Tuesday, June 11, 2013

The latest libertarian craze and the death of normal

I wrote the other day about how all of the recent so-called "scandals" are providing a platform for people who used to call themselves liberals to join up with right wing libertarians. It comes as no surprise that Edward Snowden supported Ron Paul's presidential campaign and Glenn Greenwald was a major force in the #StandWithRand movement recently. They are surely kindred spirits.

But take a look at similar statements made recently by rightwing radio talk-jock Rush Limbaugh and one of Daily Kos' favorite diarists One Pissed Off Liberal.

First, here's Rush:
This government’s already too big, it’s too damn powerful, and it’s too unforgiving — and this doesn’t have anything to do with competent intelligence gathering.
And now OPOL:
I'm saying our particular government, dominated and owned as it is by the 1%, is bad to the bone, lies through its teeth and supports all the wrong people doing all the wrong things.
OPOL then goes on to sound positively Glenn Beckian:
Dissent, which has been called the highest form of patriotism, may well be on its last legs in this country. It is now impossible to organize any kind of opposition, no matter how innocent or righteous, without government spooks breathing down your neck. Surveillance quashes dissent...all dissent. Just remember who the government thinks is a threat: peace activists, dissidents, kids who dare object to the raw deal being crammed down their throats.
In talking like that OPOL demonstrates his white-priviliged thinking. He is - of course - mostly referring to the white-dominated OWS efforts. There are reasons why that movement failed that have nothing to do with surveillance. We know that because a much more organized group of young people - the Dreamers - have faced even bigger obstacles and yet have been amazingly successful while they fight on. Here's what Tom Hayden - someone who knows a thing or two about protests and movements - said about them recently:
The Dreamers remind me of the Freedom Riders fifty years ago who, deciding they wouldn’t settle for life under Jim Crow, risked jail and racist violence until the Kennedy administration was won to their side, and a political party realignment began. The Dreamers have petitioned, engaged in civil disobedience, lobbied for legislation at state and federal levels, and refused to accept defeats along the way.
I don't know where all this is going. But I'm beginning to sense a potential realignment in our political culture. I've been talking for a while now about the beast in its death throes. Mostly I've seen that related to the white male dominance in the Republican Party. But perhaps some of the screaming we're hearing from the left these days indicates that there is a dying beast in our ranks as well.

We are living in a time of massive underground change in this country. Just after the 2012 election, David Simon called it the death of normal.
...the country is changing. And this may be the last election in which anyone but a fool tries to play — on a national level, at least — the cards of racial exclusion, of immigrant fear, of the patronization of women and hegemony over their bodies, of self-righteous discrimination against homosexuals...

America will soon belong to the men and women — white and black and Latino and Asian, Christian and Jew and Muslim and atheist, gay and straight — who can walk into a room and accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference, that there are no real majorities, only pluralities and coalitions. The America in which it was otherwise is dying, thank god, and those who relied on entitlement and division to command power will either be obliged to accept the changes, or retreat to the gated communities from which they wish to wax nostalgic and brood on political irrelevance.

Hard times are still to come for all of us. Rear guard actions will be fought at every political crossroad. But make no mistake: Change is a motherfucker when you run from it...A man of color is president for the second time, and this happened despite a struggling economic climate and a national spirit of general discontent. He has been returned to office over the specific objections of the mass of white men. He has instead been re-elected by women, by people of color, by homosexuals, by people of varying religions or no religion whatsoever. Behold the New Jerusalem...

Regardless of what happens with his second term, Barack Obama’s great victory has already been won: We are all the other now, in some sense. Special interests? That term has no more meaning in the New America. We are all — all of us, every last American, even the whitest of white guys — special interests. And now, normal isn’t white or straight or Christian. There is no normal. That word, too, means less with every moment. And those who continue to argue for such retrograde notions as a political reality will become less germane and more ridiculous with every passing year.
It would be naive to deny that we're ALL struggling with this kind of momentous change on some level. That a rear guard action showing up as "libertarian" has emerged should come as no surprise. And no, I'm not saying all this is directed at President Obama simply because he's black (although its hard to deny that's part of it). This is about the bigger picture of the general changing face of America - and white people struggling with what that means to their sense of entitlement.

What us white people need to do is get over our pity parties and do what Simon suggests...learn what it means to "accept with real comfort the sensation that they are in a world of certain difference."


  1. As a secret reader here, thanks for providing the hilltop sanctuary in the media sea of crazy.

  2. It's funny & sad to see Bradley Manning's supporters dropping him for Snowden overnight.

  3. It's been a long road, but I believe that with the help of lots of bloggers and people on twitter and the wonderful TOD family, I have finally gotten to the point where I am now comfortable with the incredible diversity in this country. I love all these terrific young people who come in every size and shape and background but who have one significant thing in common: They are Americans and they love this country.

    Acceptance is a beautiful thing. It's so much more fun to look at America and love it the way it is and not pining for that fantasy of what it used to be like. I remember how bad it was in the 60s and this white utopia that people think we had back then had a lot of down side to it. We are far more free now than we ever were then.

  4. SP, I have been writing a little thing about all this, and thinking. One thing I think you are on to, or at least suggest, is that we have a real problem in this country with totalizing thinking. I am not happy about any domestic surveillance program. I'm not happy about surveillance in general. But what I will say I don't do is look at the NSA program and say, "well, everything is over, then." I get the sense that a lot of people have an impulse, almost a lust, to get to a point where they no longer have to deal with complexity.

    Again, I don't want to put myself out there as somehow superior, but I do want to describe what I do. When I don't want to deal with complexity--and the ethics of modern governance are complex--I do something like go on a bike ride. I give complexity a break. Then, later, I return to it, recharged. I don't pretend things that are complex are simple.

    Bush and Cheney were very awful, and the one virtue about their tenure was that they simplified things. You really didn't have to think about what they were doing so much as take the right attitude. You knew that if they had a foreign policy initiative, it was probably awful. Same with domestic policy, really. It made everything very easy. I imagine that Obama, who is nothing if not complex, has tired some of our friends right out. Better to just say the man turned out to be evil after all than have to keep weighing the pros and cons of his every action.


  5. I replied on Twitter but will try to expand my response here. My issue with your argument is not that it doesn't contain some truth. Over-the-top comments by individuals like OPOL *do* smack of a blinkered worldview. On the other hand, there are a significant group of liberals who have been biting their tongues on these issues for years. It is totally expected that the latest revelations would provide an opportunity for this kind of disappointment and rage at our "former Constitutional law professor" President who, on any number of issues from surveillance, to Gitmo, to drones has utterly failed to roll back the abuses of the previous administration. Just as with Iraq, we'll take allies where we can find them, seeing as how we feel abandoned by those who reflexively defend Obama out of partisan loyalty. I don't think you're giving sufficient credit to those emotions or their current expression.

    1. I hear you about not giving sufficient credit to those with the concerns you articulated.

      But you also demonstrated that you don't hear me when you suggest that I "reflexively defend Obama out of partisan loyalty." Partisan loyalty has NOTHING to do with my position on issues and there is nothing "reflexive" about them either. I think deeply about my positions and - it seems - come to different conclusions than you do. If you want respect for your concerns, I'll also need some coming back this direction.

    2. The partisan loyalty comment was not specifically directed at you, but I understand how you took it that way. It's directed at a bunch of people in my Twitter feed and elsewhere who seem determined to discredit Snowden and dismiss the issue because Obama is president, regardless of the facts known and yet to be revealed.

    3. Thank you.

      I want to say more about hearing your positions.

      One of the problems is that the mouthpiece these days for many of those things is Glenn Greenwald and others who simply dismiss people like me as blindly following Obama. He and a lot of his devotees are impossible to have a conversation with. Believe me...I've tried. And in the process many of us have the same reaction you are suggesting you have to the "bunch of people in your Twitter feed."

      I spent years at Daily Kos and months at the Guardian trying to have honest conversations about these issues. Finally I gave up. If you'd like to do so in a way that is respectful rather than dismissive, I REALLY hope you'll visit here and engage. Or let me know where that kind of conversation is happening and I'll gladly join.

      When it comes to this surveillance issue, I'm still gathering information to determine how I feel. I don't see the possession of data as the central problem. The questions for me come from the potential for abuse depending on the structures in place and the oversight. How much the public needs to be involved in that (as opposed to the 3 branches of government) is still a question for me.

      On drones, Gitmo, war, etc. - if you're interested - take a look at the articles I've collected in the tab up top titled "Ending the Indefinite War." This is a position I've been advocating that liberals should take for almost two years. Folks like Greenwald steered us off course to discuss them in the context of civil liberties instead of war. I think that was a disservice to the cause and has kept us sidelined on this important debate.