Ummm...wasn't it the Right who invented this slogan?
An old member of the Industrial Workers of the World once remarked, “The most revolutionary idea in the world is a long memory.” A confession: I had a really bad short-term memory lapse recently and got sucked into a Facebook debate. How could I have forgotten that people who post to Web forums only want to engage in name-calling, not discuss topics of substance? Luckily my long-term memory is sharper. It goes back to the 1960s and it tells me that the American political Right is suffering from severe historical amnesia.
The issue at had was an announcement that President Obama planned to deliver a television address for American school children. Facebook posted a poll question asking whether the president should be allowed to do this without parental permission. Roughly two of three respondents vehemently opposed to Obama’s plan. Most couched their responses in high-toned principles about protecting parental rights, guarding against propaganda, and allowing children to have politics-free childhoods but you can count me among the cynics who say that’s was just sophistry used to mask ideological biases. The speech came and went and no American children were harmed in its deliverance. What did critics think the president was going to tell kids? That they should use drugs? That they should tell mommy and daddy they’re not eating their vegetables until they support a national health care plan? That kids should look at death notices and register to vote Democratic under those names? Let’s get real. Obama delivered a platitude-laden speech about staying in school, working hard, and how education will help them attain their dreams. One could have predicted nearly every line of this speech if, for no other reason, because it has been given by every president since Teddy Roosevelt.
What was more distressing was the anti-government rhetoric that flew fast and furious on the Internet. To hear libertarians, Republicans, and assorted right-wingers rant you’d think that ayatollahs controlled America. You'd also suspect that the American government was a vast conspiracy designed to oppress Americans, steal their paychecks, and force them onto communist gulags. Anyone has the right to believe these things, but the very act of holding such views is an intellectual contradiction for the Right. It is the first amendment to the U.S. Constitution that provides for freedom of belief, a document that is totally unenforceable unless guaranteed by a strong government. A government-backed Bill of Rights is an essential difference between the United States and, say, Somalia.
The right to redress grievances is also an American right. We need not approve of everything government does—I certainly don’t—but there is a world of difference between disliking government action and disapproving of the very concept of government. Here’s where my long memory comes into play. Back in the Sixties anti-war and civil rights protesters faced signs advising “America: Love it or Leave it.” They were called “radicals” for suggesting reform, but only a small far-Left fringe ever advocated overthrowing the government itself. So why is the Right getting a free ride on its anti-government rant? What it espouses is far more revolutionary than what the bulk of what the Sixties’ Left wanted. Isn’t it time to label the Right’s rhetoric “anarchist,” “anti-American,” and "treasonous?" Let’s break out the Mogadishu real estate ads and suggest that those who hate government move there. I hear housing prices are cheap.--LV