Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Liberals are irresponsible, profligate, godless, selfish, bed-hopping cowards

Andrew Sullivan gives us a particularly loathsome example of his smug self-righteousness:
Personal responsibility is also one [reason to vote conservative]. When I think of a gay person who lives responsibly, saves his or her money, goes to church, contributes to charity and settles down in a stable relationship, I think: conservative. When such a couple wants to get married, I think: conservative. When such a person decides to serve his country in the military, I think: conservative.
Sorry, Andrew. These are not "conservative" virtues or characteristics, they are characteristics of most ordinary, civilized people. The implication that liberals--gay or straight--are irresponsible, profligate, godless, selfish, bed-hopping cowards is insulting and base.

Although I'm an atheist and not a churchgoer (but many liberals do go to church), this "liberal"[1] is a responsible person, is employed, has a savings account and (soon) investments, is married, and contributes to charity. I never served in the military (and neither has Sullivan, to the best of my knowledge), but I pay my taxes and I recognize at least in theory that we must have a military to protect our nation. (The military has not, however, actually been used for such a purpose since 1944, or perhaps 1812, or perhaps even 1776. But that's another story.)

None of this has anything at all to do with "conservatism", "liberalism" or anything in between.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I believe that I have a positive obligation to actively promote the happiness of my fellow citizens and my fellow human beings, and this responsibility is by virtue of my citizenship, not just my particular preferences.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I believe that as much as I admire what's good about my country, we have no sort of obligation whatsoever to promote our values at gunpoint; indeed we have an obligation to the contrary.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I do not become paranoid and delusional and see existential threats in a few criminal acts, however horrific, perpetrated by cave-dwelling religious fanatics.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I figured out that "compassionate conservatism" is an absurd oxymoron; and I figured it out in 1999.

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I recognize and reject the conservative dog-whistle of "personal responsibility" as "I've got mine, Jack."

I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I do not ask for whom the bell tolls: It tolls for me. Every time.


Update: (25 Feb 07) This little rant is getting a fair amount of press. I think it's worthwhile to make my position crystal clear in simple declarative sentences.

I don't object to Sullivan drawing a distinction between conservatism and liberalism on moral grounds; I agree that the distinction is indeed moral. I don't object to Sullivan (or anyone else) presenting the moral distinction in a way favorable to his own position; this is the function of any advocate, including myself. I find Sullivan's appropriation of ordinary civic virtues to the position of conservatism to be objectionable and intolerably sanctimonious.

All of the distinctions I myself draw between liberalism and conservatism relate to actual differences between how I see liberalism and how I see the stated positions of many conservatives. I may be mistaken, but some of the comments seem to indicate that I have indeed hit points of real controversy.


[1] Technically "anarcho-humanist"; I'm using "liberal" here to mean just "not a conservative".

19 comments:

  1. Good points, but directing them against Andrew Sullivan makes you look silly. And petty. Sullivan's not the strawman conservative you are knocking down in your post.

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  2. I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, etc.


    Talk about smug self-righteousness.

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  3. "I'm a liberal because, unlike conservatives, I believe that as much as I admire what's good about my country, we have no sort of obligation whatsoever to promote our values at gunpoint; indeed we have an obligation to the contrary."

    I'm happy to hear you say that....... so if I don't want to pay my taxes to support ridiculous programs that liberals (or conservatives) are spending my money on you'd be against sending cops to my home to collect, right?

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  4. Fred, I really don't think directing his comments at Sullivan makes him look petty or silly. He's responding to something that Sullivan wrote. How else can he respond to something that Sully wrote without quoting him in the first place?

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  5. Boy you were spot on except for the "unlike conservatives" business. The point you made and then left is that equating any sort of morality to liberal vs. conservative ideals is ridiculous and counter-productive. It hurts when Sullivan does it because he's such a pleasure to read otherwise, and one can feel such hope that a self-avowed, outspoken, conservative blogger talks like he actually gets something outside his own sphere. Sinking to that level though undermines what I think is an inspiring set of points.

    Let us not forget either that, no matter how discriminatory and chavanistic people like Sullivan can be, a world without liberalism is a world without: democracy, christianity, sufferage, civil rights, abolition, etc etc. THIS is why we are liberals: because of the inherant moral rightness of these ideals. Ideals that have in common nothing except the subversion of a current power structure in favor of what the entire world comes to accept, eventually, as the highest aspirations of mankind. Just not without a fight.

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  6. Mark,

    Boy you were spot on except for the "unlike conservatives" business.

    When I talk about "conservatives", I talk not necessarily about Sullivan himself but rather about trends in the general population of people who self-describe as "conservative" as well as people in positions of authority in conservative institutions. It's unclear, for example, why we should consider Sullivan's version the "true" version of conservatism, rather than, say, George W. Bush's, who has actually "won" (in a manner of speaking) a couple of elections as a conservative.

    On the other hand, some of my criticisms of conservatism would seem to apply to Sullivan's own thought.

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  7. You certainly have the right to pursue happiness but unfortunately you want to heavily tax and control your neighbors to fund YOUR preferred social improvement theories.
    And to second the other poster, you just love it when your theories are enforced at gunpoint by tax collectors and gun controllers.
    Force and coercion are the tools of the liberal.

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  8. "Force and coercion are the tools of the liberal."

    Right. And up is down and black is white. Staggering.

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  9. You confuse Sullivan's use of the word "conservative" with conservatism, especially its current manifestation (i.e., neo-conservatism). You even say yourself that what he describes "are characteristics of most ordinary, civilized people," but then miss his point entirely: he intended to describe most ordinary, civilized people. What is called "conservative" in politics is merely whatever its user deems appropriate. In Sullivan's pragmatic view of the world, "conservative" means responsible, moderate, and sensible--i.e., most of us. It is not meant to exclude, but rather to include; to simply identify an abstract idea with concrete specifics.

    You take it for what it isn't: an attack upon political opponents. You've become so accustomed to being assaulted by the political "right" that you assume any discussion of "conservative" is inherently meant to be juxtaposed with "liberal." Sullivan is certainly not perfect, but he isn't the type of person to launch attacks on broad groups of people.

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  10. [irony]I can't imagine how I could possibly confuse the terms "conservative" and "conservatism"[/irony]

    In all seriousness, if Sullivan were sincerely trying to talk about universal values, values obviously shared by most civilized, rational people regardless of their political self-identification, why would he use an blatantly polarized word like "conservative"?

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  11. "You take it for what it isn't: an attack upon political opponents. You've become so accustomed to being assaulted by the political "right" that you assume any discussion of "conservative" is inherently meant to be juxtaposed with "liberal." Sullivan is certainly not perfect, but he isn't the type of person to launch attacks on broad groups of people."

    Except of course for those who demonstrated and advocated for an alternate to invading Iraq. You recall, right, the 5th column?!

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  12. Sullivan is certainly not perfect, but he isn't the type of person to launch attacks on broad groups of people.

    Andrew has had a very annoying habit lately of, for example, accusing everyone on the "left" who was anti-war of being amoral, despite the fact that a blind person could see the risk of this outcome. Now that he a hundred thousand Iraqis later come to the conclusion that maybe it was not such a brilliant idea after all, his opposition to the war is somehow more moral?
    No, Andrew has made it clear he quite detests the left, even more so when they're right, though it comes as backhanded slaps.

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  13. I'd also like to say that it's important to affirm that one can be moral without practicing any religion, and certainly without practicing any "respectable" religion.

    In any case, does Andrew Sullivan admire churchly homophobes because of their presumably commendable religiosity? He might have some way of explaining away Biblical homophobia, but he ought to take such arguments to those who wave the Bible against homosexuality. Like his church's hierarchy and Religious Right leaders.

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  14. "The military has not, however, actually been used for such a purpose since 1944, or perhaps 1812, or perhaps even 1776. But that's another story."

    Yeah, since 9/12/2001 doesn't factor in there, the real story is you're not a liberal, but a pacifist. And if you're not even sure 1944 fits in there, you're not a liberal, but an isolationist.

    After 9/11, almost every single liberal supported an aggressive military response. After Pearl Harbor, a liberal led the country to war. You sir, are no liberal.

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  15. "I'm afraid my dislike of anyone to the left of Joe Lieberman is not as intense as my dislike of religious terrorism." -- Andrew Sullivan, 21 February 10:15 am

    Given the statement above and its mind-boggling twist on damning by faint praise, Sullivan himself makes the best case against arguments that he's reasonable.

    I don't know if Sullivan's a strawman conservative or if he has some (well-hidden) altruistic purpose for using the word 'conservative'. But for all his admitted intellect and insight, he drops the ad hominem slaps at liberals often enough that it's clear he's chosen to a) be a conservative, b) define what a conservative is to his benefit, and c) by extension, demean liberals because they deviate from his definitions.

    His game, his rules, play at your own risk.

    Cheers,

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  16. Not sure why Andrew used "another" in his post linking here, as in 'Another Touchy Liberal'.

    I agree with Christopher above about this: "You've become so accustomed to being assaulted by the political 'right' that you assume any discussion of 'conservative' is inherently meant to be juxtaposed with 'liberal.'" Except, if the readers are supposed to avoid this trap, why shouldn't the writer, as well?

    Anyway, it wouldn't be the first time that A 'in-the-middle' S has claimed a little too much for conservatism (I've been keeping my liberal eye on him ...).

    But, the title of this blog seems to be at odd with this, so it's all even!: "... this "liberal"[1] is a responsible person, is employed, has a savings account and (soon) investments, is married, and contributes to charity."

    All the best. Enjoyed being on your blog for the first time!

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  17. This little rant is getting a fair amount of press. I think it's worthwhile to make my position crystal clear in simple declarative sentences.

    I don't object to Sullivan drawing a distinction between conservatism and liberalism on moral grounds; I agree that the distinction is indeed moral. I don't object to Sullivan (or anyone else) presenting the moral distinction in a way favorable to his own position; this is the function of any advocate, including myself. I find Sullivan's appropriation of ordinary civic virtues to the position of conservatism to be objectionable and intolerably sanctimonious.

    All of the distinctions I myself draw between liberalism and conservatism are relate to as actual differences between how I see liberalism and how I see the stated positions of many conservatives. I may be mistaken, but some of the comments seem to indicate that I have indeed hit points of real controversy.

    ReplyDelete
  18. Do you think a swift kick might jump start sullivans nonworking brain

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  19. o you think a swift kick might jump start sullivans nonworking brain[?]

    No. If actually contracting AIDS and observing the conservative response to this deadly epidemic didn't do it, nothing will.

    ReplyDelete

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