Map of life expectancy at birth from Global Education Project.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

A tough day for me to post

I feel I should acknowledge the occasion, but that means I must say what I really think about it, and that's hard. Patriotism has become a pernicious force in this country. As generally understood today, it is synonymous with willful blindness, moral idiocy, and repudiation of the very ideals which, when I was younger, were widely held to define American greatness.

Contrary to George Lakoff, the fundamental political debates these days aren't about "framing." In an essay today, Lakoff says that "progressives" and conservatives are arguing about the meaning of the words freedom and liberty. Here are some of the examples he gives:

Progressives: There should be a freedom to marry. The government should not be able to decide who can marry whom.
Conservatives: ``Freely elected" government officials should determine who can marry whom. That's what a ``free country" means.
Progressives: Social security, the minimum wage, universal healthcare, college for all are ways to guarantee freedom from want.
Conservatives: Giving people things they haven't earned creates dependency and robs people of their freedom.
Progressives: The 45 million working people who can't afford healthcare cannot all pull themselves up by their bootstraps. An economy that drives down wages to increase investor profits creates a cheap labor trap. The trap works against freedom from want.
Conservatives: Economic liberty comes through the free market; government gets in the way. Government works against economic liberty in four ways: regulation, workers' rights, taxes, and class-action lawsuits.
Progressives: Freedom of religion includes freedom from having a religion imposed on you.
Conservatives: Freedom to practice religion for fundamentalist evangelicals means spreading the good news of the truth of the gospel, which implies school prayer, ``under God" in the Pledge, the Ten Commandments in courthouses, and the teaching of intelligent design.
Progressives: The president's spying on citizens without a warrant is a violation of freedom.
Conservatives: The president is just doing his duty to preserve our freedom.

Lakoff's scheme is procrustean. First of all, he is conflating right wing libertarians, neo-fascist imperialists, and Christian dominionists. They happen to have formed a political alliance of convenience, but they don't believe the same things. And once you recognize that, the false symmetry becomes obvious. Christian dominionists don't believe in freedom at all. They don't equate banning gay marriage (and what they really want to ban is homosexuality), teaching intelligent design, having organized prayer in school, and basing the law on the Bible with "freedom." They equate them with virtue, and they consider freedom (which they tend to call license) to be the enemy of virtue.

At the same time, libertarians don't want so-called "free markets" (which is merely a rhetorical device referring to a particular way of organizing and regulating markets) in order to set poor people free. They want "free markets" to further enrich and empower the already wealthy and powerful -- who pay them for their opinions. That many of the same people appear -- apparently contradictorily -- willing to tolerate abandonment of civil liberties, imposition of autocratic rule, and the pursuit of military hegemony merely demonstrates that they have faith that the autocrat will always be one of them, and use his powers for their advantage. They do not expect him to be unaccountable. They only expect him to be unaccountable to the mass of people through a democratic political culture and republican institutions. Of course he will always be beholden to the ruling class.

So enough with this "framing" nonsense. What we have here is a struggle for power. And it is the outcome of that struggle which will determine whether I feel loyalty to the United States.

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