Easy Liberalism?

To me, Liberalism is like homosexuality. I cannot recall ever choosing to be one. (Liberal, that is) Truly, I don’t think most Liberals ever consciously made that choice. When complex issues of the day get reduced to red/blue, I think most of us rely on what feels right. Lets not confuse this with “what feels good.” Anyway, this post isn’t really about Liberal vs Conservative, because I really think those two paths intersect quite frequently, and I am trying to eschew labels all I can.

I am currently taking inventory on what it is I spend time and attention with that occurs outside of my home. People that know me will tell you that I am of course involved with Democratic Party politics, and that I have advocated on behalf of undocumented workers, Gay/Lesbian rights, worker’s rights, and to a much smaller degree, environmental protection. The first three of those strike me as basic human rights issues, and I will never waiver in my positions on them. I believe that I have a great deal to learn about what I and my family can do WRT the environment. Its daunting. I will say that since we are attempting this together, it has been fun doing this as a family.

If I say then, that basic human rights is the foundation for the bulk of my positions on any given issue, why have I been so lax about certain issues where basic human rights violations are part and parcel? The death penalty comes to mind. Access to affordable health care. Unfair application of the criminal justice system. I’m sure there are others. Even trade, which is about as boring to me as opera, is rife with some of the worst human rights violations in recent history.

What to do? Like I said, I frequently take inventory. Until recently, I owned two gas-guzzling 4 wheel drive vehicles, one of which I loved like a pet. I was determined to change my driving habits, and my consumption of fossil fuels, so I sold them both, and replaced them with vehicles that will do the job and use far less gasoline. Check.

I shop at Walmart. There, I said it. I gave myself a pass on this because I am a busy person, and everything I needed was under one big ugly roof. I even used to say to myself, “Thank God for WalMart, where else would some of these people work?” I mean, how ugly is that? But I know I’ve said it, if not out loud, at least to myself, and I’m not proud of it. I think it was easier to justify when my kids were small, and toys and bikes and diapers and groceries were all there in one convenient location. For the most part, we’ve stopped buying useless widgets we don’t need, and likewise we have altered our food buying habits by learning to cook more, with less. Eventually, we hope to raise our own meat, and at least supplement what we buy with what we grow. Even if we don’t succeed at this, I just can’t in good conscience continue to hand them my money. I do not intend to judge others that do shop there, but once I became aware of certain things, and seen the damage WalMart does to communities, I just cannot personally contribute to it. Check.

Now I’m tired. Maybe its my age. It takes energy to remain outraged for extended periods of time. Then I get pissed at other people for not sharing my outrage, and get all outraged again, then I get tired, and the cycle repeats all over.

But I think that after I conduct my inventory, I should at the very least prioritize my advocacy. A friend of mine has recently called my attention to an inmate sitting on Death Row that she feels shouldn’t be there. I will read up on it, and if I agree with her I’ll help her launch her petition, because she asked, and it feels right to do it. A man’s life is at stake, it seems worth the ten minutes of my life to read about it.

Really, y’all, I’m not sure what prompted this post, other than the fact that I hate it when Liberalism gets reduced to “doing what feels good” and nothing else. I have to tell ya, it would feel a hell of a lot better to just drive my damn truck, throw my Whopper wrappers out of the window in the WalMart parking lot, and then go in and buy my kids Halo 3.



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32 responses to “Easy Liberalism?

  1. This post kind of gets me right in the heart. I don’t have any answers for you, but I think we do as much as we can without running ourselves into the ground.

    After all, you’re no good to anyone six feet under. And it’s not bad form to take time for yourself.

  2. Interesting thoughts, thanks for sharing. It’s good to take inventory once in a while. You’re surprised at the stuff you find, old useless things you thought you’d thrown away years before. Speaking metaphorically, of course.

    Today I was looking at the new 5,000-sq-ft houses built where a 2,100-sq-ft house used to be and thought about how a family with three kids once lived comfortably in that smaller home but now a family with just one child lives in the much larger home. And I wondered: why do we need such big homes these days? Back in the 70s no one had a problem raising their kids in smaller homes. What’s changed? I mean, my own house is pretty big and we’re tripping over crap everywhere, there’s not nearly enough storage for all the stuff we’ve accumulated.

    And I realized: we all just have so much more stuff now. The culture encourages us to consume consume consume, and then we need a place to put all this stuff, so we buy bigger houses, which need more furntiure, and on and on with the need to buy and consume and buy and consume. We’re headed for an iceberg and no one wants to acknowledge it.

    It’s hard to look at that in red/blue light, since liberals are just as tied in with the consumer culture as conservatives are. That said, I think an anti-consumer culture message is more likely to come from the left than the right. I haven’t heard any conservatives preach the “live simply so others may simply live” message; all I hear from that sector is pro-business messaging. “If it’s good for GM it’s good for America.”

    That’s just not true anymore. The world has changed. There are too many of us to sustain this level of consumption. It’s responsibility vs irrisponsiblity, not “what feels good” vs … whatever the alternative is?

    Anyway, I applaud your inventory.

  3. nm

    No one can do everything. Everyone must (morally speaking) do something. It’s good to be able to take an inventory, to see what one can add to what one already does. But, while sometimes that means adding things to be active about, at other times, in fairness to oneself and one’s family, it’s going to mean dropping some things. Just so you periodically re-figure it out.

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  5. “it would feel a hell of a lot better to just drive my damn truck, throw my Whopper wrappers out of the window in the WalMart parking lot, and then go in and buy my kids Halo 3”

    So conservatism is doing what feels good. Sweeet!

    All kidding aside, I think it’s good to periodically take inventory and re-prioritize, as needed. It’s a sign of good character.

    By the way, I’ve driven 4-cylinder cars my whole life. And I’ve refrained from adding to the consumption of future generations’ overpopulation. Take that, hippie!

  6. By the way, this posts reminded me of one of your earlier posts, the “leave the car engine running at WalMart” post.

    I thought of that today when I went to the vet’s office. The driver of a disgusting Hummer had left the engine running while they ran inside to do something; the wife was sitting inside the car with the windows rolled up and the A/C on. It was 8:30 in the morning, the weather was positively balmy. Roll the freaking windows down if you want to be comfortable. That crap drives me nuts.

  7. Hmmm, Ex, had you figured for a Jeep kinda guy.

    Beale, disgusting Hummer is repetitious.

    NM, sure, I know that, um, intellectually, but it is hard to turn off, shut down, unplug, what have you, and relax when there seems to be so much to do.

  8. “To me, Liberalism is like homosexuality….” Now that’s a catchy one!

  9. Oh, go watch a musical or something, Eli.

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  11. To me, Liberalism is like homosexuality.

    It sure is.

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  13. nm

    Mack, one thing I try to keep in mind when I start to beat myself up for not achieving my ideal of perfection is the explanation/exhortation from Pirkei Avot: “It is not required that you complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”

  14. Sound advice, NM, but I am still farshlugginer at times.

  15. nm

    Your attempts at Yiddish tickle me, as B would say.

  16. Dazzle me with your Spanish, Kibbitzer.

  17. Dude! She totally speaks Spanish! From which century would you like her to pluck pronunciations and slang from?

  18. Take heart, Mack, I hear even Al Gore uses electricity on occasion!


    The truth is, this “you gotta live the perfect life or you’re a hypocrite” nonsense is something conservative partisans like to throw at liberals, so no sense beating yourself up about not doing enough, too. It’s odd because they never let up mocking Ed Begley Jr. for riding a bike around L.A. or Daryl Hannah’s biodiesel campaign.

    So keep doing what you’re doing, buddy. You’re a good role model for your kids.

  19. Jon

    Whoa there buddy. Don’t be dissin’ opera.

  20. nm

    OMG, Jon, I totally missed that. Mack is dead to me now. Oh, wait, just a minute … he’ll be dead to me in just a minute. Mack, my spoken Spanish is pretty pathetic, but I do have some choice 12th-century insults if you’d like them: how ’bout fiducanul? You used to could be fined for calling someone that. OK, now you’re dead to me.

  21. NM, but if Mack is dead to you, I fear you’ll miss his stirring modernization of El parto de Juan Rana, in which Mack gives birth to my baby!

  22. Which one? ah, Hello Dolly! sounds good!

  23. nm

    I will forgive him if he will sing me romanceros of Pedro el Cruel.

  24. What I appreciate so much about you, Mack, is that you take the time to read and learn about the topics, causes, etc., that you are passionate about, and then you share it with your readers.

    Reading posts like these have encouraged (not belittled or berated) me to research for myself and make my own decisions.

    I am taking baby steps in trying to live a more simple life (i.e., giving away things I don’t need to the poor, conserving, etc.) and I have found that doing things like that is rewarding spiritually!

    Anyway, thanks for a great post, and also for dissing opera instead of the Bee Gees.

  25. nm

    Ginger is dead to me now, too, at least for a while. For a zombie she makes good sense, though.

  26. Well, Ginger, since NM has killed us both off, I’ll say a hearty thank you for acknowledging that when someone tells a personal story, the reader can either be encouraged to follow suit, or not, depending on the level of agreement. I still shake my head at th idea that because I demand more of myself, I am belittling others.

    Its bordering on pathological.

  27. nm

    I just don’t see how you can deny that you completely slammed opera. I was feeling all this admiration for you and everything, and then, blam! A gratuitous insult to the taste of others. Oh, I know, you’ll claim that you were only saying that opera bores you. But when you stick it into the middle of a moral reassessment like that, you are trying to give your boredom a moral force, to claim an ethical high ground for ’70s rock. And I’m not the person to let you get away with that, buster.

    Wait a minute, why am I arguing with a zombie?

  28. Again, NM, you oversimplify. And, again, these two seeming divergent types of music frequently intersect, no? I’ll ask you to revisit Bellini’s 1829 La Straniera, and then expect you to find a parallel to Rush’s La Via Strangiata, both of which eschew vocal ostentation in the extreme. Bellini had nothin on Peart. Smoke that.

  29. nm

    OK, you made me laugh. La Via Strangiata, huh?

  30. Jon

    I do think you’re right about the connection between opera and Rush. It’s just too bad Geddy can only sing the girls’ parts.

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