Thursday, August 20, 2009
What Does a Bleeding Heart Liberal Look Like?
I’m not ashamed—for reasons you’ll soon learn—to have that moniker applied to me—so you can see one of those holding a banjo in the little thumbnail to the left. But you might ask: John, you grew up in a working class home in the country—certainly your liberal views are a rejection of the values you grew up with? OK, I did reject some values I grew up with, but I can tell you where a lot of my bleeding heart liberal views came from: the man in the Chief Petty Officer’s hat in the photo on the right. My dad: a WWII vet from the Pacific Theater, someone who grew up in a poor immigrant family, & who spent his life as a blue-collar worker: carpenter, cook, millwright, machinist. My father was also an avid outdoor sportsman, both a hunter & a fisherman. He owned a .22 & a 30/30 & a 20-gauge shotgun, & he used them to hunt deer & other game, which he intended for the table.
I remember once when visiting my folks in the 80s & something about a fight against a possible assault rifle ban came on the news. My father scoffed at the "right" to own assault rifles: though he certainly believed in the right to own guns for legitimate purposes, he was a hunter, & he knew there’s only one legitimate use for an assault rifle: killing people. We can talk all we want about Second Amendment rights, but let’s be clear about this. Some guns can be used for sport, whether it’s hunting or trap-shooting; some are designed with one purpose. Killing people. Do people who believe in the right to bear arms think they should have the right to store an atomic bomb on their property, or at least park a working tank in their backyard? Why not? If you were going to form a militia wouldn’t you want up-to-date weaponry?
Would my father have thought it was simply a misguided assertion of rights for people to show up at Presidential rallies packing heat? I can guarantee you he would not have. It seems that in the health care debate one argument from the right wing has to do with how public health care would abrogate personal responsibility (I don’t follow this, & wonder what our Canadian friends think about that—but then the longevity in the country is way better than in the U.S.—kinda odd, since they are saddled with what we’re told is a horrible healthcare system). Seems like someone forgot to get that memo to the gun-toting folks. Is it their “right” to have those guns where they do? Apparently so, since they’ve been allowed to do it. Perhaps we should also have folks going to church or the local grocery store with a 30/06 under their arm—I mean, it is their right, & God forbid anyone in this country have his rights taken away.
What about the right to a civil society? Do we have that right anymore? The “political discourse” in this country has appalled me for almost 30 years (by the way, I don’t exempt Bill Clinton from criticism on this score). I somehow hoped that electing a President who had statesman-like qualities & an agenda to actually try & fix some deep-seated problems might turn the discourse around. If anything, it has gotten worse—much more ugly, especially in the past couple of months. I’m very discouraged, & angry, & I hate to say it, but I’m relieved my father isn’t around to see this. I'm also beginning to have the sinking feeling that Mr Obama may share the one-term fate of the one other decent president we've had in my adult life, Jimmy Carter.
My father learned one principle in his life, & he learned it in a genuine way: “the rich get richer & the poor get poorer.” People can say what they will about the health care debate or the gun debate: money is fueling these; health insurance & arms manufacture are big business. The renowned liberal President Dwight D. Eisenhower warned about the power of the “military-industrial complex”—hey, folks, those are the guys making the guns. As far as the insurance companies go: how about this one: please be sure to get pre-approval on the hospital you go to before you have your heart attack. Probably a few days notice will be sufficient!
OK, I’m getting off the soapbox. Tomorrow—Dad’s Photos: without political commentary.