Tuesday, April 11, 2006

I'm Tired of Explaining Myself

On Tuesday, I ran across this fluff piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer, written by a Major Kevin Kelly as a letter to the editor about the Good News™ in Iraq. Since the letter was accompanied by an e-mail address for the major, I thought I'd drop him a line to ask (nicely) if he was part of CENTCOM's or the Pentagon's propaganda team because he had used typical Rumsfeldesque talking points. I have yet to hear back from him.

In my e-mail, I gave the major my website address and figured that since he might stop by and discover that I'm antiwar, I should clarify that I do support the troops. Once I sent that e-mail, I walked away from the computer and asked myself a simple question: why do I feel the need to keep explaining myself?

The answer is simple, of course. The right-wing has so demonized people who are antiwar and liberal like me that we feel like we're constantly under attack. The reality is that we are. We get blog visits from CENTCOM, telling us there Iraq is full of happy stories. We are marginalized as traitors by right-wing "pundits" like Ann Coulter. We constantly have to explain that we're not all godless commies who should be rounded up and sent to Gitmo for some deprogramming. It gets annoying after a while.

However, the fact that we must stand up for ourselves seems to fall by the wayside for many American liberals who have now labeled themselves as "progressives"? What's a "progressive"? I have yet to see a definition with a clear platform.

In Canada, we've had so-called "Progressive Conservatives" (an oxymoron if I've ever heard one) since 1942. Liberals have been Liberals and the New Democratic Party is the party of more left-leaning liberals (those crazy socialists - gasp!). We also have assorted Greens and other lefty parties which are classified as "liberal".

After hanging around and posting at a couple of major American progressive sites like Daily Kos and Booman Tribune the past couple of years, it became clear to me that US "progressives" were simply liberals who refused to call themselves by that name anymore. To be "liberal" was to be associated with the likes of Senator Ted Kennedy and we all know the beating he's taken for decades as a latte-drinking, granola-crunching commie.

Following the 2000 (s)election of Bush and his appointed neocon buddies, many in the American Democrat base seem to have decided that the line between their party and the Republicans was a little too thin, so they pushed back by trying to move the Democrats further left. Despite the fact that many blamed Naderites and Greens for stealing votes from Gore, these new "progressives" actually latched on to their policies more than they like to admit. They knew the strong environmental platform of the Greens would appeal to a broad audience under the cloak of the Democratic party and also adopted the more rabid anti-corporate stance of Nader, even though they wouldn't attribute that fact to him. That's tantamount to blasphemy on some left-wing sites. In fact, there's still a certain amount of hatred expressed on some left-wing blogs towards the Greens and Naderites to this day and they clearly are less than welcome to join in the discussions unless they vow to change their ways and vote for the Democrats. "It's a two-party system, you know." That may well be, but those Greens, Naderites and Independents have much to add to this "progressive" movement and they are being pushed out just as hard as right-wingers have bashed Democrats.

Thus, many liberals became "progressives" - rejecting the more centrist Democrats like Joe Lieberman (D-CT) and embracing the more liberal-thinking politicians like Rep John Conyers, Rep Louise Slaughter (D-NY), Barbara Boxer (D-CA) and Sen Russ Feingold (D-WI), all of whom are considered among the new progressive heroes and all of whom are in the minority in the party. These are the new "progressive" politicians although, if you asked each of them what they might self-identify as, I'd bet $5 they'd call themselves "liberals".

We, on the left, talk tough. We discuss how we're not going to let those Republicans get us down no matter what they do. But, when so many have abandoned their own pride to the point that they can no longer call themselves liberals, what are they really saying to those right-wingers? In the war of ideologies, a name is just a name and one should be judged by one's principles. But, if one of those principles includes denying a part of yourself by having to relabel it, then how effective is one's public stance in the scheme of things?

And, that's why I'm sick and tired of having to explain myself - as an antiwar advocate or as a liberal. I know what those things mean to me. I've applied those labels to myself all of my life, as far back as I can remember, and no right-winger or "progressive" is ever going to take that away from me no matter how vicious, vindictive or in denial they are. Right-wingers tend to feast on making "the other" a suspicious character who is ready to destroy you at any possible turn. Just ask Karl Rove. He's made a good living at it.

Are you one of his victims or are you a survivor?

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