“A man’s ethical behavior should be based effectually on sympathy, education, and social ties; no religious basis is necessary. Man would indeed be in a poor way if he had to be restrained by fear of punishment and hope of reward after death.” ~ Albert Einstein

                   

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have little.” ~ Franklin Delano Roosevelt

I’ve had this article in my list of drafts for days now. I had planned to use part of this article with a rant on Wisconsin, union busting, and general conservative Republican lack of empathy on women’s issues.

Quite frankly, I’m just not in the mood to write the post any more, so I’ll just provide the text and link to George Lakoff’s article, “What Conservatives Really Want.”

— Dedicated to the peaceful protestors in Wisconsin, February 19, 2011.

The central issue in our political life is not being discussed. At stake is the moral basis of American democracy.

The individual issues are all too real: assaults on unions, public employees, women’s rights, immigrants, the environment, health care, voting rights, food safety, pensions, prenatal care, science, public broadcasting, and on and on.

Budget deficits are a ruse, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, where the governor turned a surplus into a deficit by providing corporate tax breaks, and then used the deficit as a ploy to break the unions, not just in Wisconsin, but seeking to be the first domino in a nationwide conservative movement.

Deficits can be addressed by raising revenue, plugging tax loopholes, putting people to work, and developing the economy long-term in all the ways the president has discussed. But deficits are not what really matters to conservatives.

Conservatives really want to change the basis of American life, to make America run according to the conservative moral worldview in all areas of life.

In the 2008 campaign, candidate Obama accurately described the basis of American democracy: Empathycitizens caring for each other, both social and personal responsibilityacting on that care, and an ethic of excellence. From these, our freedoms and our way of life follow, as does the role of government: to protect and empower everyone equally. Protection includes safety, health, the environment, pensions and empowerment starts with education and infrastructure. No one can be free without these, and without a commitment to care and act on that care by one’s fellow citizens.

The conservative worldview rejects all of that.

Conservatives believe in individual responsibility alone, not social responsibility. They don’t think government should help its citizens. That is, they don’t think citizens should help each other. The part of government they want to cut is not the military (we have 174 bases around the world), not government subsidies to corporations, not the aspect of government that fits their worldview. They want to cut the part that helps people. Why? Because that violates individual responsibility.

But where does that view of individual responsibility alone come from?

The way to understand the conservative moral system is to consider a strict father family. The father is The Decider, the ultimate moral authority in the family. His authority must not be challenged. His job is to protect the family, to support the family (by winning competitions in the marketplace), and to teach his kids right from wrong by disciplining them physically when they do wrong. The use of force is necessary and required. Only then will children develop the internal discipline to become moral beings. And only with such discipline will they be able to prosper. And what of people who are not prosperous? They don’t have discipline, and without discipline they cannot be moral, so they deserve their poverty. The good people are hence the prosperous people. Helping others takes away their discipline, and hence makes them both unable to prosper on their own and function morally.

The market itself is seen in this way. The slogan, “Let the market decide” assumes the market itself is The Decider. The market is seen as both natural (since it is assumed that people naturally seek their self-interest) and moral (if everyone seeks their own profit, the profit of all will be maximized by the invisible hand). As the ultimate moral authority, there should be no power higher than the market that might go against market values. Thus the government can spend money to protect the market and promote market values, but should not rule over it either through (1) regulation, (2) taxation, (3) unions and worker rights, (4) environmental protection or food safety laws, and (5) tort cases. Moreover, government should not do public service. The market has service industries for that. Thus, it would be wrong for the government to provide health care, education, public broadcasting, public parks, and so on. The very idea of these things is at odds with the conservative moral system. No one should be paying for anyone else. It is individual responsibility in all arenas. Taxation is thus seen as taking money away from those who have earned it and giving it to people who don’t deserve it. Taxation cannot be seen as providing the necessities of life, a civilized society, and as necessary for business to prosper.

In conservative family life, the strict father rules. Fathers and husbands should have control over reproduction; hence, parental and spousal notification laws and opposition to abortion. In conservative religion, God is seen as the strict father, the Lord, who rewards and punishes according to individual responsibility in following his Biblical word.

Above all, the authority of conservatism itself must be maintained. The country should be ruled by conservative values, and progressive values are seen as evil. Science should not have authority over the market, and so the science of global warming and evolution must be denied. Facts that are inconsistent with the authority of conservatism must be ignored or denied or explained away. To protect and extend conservative values themselves, the devil’s own means can be used again conservatism’s immoral enemies, whether lies, intimidation, torture, or even death, say, for women’s doctors.

Freedom is defined as being your own strict fatherwith individual not social responsibility, and without any government authority telling you what you can and cannot do. To defend that freedom as an individual, you will of course need a gun.

This is the America that conservatives really want. Budget deficits are convenient ruses for destroying American democracy and replacing it with conservative rule in all areas of life.

What is saddest of all is to see Democrats helping them.

Democrats help radical conservatives by accepting the deficit frame and arguing about what to cut. Even arguing against specific “cuts” is working within the conservative frame. What is the alternative? Pointing out what conservatives really want. Point out that there is plenty of money in America, and in Wisconsin. It is at the top. The disparity in financial assets is un-Americanthe top one percent has more financial assets than the bottom 95 percent. Middle class wages have been flat for 30 years, while the wealth has floated to the top. This fits the conservative way of life, but not the American way of life.

Democrats help conservatives by not shouting out loud over and over that it was conservative values that caused the global economic collapse: lack of regulation and a greed-is-good ethic.

Democrats also help conservatives by what a friend has called Democratic Communication Disorder. Republican conservatives have constructed a vast and effective communication system, with think tanks, framing experts, training institutes, a system of trained speakers, vast holdings of media, and booking agents. Eighty percent of the talking heads on TV are conservatives. Talk matters because language heard over and over changes brains. Democrats have not built the communication system they need, and many are relatively clueless about how to frame their deepest values and complex truths.

And Democrats help conservatives when they function as policy wonkstalking policy without communicating the moral values behind the policies. They help conservatives when they neglect to remind us that pensions are deferred payments for work done. “Benefits” are pay for work, not a handout. Pensions and benefits are arranged by contract. If there is not enough money for them, it is because the contracted funds have been taken by conservative officials and given to wealthy people and corporations instead of to the people who have earned them.

Democrats help conservatives when they use conservative words like “entitlements” instead of “earnings” and speak of government as providing “services” instead of “necessities.”

Is there hope?

I see it in Wisconsin, where tens of thousands citizens see through the conservative frames and are willing to flood the streets of their capital to stand up for their rights. They understand that democracy is about citizens uniting to take care of each other, about social responsibility as well as individual responsibility, and about work — not just for your own profit, but to help create a civilized society. They appreciate their teachers, nurses, firemen, police, and other public servants. They are flooding the streets to demand real democracythe democracy of caring, of social responsibility, and of excellence, where prosperity is to be shared by those who work and those who serve.

George Lakoff is the author of The Political Mind. His website is GeorgeLakoff.com.

More later. Peace.

Music by The Heartbeats, “The Knife”

Today’s Category: Gallimaufry for $1,000, Alex

“Words are, of course, the most powerful drug used by mankind.” (Rudyard Kipling)

“Words, Words, Words” (Hamlet)

I love words, and I love people who use words well. Obviously, the converse is true. I shudder when I hear people mangle the English language. Oh, not speakers of English as a second language. It really pisses me off when I get one of those sanctimonious e-mails that rails on people about how this is America, so everyone should speak English. Didn’t these people learn history in school? You know, the parts about how we were all immigrants at one time? Believe it or not, when America was founded, everyone did not speak English. Hello out there.

My father, a first generation Filipino spoke fluent English with an accent. His grammar was impeccable, but as he got older, it was harder to understand him sometimes, and it infuriated me when people at fast food places used to act as if he were speaking in a foreign language when they were speaking as if they had just finished the third grade. (I never learned Tagalog, his native dialect. I don’t know why. I wish that I had; I wish that mine had been a house that was bilingual when I was growing up, but it wasn’t.) I envy people who speak two or three languages with ease.

But what about the people who have lived in this country their whole lives and cannot speak English properly? Is it the fault of public schools? Do I just have to get over things like “me and Joe are goin down to the 7/11 to gets some beer. Hows bout you?”

I know that there are regional dialects and that there are phrases that go in and out of style, but what about basic English, like using the word an before words beginning with a vowel? Is that too much to ask? I don’t think that an expectation of basic grammar is being a snob, or that it’s “my English teacher showing” as I’ve been told. My family is used to being corrected, and I try not to do it in front of other people, but I don’t want my children going out into the world to start their careers, sounding as if they have no idea how to communicated beyond a sixth-grade level.

“Those words freedom and opportunity do not mean a license to climb upwards by pushing other people down.” (Franklin D. Roosevelt)

I have managed to put Rush Limbaugh out of my life for a number of years now. Several years ago, Limbaugh used to rile me so terribly that I just wanted to tear my hair out every time that I heard about something he had said. So I made a conscious decision to stop reading anything about Limbaugh or his show. I found that it was better for my blood pressure, and eventually, he faded from my consciousness, that is, until today.

I mentioned the interview between Limbaugh and the governator in a previous post in which I cited her quote about having “nothing to lose,” but as I was concentrating on Palin, Limbaugh did not settle into my memory cells. However, earlier today I watched a clip from MSNBC in which Andrea Mitchell references the toad croaking about how General Colin Powell’s endorsement is “totally about race.” Once again, toady boy is showing the depth of his ability to reason. If Powell were going to endorse Obama purely on race, why didn’t he do it months ago? Why did he wait until two weeks before the election? Perhaps, methinks, the man who many thought would be the first black man in the White House, was waiting to see how the two candidates reacted to the Wall Street catastrophe, how well they did in the debates, how they were doing on the campaign trail, who they chose as their running mates—all points that Powell mentioned in his “Meet the Press” appearance in a very cogent statement (as opposed to Limbaugh’s limited un-intellectual rant into the microphone). But of course, this is the same Limbaugh who told an African American caller to his talk show to “take that bone out of your nose and call me back.”

Ah Rush, I haven’t missed you at all . . .

“We are dancing on a volcano.” (Comte de Salvandy)

Last Friday, I watched one of the most frightening examples of ignorance in action on “Hardball with Chris Matthews.” Representative Michele Bachmann of Minnesota claimed that Barack Obama and his wife Michelle  held anti-American views and couldn’t be trusted in the White House. But she did not stop there. She called for the media to investigate other members of Congress: “I wish the American media would take a great look at the views of the people in Congress and find out if they are pro-America or anti-America,” she said. I don’t think this country has heard statements like this since the McCarthy era.

Senator Joseph McCarthy lent his name to that era by making a speech in 1950 in West Virginia in which he produced a piece of paper that he claimed contained the names of over 200 people who were communists who were working for the U.S. State Department. McCarthy’s strongest supporters were far right radicals. One of his most vocal opponents was the famous journalist Edward R. Murrow, who wrote in 1953,

We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. We must remember always that accusation is not proof and that conviction depends upon evidence and due process of law. We will not walk in fear, one of another. We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men.

Please, do tell Representative Bachmann in all of your infinite wisdom, exactly how does one determine if someone is pro-America or anti-America?

“One can prove or refute anything at all with words.” (Anton Chekhov)

Just for grins, I thought that I’d list some of my favorite words, words that I love to roll around on my tongue but don’t often get to use in regular conversation, except perhaps in these blogs:

impinge, hoi polloi, salmagundi, impugn, verity, ignoble, alchemy, vox populi, gendarme, chasm, zeitgeist, xenophobia, pugnacious, putrid, curmudgeon, gravitas, spurious, obstreperous, fawning, kowtow, poesy, albeit, sublime, spate, predilection, soupçon, ubiquitous, reprobate, vichyssoise, apostate, propitious, precipice, burgeoning, fodder, fulcrum, obsequious, and finally apoplexy.

This is just the short list. My family is continually accusing me of using words just to confuse them. I’m just trying to broaden their horizons. After all, I think that everyone should be able to insert obstreperous and obsequious into a conversation at least once in his or her life. Don’t you?

I just wish that I could find a way to work platypus into the conversation more often . . .

More later. Peace.

Notes From the Road #2 (If I Were On the Road)

Fifteen Days and Counting

You Meet the Most Interesting People Sometimes

Yesterday I was working the phone banks at the Obama Campaign Headquarters, and I spoke with a 67-year-old woman who hasn’t voted since the Kennedy election. She told me that she hasn’t really wanted to participate in politics since then, but she decided that this election was too important not to participate. She also said that she thought that Barack Obama was the first candidate to come along since Kennedy to give her hope.

Most of the people on my calling list were over 65, and I was surprised by how many said that they were voting for Obama. Of course, several people hung up on me right away, which is always the case when you are making these kinds of calls, and then you have more people who screen now, so you leave the scripted message for the answering machine or voice mail, and hope that they listen to it. But with a lot of the elderly, you find that they are willing to talk to you because they do not get many telephone calls, so they are more generous with their time. Corey found himself on the phone with one gentleman for half an hour and ended up talking about FDR and Truman; he said that it was one of the most interesting telephone conversations that he has ever had. The gentleman was 88 years old.

One of the things that really impresses me about this campaign is how organized they are in Virginia. In Hampton Roads alone, they have over five headquarters; whereas the Kerry campaign had only one. The other thing that I think is really great is that these people are making sure that anyone who needs a ride to the polls is going to get one. Giant marker board already have lists of names and destinations. “Get out the vote” is alive and well in my town! How awesome is that. A Democrat hasn’t carried Virginia since Jimmy Carter. I’m not counting any chickens, that’s why I plan to volunteer as much as my back will let me these next two weeks.

Colin Powell Endorses Barack

He may be a Republican, but his endorsement carries weight. Former Secretary of State said in an interview on “Meet the Press” that he endorses Democratic candidate Barack Obama for president even though he has known John McCain for over 20 years and the junior Senator from Illinois for only two because he believes that Obama offers offers a better chance to repair “frayed” relations with countries around the world. Powell also said that he is “troubled” by McCain’s choice of Sarah Palin as his choice of Vice President and that he does not believe that she is ready to be Vice President.

Many believe that Powell’s endorsement will be especially helpful to Obama’s campaign in counteracting charges that he is not ready to be Commander in Chief, especially since Powell commands a great deal of respect as former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Bush I. Personally, I really liked what the General had to say about the comments accusing Obama of being a Muslim. In essence, Powell said, he’s not, but what if he were? As a country, we have to recognize that we are a country composed of people of many faiths, and just because someone is a Muslim, does not make them un-American or not patriotic. Powell then went on to relate the story of a mother grieving over her son’s grave at Arlington cemetery. The boy was 10 when 9-11 happened, and he waited until he was old enough to enlist so that he could serve his country. He happened to be Muslim.

Sarah P. on SNL

Never thought you’d hear me say this, but props to Sarah Palin for her appearance on Saturday Night Live. The governor actually did a good job in her cameo on the show Saturday. I think that it was a great idea to pair her with Alec Baldwin. Actually, I don’t know why I’m so surprised. Palin is a born performer; it obviously her milieu. She loves the spotlight and the cameras do love her. It’s just real people that she doesn’t do so well with . . .

If you haven’t seen it yet, check out the youtube clip. I would post it here, but it’s such a long clip that it would eat up my allotted space.

And Now a Word from Our Sponsor

I finally managed to nab an Obama/Biden yard sign. I’ll keep you posted on whether or not it stays in my yard. I’m surrounded by McCain/Palin signs. After a quick drive through the neighborhood, I’ve espied only three other Obama signs. While Democrats might carry the state, I doubt they’ll carry my neighborhood. They definitely won’t get my mother’s vote. She’s still one of the old guard who believes that he’s a terrorist, and there is no convincing her otherwise. One of the people Corey talked to on the phone yesterday told him that she was convinced that if Obama won the election that the White House would become the Black House. Fortunately, I didn’t talk to any people who responded in that way, and I’m not really sure what I would have done if I had. Bit my tongue I suppose since it wasn’t my telephone or my call, technically.

That is one of the problems with calling on behalf of someone. When you are representing someone else, there is a certain amount of decorum required. Even I, in my curmudgeonly ways know that, but it’s still an irksome position in which to find oneself when you would like nothing better than to start spewing facts and statistics.

However, facts and statistics are lost on the ignorant and closed-minded. I should know this after encountering it numerous times on my own. When an individual has already taken a stand based primarily on fear and ignorance, nothing can change that position, least of all logic. Fear is one of the greatest motivators known to humankind. It’s what drives terrorism, wars, cults, murders, and all kinds of violence, domestic and other. What we fear, we seek to destroy. Only those who choose to enlighten themselves, to take another path to rid themselves of their fears, are able to overcome fear without violence, whether that violence is internal or external.

Oddly enough, it was a stream of consciousness quote on “ER” for the character Abby that reminded me of some of this. The first part of the quote was from Job Chapter 3. In verse 25 Job says, “For the thing which I greatly feared is come upon me, and that which I was afraid of is come unto me.” But as Abby is leaving the ER, she has moved on, and the stream of consciousness has changed to Chapter 38, which is actually god’s response to Job:

“Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea
       or walked in the recesses of the deep?

 Have the gates of death been shown to you?
       Have you seen the gates deep shadows?

 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth?
       Tell me, if you know all this.”

Now, I really don’t know a lot of Bible verses. This just happens to be one with which I am familiar because it is beautifully poetic, and when I heard it, I knew that I remembered it from somewhere, so I Googled it. But as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I am a believer in signs, and I’ve been thinking quite a bit about the hate and anger that has been bandied about on this campaign and what that means, and how the charges of anti-Americanism are being hurled so easily.

And all of this has reminded me of being a little girl with olive skin, newly back in this country and how hate was so easily thrown my way, and I had no idea as to why. So I ponder hate and racism and bigotry frequently lately, and I watch the clips of the rallies, and I worry about the lunatic fringe. And then I hear beautiful words such as “Have you comprehended the vast expanse of the earth?” and for a moment I feel peace and hope, and I pray that in the end, people will remember that we are all Americans, that a different name, and a different skin color is just that—different, nothing else. Not worth hating. Not something to be “greatly feared.”

Peace. More later.