Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” --Isaac Asimov
A history lesson: Thousands of years ago, the Greek city-states of Athens and Sparta existed in a tense, mostly tolerant coexistence. Known for the wealth of ideas, intelligence, and advancing of the civilization of culture, Athens became a model for much of the modern world’s systems of government, the United States being no exception. Sparta, however, in many ways was much more barbaric, swearing allegiance to their land and their love of battle.
Sparta was useful to Athens in many ways, serving as the protector of Greek lands, revered even now for their defense of Sparta against the invading Persian armies in the Battle of Thermopylae (on which many movies have been made, most recently Frank Miller and Zack Snyder’s 300), and even fighting side by side with the Athenians against the Persians in the Battle of Plataea.
However, this co-existence would not last forever. During the Peloponnesian War, the stark differences between Athens and Sparta resulting in nearly thirty years of fighting, which the Athenians would ultimately lose.
Sparta, however, did not follow the custom of burning Athens to the ground, which would have erased their culture forever from history’s weave. Instead, Athens was allowed to remain, decimated by famine, disease, and the aftermath of their long war.
Here in the United States, we progressives are faced with our own Peloponnesian War, one that has been fought since the 1980s. From the moment Ronald Reagan stood in the place as the chief executive of this nation and declared that government was the cause for every ill in society, and the source of every problem that America faced, conservatism’s followers have been hard at work, actively seeking to prove the correctness of that statement, even if it meant creating the problems themselves.
I have listened to progressives, liberals, and folk who have paid attention to these last four years, and watched the expressions of people fall from teary, bright-eyed, and hopeful for the future that cold night in November of 2008, to weary, gloomy, and forlorn less than a month from this year’s election. It could be said that Barack Obama, in that first debate last week, truly represented the way we all felt, having to stand in confrontation against a man who is, as Jim Geraghty of National Review tried to defend against, the crossing of Gordon Gekko and Thurston Howell, III: worn-out, ill-prepared, and much grayer than he had ever been before in his life. And on the twentieth anniversary of the day when he spoke the vows of marriage to the most beautiful of First Ladies, his darling Michelle, it surprises me not, as a married man myself, that his demeanor was that of one who simply wanted to hurry up and get home to his beloved.
Many people on our side have begun a full-scale freak-out over the President’s performance, complaining about Obama’s failure to bring to light Mitt Romney’s pathological mishandling of the truth, in many cases, fully refusing to even handle it. When polls unfavorable to us come to the fore, we feel even more dejected. And as if that were not enough, conservative and Right-wing trolls pop up on Twitter, Facebook and other social media outlets with raging, incoherent, often personal screeds against us and our way of life, hubris on full display as if the election was won yesterday.
Progressives, it is time to renew our strength.
We face an enemy—and I use that term without apology—that is fully invested in the failure of this nation in the name of political and financial gain. With treasonous intent, and all the enthusiasm of those who have to be right at any cost, the Far Right, by way of the Republican Party, is prepared to treat this nation as their largest put option, betting against the prosperity of the nation at large so that their pockets can continue to be fattened far beyond one lifetime’s worth of spending. Whether you call it Trickle-down Economics, supply-side, or horse-and-sparrow economics matters not; for thirty years, the United States has been forced to endure this insult to their intelligence and best interests, as if those who are fully engaged in the unimpeded accrual of money and power, would suddenly stop and give the middle class the crumbs from his table, having enjoyed three decades of lawless unaccountability at the people’s expense.
We face an enemy who cares nothing about facts, truth, or reality. In fact, they eschew it with much relish, declaring quite boldly that their campaign would not be held responsible by those who make sure they are telling the truth. When good news came from the Board of Labor Statistics last week declaring that unemployment finally fell below eight percent, did the Republican Party put their country first and celebrate truly shared prosperity? No, indeed; instead, the Right ran to their own reality, declaring the numbers fake because they directly opposed their narrative of economic failure on Obama’s watch.
In an era where farces such as Love and Hip-Hop, Survivor, and Keeping Up with the Kardashians pass as falsely-so-called “reality TV”, the Republican Party has boldly asked this country to follow their idea of leadership; to despise a dog-eating, anti-colonial, leftist, socialist, communist Muslim Kenyan with a fake birth certificate and a tree in the Rose Garden made of food stamps, with the exact same name as the 44th President of the United States.
We face an enemy who cares nothing about the poor, the sick, or the less fortunate. The repeal of the Affordable Care Act, which ensured that no child would ever be rejected coverage because of a pre-existing condition, as well as make hundreds of preventive care methods mandatory under the law, has been a campaign promise for many a political candidate, even after the Supreme Court confirmed the constitutionality of the law. And instead of their candidate doing the right thing by the people he claims to want to serve as President, what was his answer to this nation’s unbelievably disproportionate need for some type of healthcare infrastructure? “Let them go to the emergency room.”
We face an enemy who loves, embraces, and purveys ignorance, replacing it with their “Judeo-Christian” values. People wonder why Mitt Romney went after something as innocuous as Sesame Street and Big Bird, a longtime staple in homes (many of them conservative; my nephew is a huge fan of Elmo) with small children across this nation. It is because of the intrinsic despising of anything intellectual, educational, or beneficial to a child’s development that does not include anything having to do with the Lord Jesus Christ. If it cannot turn a profit, and is not “holy unto the Lord” by their standards, they want absolutely nothing to do it, reviling it as “indoctrination.”
These are the flat-worlders of our day; people who deny the very clear realities of global warming, the fact that our children are getting smoked around the globe by other countries with respect to their education, and scoff at the idea that the federal government actually has an obligation to the children of this nation to provide them a solid education. Instead, they embrace inconceivable notions of slavery being a gift from God, sponsor the murder of rebellious children in accordance with ancient Mosaic laws in the Bible, and have no problem in telling people that God will send them to hell for having the audacity to cast a vote for a Democrat. These are people who reject public transportation as socialism, and see things such as high-speed rail projects as harbingers of a one-world-order!
Douglas W. Phillips, president of Vision Forum Ministries, has no problem in telling his followers how to vote:
The fundamental question pertaining to voting ethics which Christians must ask at this presidential election is this: "What are the binding principles established by God in the Bible for selecting a civil magistrate?" All other questions are secondary or irrelevant. Once this standard is determined it is our duty to wisely apply the principles and precepts to our American context and to obey. All attempts by Christians to obfuscate our duty to repair to "the standard" by sprinkling the debate with the theology of pragmatics and partisan politics is a loss to the Church because it means that we are more concerned with manipulating a political process then simply obeying the sovereign God.
Mind you, these are the people who scared many of their followers with notions of Islamist Sharia law slowly infiltrating American law and process…
These are people who literally have allowed every narrative they once held dear to fall to the wayside. Like a freshly peeled banana, the American public now sees the extremist, theocratic, anti-education, sedition-loving monster conservatism has become, no longer hiding behind guises of fiscal responsibility, strong foreign policy, or even ensuring the “rising tide” they used to preach about would lift all boats with prosperity.
This is who they are. And we underestimate these people at this nation’s peril.
I speak as one who once stood on their shores; spit their talking points, and preached their gospel. I was a conservative. And now, I stand proudly on the side of societal and cultural advancement, and fight for the rights of all people on these shores to be treated with the same respect, and given the same rights as everyone else in this country.
Our fight is nobler, more virtuous, and more beneficial to this country than anything the Right offers now. Our view for this nation is better for this country, and sees a country far greater than those who already view government as this nation’s hindrance ever can.
We cannot give up. We cannot become weary. We must find our strength, our purpose, and our resolve in the beauty and glory of our values. We must be able to look in the mirror and view ourselves as proud to call ourselves liberals and progressives.
And now we stand, less than a month away from Election Night 2012. Should we continue to remain in our feelings, and defer to those who revel in their wrongness, we will no doubt wake up on November 7th to hear the unbearable words, “President-elect Mitt Romney.”