Monday, May 16, 2005

Yet again, I miss the memo....

I'm not sure what "Leftist" means in this post, linked for reasons passing understanding by Andrew Cory:

If you are a Leftist, you MUST be anti-American. You MUST oppose the idea that is America, because that idea is utterly opposed to collectivism and statism, and opposed to the belief that our rights are granted by government, or that the interests of "society" are worth the sacrifice of the individual. Many Leftists won't honestly acknowledge their enmity, but resort to sneaky formulas. and claiming to be "against nationalism" is one of them. It's a lie of course, none of them are bothered by French nationalism, or Swedish nationalism, or criticize when a Russian proclaims her love for her "Motherland."

I'm on "the left", and I not only do not consider myself anti-American, I stand up proudly and proclaim my love for America. This is my country, and it is my home, and I am sick unto death of being told that since my personal beliefs as to what makes this nation such an amazing place don't match up with someone else's beliefs as to what makes this nation such an amazing place, I therefore must be "anti-American".

I do not for one second believe that "America" is "utterly opposed" to "collectivism and statism". On a basic level, I can't believe that, since I'm not even sure what "collectivism and statism" are in the first place. But I know that whenever I've encountered those words before, they've been on the lips of a Libertarian, and I've long rejected any idea that America was meant to be some kind of Libertarian wonderland. Sure enough, reading the response in Andrew's comments, I see the standard formulation that "Leftists ALWAYS believe in government over the marketplace". That's classical Libertarian-speak: reducing it all to "real Americans" versus the Marxists.

I also don't know what this "where our rights come from" stuff is about. I honestly don't know where our rights come from; I don't know if they're bestowed upon us by our creator or whether they only exist because we mutually agree that they do. But I believe that they exist, and that our government exists not as an intended impediment to those rights, but as an effort to ensure the proper exercising of those rights. That's why we don't have a monarchy, and why we enumerate our rights in the most basic documents of our land. What tends to frighten me these days, and many people on the left with me, is the idea that our government is treading on our rights in the name of "security". I may not believe that my rights are granted by government, but I sure as hell fear that my ability to exercise my rights may be seriously abridged by my government. There's little functional difference between removing a right and preventing a person from ever exercising a right, but there's a real philosophical difference between the two, which the poster seemingly ignores.

And yes, I do believe that at least sometimes the interests of "society" are worth the sacrifice of the individual. Or, at least, I think that I sometimes believe that, since this is a nice-sounding phrase, but a pretty sloppily expressed idea: Are we referring to the individual's sacrifice of something, or are we referring outright to the sacrifice of the individual? Either way, I guess it doesn't really matter. As Andrew notes, sometimes we do sacrifice individuals in war for the greater good of our society -- in fact, sometimes for our society's very survival. (That Andrew's interlocutor argues otherwise in his comments thread makes me wonder just what he thinks "society" even is.) But as for individuals sacrificing occasionally, well, I pay my taxes, and that's certainly a sacrifice on my part: I sacrifice part of the fruits of my labor so that my town can have streets and a library and schools and firemen and so that my country can have soldiers and so that my country's elderly can have some guarantee of income. That's a sacrifice I make in the service of "society", and I'm proud to make it.

I guess that if we define "America" as a land that is concerned with the individual and nothing but the individual, I might hate it. But I see no reason to grant that as my definition of "America". But then, I don't see much reason to define "America". To define something is to limit it, and I think that America is large. It contains multitudes.

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