America, Imagine a World Without Her

Recently, an old friend, who has become an arch conservative in his middle-age posted a review of Dinesh D’Souza’s film “America, Imagine a World Without Her” on his Facebook timeline. The piece was published on the conservative web site Frontpage Mag and written by Arnold Ahlert.

I don’t know about you, But I can’t imagine a world without America. On the other hand I find myself struggling with imagining an America that isn’t willing to contemplate all of our past. We’ve accumulated a great deal of bad karma. I’m not talking about self-loathing. But I do think it’s important to understand how we got to this place, whom we’ve hurt, what we’ve destroyed to get here, and to endeavor to be better human beings today and in the future.

I also find myself puzzled by my friend’s news sources. He was an intelligent and gentle boy. He married his high school sweetheart. He is a very accomplished musician. I cannot understand how he can take a web site seriously that bears the subtitle, “Inside Every Liberal is a Totalitarian Waiting to Get Out.”

“America, Imagine a World Without Her” calls to mind the old silent film Birth of a Nation. Sorry but myopic ultra-nationalist apologia give me the willies. And Ahlert’s review was nothing more than a poorly reasoned screed against liberals. Both are quite beside the point.

The community of people who respond to my friend’s posts are the real point. There are a number of us middle-aged types of varying political persuasions who regularly post on his Facebook links. Aside from being Americans, we are all musicians.

The conversations start off polite. We seldom agree. After a while the words get more pointed. I don’t think we change each others’ minds. I do think we respect one another. I hope we give each other food for thought. I know it has done so for me.

In any event, the conversation meandered away from the D’Souza’s film (no surprise there) and the insults flew.

K***: I could never get tenure because I’m too politically incorrect.

T***: a radical leftist denied tenure at an university because of his politics… someone notify Ward Churchill…BWAHAHAHAHAHA

K***: Well T***, perhaps if you had read my entire comment you’d see that I am not, in fact, a “radical leftist,” since I criticized the radical left in several specific areas. But then reading doesn’t seem to be your strong area.

Bob: Oh boy. Another house of weak arguments, furnished with innuendos and prejudice, built upon on a foundation of wrongheaded assumptions which rest on footings dug into the quicksand of stereotype. Anyone who takes this at face value is a fool.

T***:I love it when radical leftists suddenly claim to be “centrist” when it becomes convenient…

Bob: Please define your terms T. What is a radical leftist? And and who in this discussion qualifies?

T***: I already have, ad nauseum… “

T*** shared a link to Jonah Goldberg’s book, Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, From Mussolini to the Politics of Change and left the question about who among us was a radical leftist unanswered, though I’m pretty sure he meant K*** and  me.

One of the things I like about discussing politics with this group is that we are well read, intelligent and that we agree on little. In as much as their ideas and insults often infuriate me, I cherish the opportunity to ask how they arrive at their ideas. I have read more far right “literature” in the last year than ever before.

I followed T***’s link and downloaded Goldberg’s book. I know I risk sounding like a Kool-Aid slugging liberal, a characterization which I deny, but Goldberg’s arguments torture the point and in the end do nothing more than inflame people’s prejudices rather than provide a useful way to contemplate differences of opinion.

Let’s say for the sake of our discussion Goldberg’s basic premiss, is true. The word fascism encompasses more than turn of the 20th century meaning. That liberals are self-deluded crypto-fascists (and therefore aligned with the worst actors of the 20th century) because early in the 20th century “liberal thinkers” and policy makers were enamored by European fascism and because some of that thought influenced Progressive/Liberal thought.

So what.

Political ideas are like everything else. They come in and out of fashion. People wear the ideas for a season and move on to the next great thing. What’s more, when it counted, the “liberals” stood up against the Nazis and the Italians and came to view fascism as a fundamentally evil political movement.

Goldberg argues that fascist ideas/ideals permeate the liberal DNA and therefore they are the bad guys. In the time honored propaganda trope, he conflates progressives and liberals with the most evil leaders of western civilization: Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Napoleon, and Robespierre.

That some of the ideas persisted from one era to another and from one political ideology to another speaks to the reality that our ideas do not exist in a vacuum, that there is nothing new under the sun. Rather we recycle, deconstruct, reassemble, and repackage as oppose to innovate. We can trace the roots of everything in the present to something from the past.

From what I can tell, LIBERAL FASCISM’s true purpose is to say “I’m rubber, you’re glue, everything you say bounces off of me and sticks on to you,” and in so doing attempts to affix a universally pejorative term, fascism, upon the chest of the so called “left”.

First of all the left/right thing is reductio ad absurdum. Very few people can distill their world views to such find points.

What’s more, I’m still left with lingering questions about the core issues and whether these discussions are anything more than vanilla is better than chocolate. Why? Because I like vanilla better than chocolate. No chocolate is better than vanilla. Why? Because I like chocolate.

Help me understand why anyone has to write a 500 page book calling liberals fascists except as an attempt to demonize them? Help me understand why people have to reduce the world down to such absurdities and then use minute differences to fuel their hatred.