A Little Fireside Chat
December 18, 2001
This column is in celebration of my first ever published
mail. I'm so proud!
I wasn't sure I'd ever achieve this level of notoriety. It's
truly an honor to know that I've pissed off conservatives
so much that they'd actually take out the time and the effort
to mail DU to call me a commie bastard with my head up my
ass. I'm telling you, this is when you know you've hit the
big time. It gives me a warm, fuzzy feeling in the core of
Not, mind you, that the mail included in the so-called hate
mail section actually is worthy, in and of itself, of a reply.
If it had been about something specific, like some sort of
flaw in my arguments, then I might have at least taken some
mild notice. As it is, my arguments seem to be so well-crafted
that the only response is to demonize me. That is a compliment
to my efforts.
Anyway, let me go back in time with you just a little to
point something out to you conservatives out there. Listening?
You made me.
I was on your side, very firmly, for a very long time, and
I had a lot of reasons for that. When I heard Rush Limbaugh
saying that Liberals do not want people to succeed, do not
want the poor getting richer, do not want the middle class
getting more money and prosperity, and want to perpetuate
misery to get more votes, I listened to you.
When you Freepers told me that California deserved to suffer,
and furthermore, that you had to make California suffer during
its power crisis, with your hero, Enron, leading the way,
driving PG&E and Edison into bankrupcy, because you needed
to create a lot of mean, nasty Californians who would riot,
protest, and vote Republican to get the mess solved, I listened
to you, and I remembered.
When you said that Bill Clinton was undermining the Constitution,
I listened. I heard your arguments. I saw the undermining
of the principle of telling the truth in court, particularly
by an officer of the court, as a dangerous precedent. I saw
the squeezing of witnesses using the power and privilege of
the White House as bending the limits placed on the Executive
Branch by the law. I heard, and I openly sympathized.
When you said that the concentration of power in the Executive
Branch by the creation of a parallel justice system forged
solely by the Department of Defense, with (by his own admission)
absolutely zero input from the Attorney General of the United
States of America, is okay, because it's meant to be used
against only the bad people, I remembered your pious objections,
and laughed in your face.
When you said that Gore's people were manufacturing votes,
by taking challenged ballots and arm-twisting the "neutral"
rep to go along with the declaring of a vote to be for Gore,
instead of a non-vote, over the objections of the Republican
rep, I was outraged, and hoped that the Supreme Court would
stop the theft of an election at the ground level.
When I watched Olson give a limp argument before the Supreme
Court, my heart sank. When I heard the split decision, I wondered.
When I re-read the decision, when I had more input months
later to look the decision over a third time, I saw the flaws
that were there for all to see: No case law cited. No precedents.
An order to say that the ruling shall not apply to future
cases. The citing of the "equal protection" clause which I
knew was the weakest leg the argument could stand on. I read
these things, and remembered my support of Bush against what
I believed to be a creeping coup.
When I heard how Republican representatives had challenged
vast numbers of ballots indiscriminately, including many that
were difficult to argue against being clear votes for Al Gore,
so that Republican reps could then claim that Democrats were
doctoring the votes during the re-count, I became sickened
Oh yes, you made me. You created me. You're why I chose to
come here in search of something different. I debated. I reasoned.
I did not curse, nor did I humiliate. I did not personally
attack. I stared in disbelief as my questioning of what others
were taking as dogma as an evil attack and evidence of my
own lack of worth as a human being, as a Commie fascist. (Funny,
I would think that a real Commie fascist would support military
tribunals, secret evidence, no civilian appeals, swift excecutions,
and the sealing of records related to them. Funny world, isn't
Do I hold bitterness?
Actually, not at all. That's the funny part. I'm so happy
a guy that I really see my days on Free Republic as a guerilla
intellectual warrior as a mistake of my youth. I was probing,
you see, for something that wasn't there: depth. I wanted
to find some sort of deeper intellectual core, the desire
to help the weak and the needy, the urge to build a more successful
nation, the essence of building and not simply destroying
I dug, and dug, and dug. Instead of finding diamonds in the
rough, what I found was simply more coal.
The creators of the theories of supply-side economics are
genuinely optimistic, caring people who believe in the greatest
good for as many people as possible, in particular, aiding
the fortunes of the less fortunate through benign economic
policy. The practitioners of these theories do not carry the
What I learnt in the bowels of the conservative Internet
was something I did not know, and did not enjoy finding out.
It is that those who practice these economic theories, to
provide as little as possible to the poor and the unwealthy
and to provide as much as possible to the wealthy, do not
do so because they believe it contributes to the ultimate
greater good of the poor and unwealthy, in terms of worldly
It is because the suffering of the poor is not simply necessary,
A cold, calculated decision is made deep in the hearts of
those who view the rich man as the key to prosperity: Suffering
brings conversion. Suffering drives people to the Republican
Party so that they, too, may join the winning side. If this
suffering were to end, the prospects for conversion would
dissipate. Consequently, the suffering must be made to be
more acute by any means politically possible.
Although the forms of this endeavour take many forms, using
income borrowed from future payments to Social Security recipients
to underwrite the elimination of the Alternative Minimum Tax
for corporations, as well as the retroactive refund of money
paid to the government because of this tax, is a particularly
glaring form of it.
So to put it bluntly, what I learnt is that Republicans desire
to take from the poor and give to the rich because it creates
I am not a Utopian. I do not believe that human suffering
will ever cease in this world. However, I draw a heavy distinction
between those who accept misery, and those who seek to inflict
misery as a means of gaining opportunities for themselves.
There is a common theme in this kind of action. Both economic
and social conservatives can back it; economic conservatives
can take solace in the rewarding of success (and the corresponding
punishing of failures, as in, failed human beings) as a form
of societal justice. Social conservatives can cheer the withering
of the state and the misery inflicted upon the least wealthy
of American society as a golden opportunity to save more souls
for the glory of God. It is not at all surprising that the
deliberate infliction of economic and other misery is a never-ending
quest for the Republican Party. There is simply a sincere
belief in the rationality and the justice of hoarding society's
resources for "those who truly deserve them".
However, it is this loss of faith in the common good that
was the death blow for my faith in conservatism. Hypocrisy
is common to all causes; it did not drive me from conservatism.
Extemism was not the reason either; all movements have extremists.
Rather, it was that in the end, my search for something greater
than myself ended up uncovering that in conservatism, there
is nothing greater than oneself, except God. The good of the
many is routinely disparaged in favor of the good of the few,
so long as the few are the correct people.
There is no principle, nor honor, in this.
It is a coward's choice to seek a society that will protect
one's selfish concerns above those of the common individual.
It underlies a complete lack of faith in humanity, but also,
a complete lack of sympathy for the suffering of humanity.
Indeed, this soon morphs into a hatred of all humanity that
is not part of one's tribe. As most any American is the member
of many "tribes" at once, this is at once a complex and a
simple phenomenon. However, ultimately, it is simply that
I cannot accept the common "sheeple" as the Enemy. I refuse
to accept them as my Enemy. They are not my adversaries. They
are those who should be aided by those who have the power
to do so, and that most certainly includes helping them to
It certainly has not helped my love of conservatism that
I have come to distance myself from religion. To put it simply,
others need God more than I do, and feel the need to create
a God in THEIR own image. Given this rather depressing example
of human psychology, I'd rather not be bothered with it. If
there is a God, I will stand firmly before him at the appropriate
time, with absolutely no regrets in my heart. I have aided
others as was my responsibility for having worked to achieve
the means to help, or hurt, my fellow human beings. If that's
not good enough, then it'll be an interesting conversation.
What makes me so confident in my own decisions is really
quite simple. I'm not in this for myself. Sure, I have my
dreams, but they don't revolve around politics at all. I could
walk away from this tomorrow and not shed a tear. Not that
I will... I have work to do, work that exists for the benefit
of others. I'm not the one trying to weasel pork through Congress
for my district or a tax cut for my social circle. I'm here
because of principle.
Today, principles are being stretched heavily. These are
the days of frontier justice, secret trials, and cries of
"the Enemy!" accompanied by charges of alarmism. By the time
that today's alarmists are tomorrow's concensus, it will be
too late. Perhaps it already is. However, a few people need
to actually stand up for certain principles.
The whole point of the Constitution, you see, was so that
morons could not simply throw away the freedoms that better
men than they died to earn. Nowadays, everyone says, "We need
the tools to fight terror." The tools are neutral.
They can be used to inflict terror as well as to fight it.
Next comes the argument, "Trust them. They're good, God-fearing
people." Jesus is not the President of the United States.
Were he, he would still have to answer to Congress and the
Supreme Court, and stand for free and fair elections: There
are no kings in America.
But, of course, a lot of you people are going to go ahead
and continue to argue these things anyway. A lot of you simply
haven't thought of what happens when a Democrat takes over
the tools that you will leave behind. What if Bush doesn't
get 8 years? What then? Will some Democrat expand the powers
of government even further than these precedents? Or will
Bush cite national security to stay on in power? These things
shouldn't be thinkable, but Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Ashcroft
have made them thinkable. These are dangerous times, for all
of us, and for our decendants.
I do see what is going on in the world right now. Bad things
are being justified as necessities for the greater good. The
justifications may make us feel like part of the tribe for
supporting them, but the details are devilish.
Someone has to point out not what we are winning, but what
we are losing.
For the cost of inflicting misery upon others for one's own
convenience is one's own soul.
It is a price I will not pay.
I will be true to myself.
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