dying years before they should. That ability, that ability to perceive the very real people who make up that number, is reification and that is an ability at which the left far exceeds the right, even that, again, helps determine which side of that divide you are on.

Put bluntly, the right’s vision of reality is constrained by the selfish devotion to “me and mine” above all else, as that inability to reify limits a sense of connection to a wider world, it limits the range of what seems real to them.

That’s why they speak of the personal but never of the public; of self but never others; of us and them but never we; of family but never of community.

In fact, they are largely incapable of talking of community, because that means to talk of social obligations, of moral commitments to others, including to people you will never know, never meet, commitments which their circumscribed view can’t comprehend, indeed rejects.

But we not only affirm community, we celebrate it. So instead of rejecting community, what we ultimately reject is the right of so few to have so much when so many have so little. What we ultimately resist is the power of so few to control so much when so many control so little. What we ultimately affirm is the right of every human being to a decent life free of hunger, fear, and oppression. What we ultimately demand from our society is the effort to guarantee that right.

We’ve no desire to place a ceiling over anyone's aspirations, but we do want to put a floor under everyone's needs.

Because compassion is not a cliche; it’s a requirement of our humanity. Decency isn’t for case-by-case convenience but must be a basic social tenet. And justice is not a prerogative of the powerful but a basic human right and it must be protected as such.

We don’t dream of perfection, of idealized utopias, but of simple human justice. Justice in its truest sense: economic, social, and political. A justice that rejects the ascendancy of bombs over bread, of private greed over public good, of profits over people, a justice that rejects the ascendancy of the powerful few over the disadvantaged many and of the powerful many over the disadvantaged few. A justice that centers on the preciousness of life and will fight to maintain and even expand that preciousness.

That sort of justice won’t come easily. It won’t come cheaply. And it won’t come conveniently. But it is possible - and, after all is said and done, it simply is the only right thing to do.

That is our banner, the banner the radical nonviolent American left carries for the Fourth: Justice. Compassion. Community.

A banner for the next American revolution.

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