I confess I find a certain liberation and not-a-little strength in our re-classified status as ‘Radical Leftists’. Personally it allows me a freedom of comportment and behavior I never really had before. Being branded as a Bad Boy and a Danger to the Republic puts one outside the constraints of moderation and temperance, beyond the reach of shame and embarrassment. It’s a relief actually, and kind of a revelation.
‘Liberal’ was always a little lame in my book, and ‘Progressive’ never had the edge we needed. So it’s a bit of a rush to be labeled as Radical Leftists, political desperados of sorts. And ‘Radical’ has such a nice ring to it. It says: “Watch out, boys, he’s a fairly dangerous man.”
I have always romanticized the ‘Outlaw’. And the image of ‘the Rebel’—with or without a cause—has always been an American icon, sexy and bold and fearless. ‘Revolutionaries’ and ‘Counter-Revolutionaries’ have always been people of vision and courage. People they made movies about. And wahoo, now we is them!
I don’t know about you, but I feel it gives us a certain swagger, a certain panache to operate on the fringes of polite society. To push the boundaries of even some levels of im-polite societies. There is a certain je-ne-sais-quoi involved in bucking a dishonest President, of defying the mighty forces of the Executive Branch that he and his minions marshal. It takes balls to stand up to Power. It is heady stuff being a junk-yard dog defending the Constitution and staring down those armed reptilians who have usurped the flag and commandeered the term ‘patriotism’’ for their own purposes. I relish our newfound status as Enemies of this corrupt and now emboldened Administration. Wranglers for Science, we are. Swashbucklers for Truth! Barnstormers for Justice! Rabble Rousers for a Free and Open Society. Hell, yeah! I tell you, for me, it doesn’t get any better than this.
Throughout this current authoritarian regime, our status has been continually upgraded--from Moderate to Left-Leaning to Leftist to Radical Leftist. We have been promoted from week to week. Our ascension has been dizzying. All of this even though our positions on the issues have scarcely changed. Though it is true we have become more resolute. And more numerous. And more vocal. And as the President’s numbers fall, he and his followers creep further and further into an unprecedented far-right danger zone. As they circle the wagons tighter and tighter, Moderates become enemies. Anyone not in The Camp. Even Conservatives have become The Enemy. We now find ourselves brothers-in-arms with the likes of Mitt Romney, George Will and Bill Kristol. Imagine that!
Which is the reason the insults have escalated. The base requires raw meat, and we are on the menu. All of us, former Liberals, now holding the heightened rank of Radical, are propagandized as promoters of fascism. We have become a kind of demonized flank steak, put forward as the reason for the innumerable problems facing this country. There are no real communists around, just us Democratic Socialists. So we’ll just have to do. It is a dish served well-done, with relish, and the base eats it up.
But in all humility, as much as I covet it, I do not deserve the title of Radical. I accept it, welcome it, cherish it in fact. But I do not deserve it. None of us do. In truth, we are not guilty of the charges with which we have been accused. We do not HATE AMERICA. Never have. Nor sought its downfall. We do not “indoctrinate” our children nor “teach them to hate this country”. Never would.
No, the crime with which we have been charged is, quite simply, daring to confront and discuss this Country’s complicated and troubled past and its complex and unknowable future. We are charged with a campaign of creating “a web of lies about American History”, of “wiping out History” and “indoctrinating our children with far-left fascism”. The same hateful charge has been made against colleges and universities throughout this land. Ain’t that just something!
I do admit to being part of a campaign, but it is not one to “wipe out history”. It is one to review the History of America that we were taught. It is a campaign to look back at the tenets on which this country was founded and those who founded it and to decide where they succeeded and where they failed.
I am holding them and my ancestors, my progenitors, up to the light of day. By and large, I would say, they were principled and intelligent and had the foresight and wisdom to create a Constitutional Republic that put the governance of the people in the hands of its citizens. It was a revolutionary act, and they were brave for doing it.
But they were mortals and had their own self interests at heart. So they put in loop-holes that allowed them to live in the styles in which they were accustomed. To that end they committed abominable acts. They owned and traded in other human beings. They created finely worded and highly principled documents for one race of people while they bought and sold enslaved people of another race. The most hypocritical of acts.
This cannot remain an overlooked part of our History. It is not ‘water under the bridge’. Or if it is, we take it out, bucket by bucket, and clean it up before we put it back. Save that, we continue to drink from a poisoned water source and die a slow but certain death.
And those of us who choose to examine know that we are not “wiping out History”. These are not “magnified flaws” and “distorted facts.” This is rather a recognition of our own Historical failings. It is a presentatcion of the factual record to discerning young people and interested adults, of discussing what we did and how we could do it better.
This is in fact the definition of Education. It is the way Open, Democratic Societies teach their children. It is the way Informed and Open-Minded Cultures respond to previously unknown, newly revealed information. It is called self-awareness. It is called self-analysis. It is a necessary form of intelligence. It is a sine-qua-non for any enlightened and aware civilization. It is, in fact, a required part of being freaking Human.