Friday, 15 July 2005

Celebrating What's Right

It has been a few days now since I returned from the westbound leg of my cross-country family car trip. Open water of the Great Lakes, waterfalls, forests, prairies, badlands, mountains, and wildlife; these trips never disappoint, and the memories sustain me for years to come. Good people come in many flavors and from many places and bring meaning to our experiences. Happiness springs from the ability to amplify the kindnesses we encounter so that the meanness and pettiness that gets tossed our way becomes but a minor nuisance. I've been very fortunate in my life to have the former in healthy doses, and the latter in manageable doses, most of the time. And so it is that I return from the wide open spaces resolved to celebrate the positive, more than to curse the negative.

The politics of denigration and mockery persists, however, and I confess you may find me celebrating the potential demise of Karl Rove or Tom DeLay, as Rove's current troubles take center stage in our daily news. My objection to the actions of Rove and DeLay is amplified by the extent to which the promotion of their agenda is dependent on the disparagement, mockery, or sometimes worse of their opponents. I may differ fundamentally with their agenda, but if it were pursued in honest and fair debate with the ideas of their political opponents, I would not so resent their successes, and could grant their right to a place in the discussion about how to shape our public policy.

But if I become so enthused about their potential downfall that I lose sight of why an alternate way forward seems preferably to me, then I put myself at risk of succumbing to the negative political spiral which spoils so much of the current discourse in our society. While Rove tries to spin reaction to 9/11 to create distrust or even hatred of "liberals", it behooves those of us who are prone to wear the liberal label to be unafraid to celebrate what we see as right and noble about liberalism, rather than simply denigrate the agents of changes with which we disagree. It may not be the most expedient political strategy, but in the long run I think people will respond to a positive message, especially one which allows a breadth of ideas to be considered. I steadfastly maintain that there are principles of both liberalism and conservatism that hold legitimate value, as there are both libertarian and communitarian principles of value.

Perhaps my inclination to wear the liberal label is partly a contrarian one, because it is currently out of favor, but I know that liberalism's precepts, which I intend to expand on in future posts, are not deserving of the rebuke which they are currently receiving from the disdainful faction of the right in this nation. I also know that there are many conservatives who are impatient with the tenor of the message of their fellow conservatives who are predisposed to dismissive language, and they will be our allies in finding the best way forward if we are able to exhaust society's patience with the politics of disparagement.

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