Thursday, November 04, 2004

Bitterness is my right

You're going to hear a lot about "left-wing bitterness" in the following weeks. We should "accept the result", "embrace Bush's new mandate" and get over it.

Just like the right did when Clinton won in 1996.

Oh wait, they didn't. Instead they spent the next 4 years character assassinating the president and using every possible means to undermine and destroy him. And slandering his liberal supporters as traitorous scum.

There's a pure double standard here: blue state voters are slandered and caricatured as "effete urbanites" who are "out of touch with real America", while the red state voters are portrayed "heartlanders", who themselves of course have no need to respect the strongly opposing moral convictions of their urban, northern compatriots.

Well, our conservative friends have shown us the way. Bitterness is our right. And so I say this: Bush's supporters -- not everyone who voted for him, but those who, this time, had no excuse not to understand his true agenda and yet voted for him anyway -- are true traitors to the ideals of the USA as I understand them. And I would recommend that American liberals, or centrists, or even principled conservatives, can make no accomodation with them.

Intemporate? Maybe. But I tell you what: let Anne Coulter stop calling liberals traitors, and then we can talk about civilising the discourse.

Of course, I'm looking at them from the perspective of an outsider who simply admires aspects of American democracy. Let me tell you where I'm coming from here.

The Culture War

One theory gaining wide credence today is that gay marriage was one the significant wedges in this election, based on the number of voters who listed "morality" as a concern, and the strong suspicion that the anti-gay marriage measure on the Ohio ballot helped Bush. Well, if so, Bush's caricature of Kerry as a Massachusetts liberal sure worked. And yet, what on earth is wrong with a being Massachusetts liberal?

One of my favorite book about America is "The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass". In it, Frederick Douglass records, in the heat of civil war, his spirited call for free blacks to join the Union army and put and end to slavery.

By every consideration which binds you to your enslaved fellow-countrymen, and the peace and welfare of your country; by every aspiration which you cherish for the freedom and equality of yourselves and your children; by all the ties of blood and identity which make us one with the brave black men now fighting our battles in Louisiana and in South Carolina, I urge you to fly to arms, and smite with death the power that would bury the government and your liberty in the same hopeless grave. I wish I could tell you that the State of New York calls you to this high honor. For the moment her constituted authorities are silent on the subject. They will speak by and by, and doubtless on the right side; but we are not compelled to wait for her. We can get at the throat of treason and slavery through the State of Massachusetts. She was first in the War of Independence; first to break the chains of her slaves; first to make the black man equal before the law; first to admit colored children to her common schools, and she was first to answer with her blood the alarm cry of the nation, when its capital was menanced by rebels. You know her patriotic governor, and you know Charles Sumner. I need not add more.

The eloquence of this passage is astonishing. And its message of liberty unmistakable. Reading it recently, I couldn't help but think of another "emancipation" in Massachusetts, on February 4, when a court allowed, for the first time anywhere, to allow gays to marry. It may seem strange to link the liberty of slaves to that of gay men and women, and yet there's a common thread running through it: that of the love of liberty. The truth is Massachusetts has always been first. Always been first to champion the cause of liberty, and where such liberty has been cruelly curtailed, to boldly realise the birth of new freedoms for those who have been passed over by the universal guarantee of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

It is that America that I have learned about, and that America that I have learned love and respect, the America that is first to champion every new liberty even as the conscience of mankind shakes off its blinders to first dimly perceive it.

This new America that Bush represents: this southern dominated America that wants, as Bill Bennett says, a culture war to return to "traditional" Christian values that are all too often hypocritical or masks for pure, unreasoning prejudice; this arrogant faction that champions conciliation even as it stacks the supreme court and destroys the honor and moral authority of the USA abroad, who abandons fundamental principles of the constitution, while staving off all criticism by feeding slander and lies through a disciplined, rampantly partisan right-wing press and, whenever pressed, to shout "traitor!" and claim to be the true patriots protecting the USA from the effete liberals: that American I don't recognise. At all.

And yes, I'm bitter about it. Some day I wanted to visit that America I read about, and now I wonder if I ever will.