Debunking debunking

Posted on Thursday, 6th September 2012 @ 11:29 AM by Text Size A | A | A

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I was innocently chilling at home the other day when my TV brutally assaulted me with yet another show about how bad America is.  We’re number one in nothing, our schools suck, our health stinks, our politics toxic as salmonella.  Then I endured a movie where our double-crossed hero spends two hours dodging bullets from corrupt CIA operatives.

I wasn’t surprised by the negative tone; we live in difficult times.  What got to me was the joy with which the bad news was delivered.  Everywhere I turned there was a talking head chortling with glee over the decline of our once-great nation.

Call it cynicism, call it disillusionment, call it the debunking of America, just don’t call it liberalism.  Reciting the litany of woe has become a habit with liberals.  It’s hard to fault them for it, but that should never be an end in itself.  Liberalism is about hope and the future, even in the worst of times.  Especially in the worst of times.

When corrosive liberal debunking spreads despair in America, the American people despair and the liberals lose.  Nihilism is the mortal enemy of liberalism.  Because if you don’t have anything to look up to, you don’t have anything to live up to.

Conservatives’ hopes and plans for the future are exceedingly stingy.  Conservatives base their philosophy on the tragic nature of man.  They use that partial truth as an excuse to do as little as possible about human tragedy.

If you think that man is intrinsically evil and always on the verge of being worse, you fear the future.  The conservative thinks mankind is so fallen, so riddled with original sin, he can never live it down.  Though, God knows, some of them try.

As liberals, we can’t buy into that narrative.  But we do, far too often.  We feel the injustices of the world, we see the tragic gaps between our illusions and reality and we fall right down that chasm.

There is corruption in our society.  But the answer to corruption isn’t corrosion.  It’s a cleansing, it’s healing, it’s a fresh start.  That’s the liberal message.  Once upon a time, when progressives were smart and tactical and forward-looking they had a name for their ideals.  To use 21st century speak, they “branded,” them very well.  They called it The New Deal.

See what is implied in that?  The deal is rotten, the game is fixed, the deck is stacked.  So what are we going to do, cry about it?

Nope.  We’re going to crack open a new deck and pass Social Security and the WPA and the Civilian Conservation Corps.  We’re sweeping the chips off the table and starting a fresh game.

Paradise was not achieved.  But liberals kept making progress.  Old people got government pensions, African-Americans got the right to vote, women got a modicum of control over their own bodies, workers got a minimum wage, the general welfare got a little more general.

Is it ever complete?  No, humanity isn’t perfectible, it’s a constant struggle, it’s a job that never ends.

But it’s the progressive’s job.  The light we shine on corruption and injustice must always point to a brighter future.  Otherwise we’re just looking back in anger.  Looking back: That’s the conservative’s job.

The opposite of liberal debunking isn’t Pollyanna.  The answer to the corrosive, depressing liberal sorrows is an answer.  It’s a goal, it’s a thousand goals, it’s trying, failing, then trying some more, for ever and ever amen.

Or not.  We can agree with the conservatives and give up.  If everything is truly, helplessly, fatally terrible, well, we’ve had a dark age before.

I respectfully submit that things aren’t that bad now, not yet.  I have hopes for the future because I’m a liberal.  I have a vision that keeps me going.  I know there is inequality; I believe in equality.  I know there is dire poverty in a world of obscene wealth; I believe in less poverty and cleaner wealth.  I know that America hasn’t lived up to its promise; I believe in the promise of America.

When people are nagged to death about the sicknesses in our culture, they shoot the messenger.  When they fear the future, they become suckers for nostalgia, even fake nostalgia.

There is a political party which has spent the last four years peddling fake nostalgia, using ammunition the liberals handed to them.  Their leader is named Romney.

And if we debunking liberals refuse to offer the people hope, he’ll gladly sell them bunk.

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