Sunday, April 10, 2011
GETTING A FEW THINGS CLEAR
I seem to have stirred up a hornet's nest, so let me make a few things clear. My angry response was to a two word post by John C. Halesz, "Stockholm Syndrome." For those of you who do not know, the Stockholm Syndrome is the tendency of hostages and kidnap victims after a while to identify with their captors and imagine them to be friends. The comment was, and was clearly intended as, an insult, and that is exactly the way I took it. If anyone thinks that I am a captive of the political establishment in this country and have begun to identify with my captors, then I suggest he or she leave this site and find someone else to insult. I am not amused, and I do not intend to treat that sort of comment as deserving of a serious or thoughtful reply. Now let me address the serious question, whether I [or anyone sharing my political orientation] ought to engage in electoral politics and support mainstream candidates for office. That is indeed a serious question, and one deserving of an answer. I will give you my answer, but I do not for a moment suggest that it is the only answer, or that there are not other answers deserving of consideration. I was born at the end of 1933, the year in which Franklin Delano Roosevelt was first inaugurated. He died when I was eleven, before I was old enough to have organized political opinions of any sort. By the time I did [at age fourteen], it was obvious to me that the America into which I had been born, and in which I would live my life, was very different from the America I would have opted for, had anyone given me a choice. Over the years, my hopes have been raised and then dashed many times. I felt some enthusiasm for John Kennedy, until his abortive invasion of Cuba convinced me that I could not place my hopes on liberal Democrats. I sang and marched in the Civil Rights Movement, and still believe that it was one of America's most glorious moments, but it never held out the hope of a transformation of America, only of the long-delayed incorporation into the existing America of the descendants of slaves. I fought for women's liberation, and fight now for gay liberation, but neither of those movements aims at the transformation of America, only at the removal of the obstacles that stand in the way of the full incorporation into America of women and the LGBT community. What is the America in which I would like to live out the last few remaining years of my life? Easily said: an America in which several hundred million comrades link arms and march joyously into a socialist future. Will I live to see this? Of course not. As my old friend, Herbert Marcuse, observed in the YouTube clip that Michael called my attention to, we do not live in a revolutionary moment, or even in a pre-revolutionary moment. For an instant, I thought I had found my paradise in the South Africa of the liberation struggle, but the events of the last twenty-one years have disabused me of that happy fantasy. What then to do? One possibility, which I do not contemn, is to perform what Russian dissidents called an "inner migration," a mental retreat from a completely unacceptable world into a private realm of art and literature and music and philosophy. I have chosen a different path -- an engagement with a deeply imperfect world, in the hope of making it a little bit less imperfect. As Paul Newman explains to Robert Redford in THE STING, even if you win, it won't be enough, but it is all you are going to get. So I work for the reelection of Obama, and I give money to the protesting workers in Wisconsin, and give money to any number of promising left Democrats running for State Senate or the House of Representatives or the US Senate. None of them is a socialist, and even if they all win, it will not be enough, but it is all I am going to get. All I ask of others who share my political orientation is two things: First, that they reflect carefully on their choices, and be sure to consider what harms they might be choosing not to fight against if they opt out; and Second, that they accord me the same respect I accord them, and not react with insults if we make different choices.