Wednesday, June 08, 2005
The Liberal Bias
From the free wallpapers at http://www.creativeclassicssales.com/wallpapers.html
Love the pitcher less, and the water more.
No one can live your life except you.
No one can live my life except me.
You are responsible. I am responsible.
But what is our life? What is our death?
The point is to perform every activity, from playing basketball to taking out the garbage, with precise attention, moment by moment.
Saturday evening we went to a party at the home of some new friends at Ohio University. Our host is from Bangladesh, and he and his wife, of Irish descent, had brought together a most diverse group of individuals, tentatively to warm their new house and check out the construction of his wine cellar...as well as its contents. There were couples from Bengal and Serbia, the local rural counties around Athens, and teachers at every level of education, many hailing, like me, from the Northeast. Faizul teaches in the College of Business, and some of his colleagues were invited. Dana and I agreed we wouldn't be talking politics in there. This would be a social occasion and we'd be on our best behavior.
But there was a young math teacher from Cincinnati, raised in Rhode Island of conservative Jewish roots, who had come to the party fresh from a round of golf. I noticed he and Dana had become engaged in intense conversation...and it was going on for quite a while. I continued becoming acquainted with the various fascinating folks, but eventually found myself close enough to Dana and her new friend to catch phrases like No Child Left Behind and that idiot Bush. They weren't arguing. I stepped in, ostensibly to change the subject, but they seemed to welcome my arrival. He is not a liberal, considers himself a centrist but has a history of voting Republican. However, he works in the public schools and finds his career increasingly hampered by conservative policies.
We commiserated for a while and the conversation began to move into the broader political spectrum. He said something very interesting to me. He said he thought liberals should stop being so defensive about the conservative charge that the news has a liberal bias. The very idea of news itself is a liberal idea, he continued. You aren't going to hear any news inside a closed institution. Why are we surprised the right wing wants government press releases published without question? Why the shock if reporters are hired and paid with tax dollars to spread the word about government programs? What if probing, dissenting, minority (like women?) reporters don't get called on at press conferences and find access difficult? Conservatives like to work hard and trust the hierarchy from which their orders come. Liberals are confused, disorganized hysterics, and why waste time on them? They just should shut up.
The notion of a free press being a liberal construct has been rather inspiring to me during the ensuing days. The conversation refreshed some thoughts I haven't had in rather a long time. I guess I've been looking at a lot of trees and not the whole forest. For many Americans the entire basis of our society is a liberal one, born from the Ages of Enlightenment and Reason. Has there ever been another nation that believed in an educated citizenry? Surely, feudal lords wanted the peasants as stupid as possible, but as Representative Ted Strickland added recently to that comment of mine, ready to go to war whenever the powerful say so. Among the first priorities of the young United States was a system of public, tax-supported schools. When radio and the telegraph and telephone were invented, the airwaves through which the technology travelled was considered public property. Our government was the steward to watch over the process for us, along with our public resources. Representative government is a liberal idea.
But our country has another side to it, another tradition. Like Australia, the United States was founded by people who weren't getting along where they were. Some were criminals or paupers, sent here to work off their debts and sentences. Some were dragged here in chains. Others came to take advantage of opportunities, strictly for the greed and fun of getting rich. Some came here to practice crime. We take pride that good conservative values and hard work can raise you up here through the class system. And we glorify the Wild West, our great outlaws, and even our more recent gangsters and celebrities of notoriety. We don't like people who "rock the boat," but we are attracted to headline-grabbers who perform deeds of outrage. We're a nation of law, but we seem also to believe that if you can get away with it, go for it. We're a nation that has experienced tragedy---wars, assassinations, catastrophes---but don't have a philosophy or religions really to account for tragedy and to include it and grow from it. Maybe we're a nation still in adolescence, without a rite of passage to adulthood yet in our tribal formula. We're a country that likes being kids, likes to play, a country of players. We're still getting to know ourselves, and whether or not we like rules...and how much of the playground is going to be ours.