Atlantis Alumni

Thursday, December 6, 2007

The United States: A Conservative Bastion

I had a spirited exchange at dinner last evening with a younger friend who believes that the U.S. is more liberal now than it was decades ago. He pointed to more tolerance of gays and Jews to back up his argument. Unfortunately, I had to strongly disagree with him. If it is the case that there is more tolerance of certain minorities today, I do not believe that the tolerance is would not find it in Des Moines or Paducah, for example, nor do I believe that increased tolerance of minorities that you find in parts of the "blue state" areas is a result of any shift to the left in this country. I think that the tolerance that does exist in certain relatively small areas of the country has happened in spite of our overall national shift to the right over the past four decades.

The last great liberal era in the U.S. occurred almost 45 years ago, when important civil rights legislation was passed and Medicare was instituted under Lyndon B. Johnson's "Great Society." With the election of Richard Nixon in 1968, we embarked upon our national journey to the right. Most notably, under the "Great Communicator," Mr. Reagan, the progressive income tax structure that was in place was gutted, adding fuel to the growth of economic inequality that today is nothing short of disgraceful. Right wing Republican presidents have predominated in office since Nixon, interrupted only by Jimmy Carter's failed presidency, and Bill Clinton's eight years of "centrist" governance that was marked notably by the destruction of welfare, called "welfare reform," which threw many poor people into the streets. "Dubbya" Bush, with the complicity of Democratic lawmakers, passed yet another tax cut for the rich during his first term and tried to destroy social security during his second term. Social Security, of course, is the most important lasting liberal program remaining from F.D.R's "New Deal," which was the great liberal era previous to LBJ's "Great Society."

On the social front, right wing politicians now universally demonize "illegal" immigrants to the point where hate crimes against them are on the increase. Attempts have been made to pass a national constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, a blatant attempt to actually write discrimination into our constitution for the first time in our history. A few "blue" states treat gays and lesbians better, but only one allows marriage and thirty some states have written discriminatory provisions banning gay marriage into their constitutions.

As for our stature as a respected citizen nation of the world, that has been destroyed by our illegal war and occupation of Iraq. We refuse to sign the Kyoto Agreement, the treaty that encapsulates the international movement to protect our environment. We, along with China, are the two worst polluters in the world. We have renounced the Geneva Conventions and we have engaged in the torture of detainees. We have gutted key provisions of our own constitution, removing the great habeus corpus protections that have been the hallmark of democracy and individual rights for centuries, and we are engaged in spying on our own citizens. The current president is a liar, war criminal, and a law breaker.

No, we are not "more liberal" now. We have, in fact, dangerously drifted far to the right both in terms of domestic and foreign policy. If this trend is not reversed soon, there are observers that think we could actually degenerate into a fascist state.

Who out there now running for president would reverse this shift to the right? Not Ms. Clinton, who recently voted for what is essentially another blank check that would authorize Bush to attack Iran. All of the Republicans would continue in the mold of the current president. Liberals like Kucinich or Dodd have no chance to be elected.

We live in a very conservative, backward country. I fear for the future.

Photo: Another colorful view of our "private' path trough the park.


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