Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.
In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.
Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.
Wednesday, September 08, 2004
Question Number Seven: John Kerry is telling audiences that U.S. involvement in Iraq was the wrong war at the wrong time. President Bush has continued to describe the war and subsequent occupation as a central front in the war on terrorism. Is war in Iraq connected to a war against terrorism?(0) comments
This question seems to assume that if John Kerry was for the war on terrorism, he would be in support of the war on Iraq. But that tips the scales in favor of Bush and his war, because it links Iraq and the war on terror. That is not really fair, because this is what the Republican machine has been drilling into us: If Kerry opposes the way our President conducted and justified the war on Iraq, then he is against the war on terror and, moreover, is not consistent with his own views, since he favored granting the President the authority to use military force.
But before we got onto the global war against terrorism, we needed to pursue and capture those who began all of this: Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda network. We hear hopeful news about the hunt for bin Laden every once in a while, but the fact is that Osama is still calling the shots and al-Qaeda continues to operate. If we had put more than just a fraction of our resources into defeating al-Qaeda and capturing bin Laden, we would have been able to achieve some sort of justice and closure for the atrocities of Sept. 11th. Instead, we have a wound that some Republicans are determined to keep open.
Shouldn't we honor the dead of 9/11 by pursuing those who perpetrated this act? We've gotten sidetracked from this goal. Instead of focusing on al-Qaeda and bin laden, Bush and his war hawks could not wait to get into Iraq (something they had been aching to do from the day they took power). Instead of making an example out of al-Qaeda and showing the world that if you attack the United States, you can count on being put out of business, we went after Iraq. We went and deposed one of Osama's least favorite people: Saddam Hussein. It must have puzzled and pleased al-Qaeda to have us destroy a country its members they hated and unseat a secular ruler they despised.
There was never a link between al-Qaeda and Hussein. The conservatives know that, and even Bush has had to admit that there is no evidence of any link whatsoever. And yet in we went.
So is the world safer without Hussein? Maybe, but only a little safer, a little. If I had lost someone on 9/11 I would want to know what our government was doing to get al-Qaeda and Osama bin Laden.
I would want to know why Bush flip-flopped on his promise to find the perpetrators of this crime and bring them to justice. What happened to that promise? He says he is staying the course, but it's his course, not ours. He seems to be proud of that, but for my money, such an attitude is the antithesis of democracy and true leadership. Our leaders should listen to the polls and the people behind them, not ignore them.
Iraq is part of the war on terror, but only since we sent in troops. Now it is a hotbed for terrorists who are feeding on the chaos we created. Now terrorism is a huge problem in Iraq. Was it before? No. Had Hussein ever committed an act of terrorism directly against the United States? No. Had Iraq ever made a threat against the United States? No. And yet in we went.
Instead of getting Osama, we punished his extended and estranged family: Iraq and Hussein.
It was wrong to initiate a global war on terror until we had taken care of the perpetrators of 9/11. The war against terror and the war in Iraq are very separate things - indeed, the latter has nothing to do with the former - but they have been sold to us as a package deal. Yes, we need to make sure terrorism does not happen again on American soil, but how is Iraq making us safer? If anything, we are more vulnerable than ever, more hated, more likely to be attacked. Need any proof? We are now past the 1000-American-troops-dead mark. Just think: Eighteen months ago, when Bush declared "mission accomplished," we had lost only 130, and that was already too many!
The war in Iraq is indeed connected to the war on terrorism, it started it. We now have a whole new cast of characters to fight, thousands of new enemies to fear. But make no mistake, Iraq had nothing to do with the events of 9/11. That is the real tragedy here. Had we focused on al-Qaeda and bin Laden, we would have been an unstoppable force. The world would have given us every bit of support it could muster. And I believe we would have had Osama by now. Iraq was and continues to be a distraction. It was a hard target, perfect for our military. But it has done nothing to make the world safer. It is fantasy to think that the war in Iraq has done anything to weaken al-Qaeda. If anything our lack of judgment has created a world dominated by terror, which, if we ask no questions, is exactly what will get Bush elected. That is rich indeed.
Monday, September 06, 2004
Question Number 5: What makes you a liberal? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?(0) comments
The phrase "Liberty and justice for all," sums up why I support progressive social and political values and policies. This sense of fairness was deeply ingrained in me long before I knew what politics was.
I believe in compassion and respect for all God's creations, and I've been influenced by the saying attributed to the Iroquois confederacy, "In our every deliberation let us consider the effect on the next seven generations." This influences my views regarding the effect of policy on people (including other nations), animals, and the earth and environment as a whole. I believe we should have a government "of the people, by the people and for the people."
Government should not be something outside us that we try to make "small." (A dictatorship with no involvement of the people is the smallest form of government!) I also have a basic understanding that we are all interdependent. As much as we might like to think of ourselves as "self-reliant," such people do not really exist today. No one makes everything they need for themselves. We are all dependent on others for our food, clothing and shelter.
I believe we should have a government and an economy that helps to bring out the best in human potential, qualities and values. I think there is enough on this earth for all to live a decent life without resorting to wars over resources and "markets." I also value constant thinking, analyzing, and re-evaluating.
The right-wing agenda usually favors those who already have the advantage over those who don't - the wealthiest 1 percent over the rest of us, white over other "races," men over women, straight over gay, etc.
I believe what America needs now to solve the problems we face and to move forward is a more progressive direction than we have ever seen before.
How I developed this view is encompassed by my life. I grew up in a rural Southwestern Pennsylvania area at the tip of Appalachia. My father was a brakeman on the railroad and cynical about politics. My mother worked as an office researcher and social worker before marrying. Together, they both ran a small business for a decade. I did not realize it at the time, but I benefited greatly from pro-grams developed to fight the "War on Poverty" - bookmobiles, films, plays, lunch programs, etc. Much of the funding for these types of programs has since been cut.
As a very young child, I can remember always wanting to be good and to do good things. I could not understand children who thought doing bad things was fun. I always looked forward to attending church and Sunday school and prayed often. It hurt me when children made fun of others and I always came to the defense of the ones who were wronged.
I remember holding my hand over my heart and being so proud to be part of a country that was all about "liberty and justice for all." It seemed then that the main thing I should do to help the world was to develop my skills in math and science and be good at a scientific career. Automatically this would be helping towards liberty and justice, since that was the direction of our whole nation. Yes, I knew about racism and other injustices, but felt that was just due to uneducated people. It never occurred to me that intelligent or well-off people would support such things.
As a pre-teen and teenager, I began to see hypocrisy and cracks in the facade. When our minister died, we received word that we would be getting a minister from India. I remember my shock when some of the parishioners expressed feeling that they did not want a minister who wasn't white. Didn't they really believe we were all God's creations? Always interested in meeting new people, I looked forward to the minister coming. Then, I became disappointed when he seemed more interested in gold jewelry, his Cadillac, and other material wealth than in justice. He gave sermons saying that God supported the United States in the Vietnam War and that God did not support other nations.
I had friends with older brothers who had gone to Vietnam, and the protests were becoming larger. When they were small, my mother thought the protesters were just crazy. As the demonstrations increased, she decided she should read everything she could find about Vietnam. She became the only anti-war activist of sorts in our tiny town, putting out a newsletter on the church mimeograph (despite the differing views of the minister.)
We both became active in the McGovern campaign for president in 1972.
In 1974, I entered the University of Pennsylvania's School of Engineering. I decided to study bio-engineering. I loved math and science. I figured I could make the greatest contribution to the world by being good in a scientific career, since most people are not good at math and science. However, the coming year would instead be a turning point in my political development, with increased understanding of the importance of the role of class and corporate economic interests in national and world conditions.
The first semester I had to take one elective along with five math and science courses. I chose a course with the word "democracy" in the title because I knew I supported democracy. This was a turning point my thinking.
The course was about the coup in Chile a year earlier that overthrew a democratically elected government that was making improvements for the majority of people. We learned the role the CIA and U.S. corporations played in orchestrating the coup, and in installing the Pinochet dictatorship and paramilitary death squads. At first I could not understand. Why would my CIA, my corporations do such a thing? Weren't they for democracy and liberty and jus-tice for all? I didn't want to believe it. But the more I read and analyzed, the more I began to see it was true. I also became convinced by multitudes of evidence that the more U.S. corporate investment in Latin America, the worse the living standards of the majority of people.
Until then, I had thought that corporations produce jobs and make everyone's life better.
In 1974 and 1975, I also became friends with Iranian students who had been victims of the Shah and his SAVAK secret police agents. They told me about the role my government played in overthrowing a democratically elected government there. I started to see this was a pattern not just in Lain America. It was also around this time that I began reading of CIA and U.S. military support for General Zia of Pakistan who was supporting the training in Pakistan of extreme fundamentalist Islamists from Afghanistan. There was a progressive government in Afghanistan at the time, with women playing a major role in society. Again, I wondered why my government would be supporting fundamentalist Muslims who didn't believe women should even be educated.
The more I have read and learned, the more I've become convinced that the foreign policy that guides our country has virtually nothing to do with the "national interest." Instead, the economic interests of the top 1 percent are what rule. Then they convince us to spend our tax dollars and the lives of our young people to fight against our own interests. So, my basic values and increased understanding and analysis have led me to support progressive politics.
Question Number 5: What makes you a liberal? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?(0) comments
I am a liberal mostly because I assume certain things about human nature.
I believe that left on our own we will hoard and protect what is in our procession. We will also try to eliminate any competition that threatens our stores. I do think there is such a thing as altruism, but it is an extremely rare occurrence and it may not even exist in its true form (saving a stranger's child from a icy river and leaving your own to die is true altruism).
But just because this is our nature does not mean that it is the right way to live. I think the reason we are such successful mammals is that we have learned to over come our nature and structure ways for us to care from one another. It is somewhat counterintuitive from an individual point of view, but it is pure genius when we consider the whole group.
In fact, it is impossible for us to live in a society without some form of group sacrifice. If we do not look out for the young, the old, the weak and the slow, then we dissolve into separate entities, armies of ones, and we are back to survival mode.
We can do better than this. I think the basis of progressive liberalism is this attention to those who do not have as much as others. It is a check on the urge to hoard, protect and isolate.
Both of these elements are present in our American ethos, but we do not have enough compassion in our government. Conservatives tend to play on our desires to have, not our responsibility to give.
Growing up with Reganonmics I came to see that the trickledown theory is just that. When companies make profits, they do not hire more workers or raise salaries. They squirrel it away for themselves and corruption seems all too easy. Of course this is not true across the board, but how much proof does one need to realize that corporations are naturally greedy and selfish like the people that run them and the genes that run them. Not a pretty picture.
While it is indisputable that capitalism and a free market do increase the standard of living, it is based on human greed. We should not measure the wealth of this country in GNP but in the distance between the richest and the poorest Americans. That gap, sadly, has been widening.
As a liberal I believe that this is an important measure of who we are as a people. I also believe that government should have a role in closing this gap. We need to structure our society to curb our tendency to "take and spend."
Society can help by structuring compassion and making sure that we take care of those less fortunate than ourselves. This includes honoring personal privacy, health care, fiscal responsibility, job creation, and tax relief only to those who need it. I want to live in a society that errs on the side of generosity.
Before becoming a teacher, I worked for four years as a family therapist in the some of the poorest neighborhoods of Hartford, Conn. -- It's worst than you think -- and what I saw were a few people who were riding the gravy train, but the vast majority (90-plus percent) were trying to make a better life for their children. I learned that I had so much more than them simply because of the accident of my birth. I will never forget this fact. I have such trouble with the assumption that all people start life at the same mark.
Too many Americans were born on third base, and they think they hit a triple. I don't make much money, but I am happy to support a country that tries to support the weakest most oppressed members of our society. I am not so happy about supporting a country that favors those who were born on third base. One of the most revealing and disturbing scenes from Fahrenheit 911 is when Bush greets a crowd at a fundraiser dinner party. "What an impressive crowd: the haves, and the have-mores. Some people call you the elite, I call you my base." Maybe we put up with this elitism because we think that someday we will be a "have-more."
But for me, this attitude makes it difficult to consider Bush a Christian, at least one that reads any of the gospels.
More than anything, I am a liberal because of my Christian faith. Many Christians (especially Evangelicals like myself) have lost sight of their namesake. They live in fear of anything outside their world: mostly terrorists and liberals. I believe that being a Christian means being liberal. Too many Christians have favored a set of cultural practices – from aggressive intolerance of diversity (spelled D-E-V-I-L) to defensive protectionist patriotism – over the essence of what Jesus taught about carrying people's burdens, serving the less fortunate, praying for your enemies, answering evil with love, and doing everything in your power to give our wealth away to the poor. This is difficult stuff, but as a Christian, I simply do not see this in the conservative platform. This is important to me.
You can accuse me of living in some fantasy world, but in fact the fantasy world is the one where there are only two groups of people: those with us and those with the terrorists.
Now that I have children this is more than just ideas. It's serious stuff. I refuse to raise my children to fear the unknown or the "other." I would be so sad if all they thought about was protecting their wealth and watching over their shoulder for someone who might be trying to take away their "stuff." There was a time in my life when I was very conservative (college), but as I got older I realized that life is bigger than what you can "conserve" and life is boring if you live your life trying to protect something that does not need to be protected.
I am a liberal because I think we have lost our way and let ourselves be swayed by fear. That fear has manifested itself in a kind of nastiness that has gained ground in our society, especially in the corporate world. Being from the Midwest, I don't do well with nastiness and I was taught to be skeptical about the agendas of big business. I was raised to be kind to people and show them respect, even if they were different from me. I was raised to keep my anger or fear at bay and never let it rule my decisions. My granddad was a farmer and nothing seemed to phase him. He was able to live in the capricious world of crops, livestock, and the elements and still keep his cool. And no matter what he was honest and generous and tough as nails.
This administration has allowed fear and anger to form policy. It has allowed corruption and greed to take precedence over compassion and confident generosity. It has lost its cool. Before 9/11 I was a quiet liberal, now I am a flaming one.
Question Number 5: Response to Blue Stater question: What makes you a liberal? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?(0) comments
I agree with Ms. Falbo that government should not be something outside of us that we try to make "small," but it should never have become the "big" monster that it is today with a tax system so complicated it amounts to a subsidy for tax specialists and accountants. The monster is so big that only corporations and
special interests benefit. These special interests include education, law enforcement, military and etc. All are an extension of the government. Why should any extension of government need a lobbyist?
My work in the corporate scene was short and perhaps my understanding of corporate America is limited, but I truly believe that taxes and the cost of any government regulations are passed down to the consumer. With all the fuss over a major corporation which is now the focal point of criticism for its contracts in Iraq, I thought about literally thousands of workers it employed from Alabama to Texas. The top wages earned at this non-union company bought many homes, supported thousands of families, and brought "The American Dream" to many workers of a poor background and very humble beginnings.
The shenanigans of the CIA and Third World regimes go much further back than the 1970s. I have always remembered President Roosevelt's remark about Nicaraguan Dictator Somoza, "He may be a SOB, but he is our SOB." In dealing with Third World dictators I would imagine the rules are different and I have no problem with that approach. Neither am I condoning the CIA actions. My thoughts on the CIA and some of the elite fighting forces are that they appear to be a wild and crazy bunch, but thank God for them.
After loosing the textile industry in South Alabama in the mid-90s the former governor's administration (a Democrat) was instrumental in bringing the auto industry to this area. Many of the secondary manufacturers of this industry will require skilled workers, but are offering little more than textile wages of 15 years ago.
I can't see any connection of corporate America and partisan politics. When a candidate promises a better economy and more jobs I'm skeptical. These promises only tickle the ears of the ignorant electorate. I realize that the government can manipulate the interest rate and control the money supply, but I believe that the economy rules itself.
Perhaps our greatest division in this country is economic jealousy. I am not jealous of those with more.
I too can remember Reganonomics and "Carternomics" with its double digit interest and inflation.
As Christians, we are obligated to take care of the young, the old, the sick and the needy, but I do not know that this obligation is a responsibility of government. It certainly was not the intention of our founding fathers. I am of the opinion that entitlements are the beginning of the end for a democracy. How can our leaders with such great wealth know and understand the problems of the poor? Entitlements are simply a means of them prostituting themselves for votes.
I can remember when my father plowed with mules, got his first tractor, our first car, cooking with wood, kerosene, and electric stoves. Telephone and television came in the late 50s. I still reside on a dirt road with little gravel which has two fiber optic cables (belonging to one of the nation's largest cable providers), buried underneath the road bed, but no service is provided to my house. Thank you, corporate America.
My siblings and I graduated college on the income of a small farm and a textile workers salary without loans or grants. I wasn't born on third base, maybe first base, and then advanced to third; but should I be forced to return to second base because of someone else's foul ball?
Question Number 5: Response to Blue Stater question What makes you a liberal? What are the values that underlie your allegiance to your chosen form of political belief?(0) comments
Actually, my first response to my esteemed colleagues' views of Republicans (once I realized they were describing my party and not trolls under a bridge in hell) was, in the words of rap artist Rodney King, "Can't we all just learn to get along?"
The idea that the Republican Party (the party of that billionaire Lincoln)is only for the "rich" is not true but makes a good bumper sticker.
Indeed, their very own candidate married his money by marrying the women who married her money who then inherited it from her dead Republican husband.
The Heinz-Kerrys, whose followers in the Democratic Party eschew all notions of capitalism and wealth creation even as they cash their dollar-denominated paychecks, own no less than six estates: Nantucket: $9.1 million for "windsurfing"; Ketchum, Idaho: $5 million for snowboarding and skiing -- the "family" room is 1,325 square feet and a 25-foot high "soaring" ceiling; Les Essarts in France owned by Forbes/Kerry (yes, that Forbes) cousins: no word on value in Eurodollars; Boston on Beacon Hill: $7 million; and "tony" Georgetown townhouse: $4.7 million.
Oh, wait! I forgot the most important property (sorry Pennsylvania, you got lost in the shuffle). There is the "small" 90-acre farm in Fox Chapel, Pa.: $3.7 million. At least the Heinz family fortune began in Pennsylvania.
That is nearly $30 million in six different homes alone for their guy.
Bush, net worth of $8 million (one-tenth of what even John Edwards has accumulated from physicians and your insurance companies), lives in the ugliest "earth-friendly" ranchhouse on the planet.
To this day I cannot understand how any self-respecting Southern woman would live in that house in, of all places, Crawford, Texas.
Bush also has been the beneficiary of his family connections but he is not trying to take away what little money we have under the guise of "you don't really need that money we could use it for the greater good."
The proletariat Heinz-Kerry's own a fleet of SUVs (necessary for the mountains in Idaho/Boston/New York/France and Pennsylvania), a $2 million yacht and a $750,000 powerboat (handy as father Kerry fishes to feed his family off the shores of Nantucket).
And then there is Teresa's toy - The Flying Squirrel, her very own Lear Jet. After all, surely one would not expect a Heinz-Kerry to actually board an "airplane" and sit in "first class." My God, she might be accosted by a Republican.
Of course, the senator has explained to us that none of the "fleet" of SUVs belong to him. They belong to the "family" (just like the French castle). Just like he explained to us all that we should only purchase vehicles made in Detroit (what, no France) while he is driving an Audi.
The Heinz-Kerrys sold George Clooney (you remember George, he was going to move to Europe with his pig if Bush won the election-yea!) their Italian villa prior to announcing his candidacy for the party of the "little people." No word on the sale price but the pig is ecstatic.
Fortunately for the Heinz-Kerrys, a young 25-year old Pennsylvania man named Henry Heinz started bottling horseradish in the fledging food processing industry during the infancy of that terrible period of oppression in American history-the industrial revolution. After horseradish came pickles, sauerkraut and vinegar, delivered by horse-drawn wagons to grocers in Pittsburgh, and within five years, Heinz and partner L.C. Noble were on the way to becoming one of the nation's leading greedy capitalist pigs - I mean producers of condiments.
In the banking panic of 1875, this overextended young enterprise was forced into bankruptcy. Heinz then discovered that the grocers he had been supplying were unwilling to extend credit even to feed his family (probably Republicans).
And thus he had to start again.
There was no "federal government" to bail young Heinz out of his troubles. There was no Kerry and Edwards to save them from the America had failed Henry Heinz and his workers in the first place.
There was only the Heinz brothers and Nobel, a free nation and a capitalist system that allowed the young brothers to rebuild that which was lost, to lift themselves up by their own bootstraps and continue with the American dream (nightmare if you listen to Team Kerry/Edwards).
Starting over in 1875, the Heinz brothers introduced one of the bright spots of the depression, tomato ketchup which my own great-grandmother mixed with hot water to make soup on days the family groceries were short.
Other products followed and the rest is history.
Now the Heinz company and the men and women who run it are branded as greedy capitalists wealth-seekers, Benedict Arnold pigs really, uncaring, unfeeling and incapable of any redeeming social value by the very individuals and their followers who live off of the largesse of the system that men like Henry Heinz, Henry Ford, Tom Edison, Alexander Bell and Estee Lauder made possible.
I don't know. With six mansions, a fleet of SUVs, a Lear Jet, a yacht, it looks like Kerry has fared pretty dang well under our greedy capitalist pig system.
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