“Frightened though they were, some of the animals might possibly have protested, but at this moment the sheep set up their usual bleating of ‘Four legs good, two legs bad,’ which went on for several minutes and put an end to the discussion. ” George Orwell, Animal Farm
To me, the words ‘liberal’ and ‘progressive’ are synonymous. I’ll happily agree, should you call me either one. In my estimation they both represent the single quality that enables society to exist:
A realistic worldview.
Because, whether you’d have it do so or not, the world is always progressing. As surely as the earth spins on its axis, it’s an irrefutable fact. The history of man, is the history of progression. Not just evolutionary progress; but cognitive progress, technological progress. And in our lifetime, technology has progressed exponentially. The fact you’re reading this now is proof of that. 100 years removed from the creation of AM radio, today each of us possess the ability to communicate instantly to an entire world audience.
So clearly, to be progressive is to accept that we live in a world moving forward rapidly, and to try and realistically address the social, economic, and ecological challenges we face. So where does that leave conservatism?
Conservatism, especially in its current form, is a baffling miasma of contradictions. Its dogma cries out for a return to a time that’s been overly idealized for its ‘values,’ while its leaders strip away every vestige of the power structure that created the prosperity they wax nostalgic for. It glories in the conceit of moral superiority, even as it spits contemptuously on anyone in need of assistance. It wraps itself in the American flag, but reviles all but a single group of Americans.
And it uses the most advanced technology in mankind’s history, to try to pull man backwards.
Conservatives online are an exercise in frustration; they sit with us at the very pinnacle of the progress of man, and they use our tools to tell us progress is evil. And as they’ve been trained to do, they use those tools to try to drown out the discourse that creates progress.
That’s how you find yourself arguing scripture with someone online, where you’d previously been discussing civil rights. It’s why you’re going back to Google again, to find out how many times Ronald Reagan raised taxes, or to prove that Thomas Jefferson didn’t coin the phrase, “Kill ’em all, and let God sort ’em out.”
It’s how you find yourself repeating the same words over and over, to every conservative who braces you with the latest right-wing outrage from whatever source they all seem to be gleaning their narrative. And it doesn’t matter how eloquent you are, or how iron-clad your proof may be; if you’ve told them twice, you’re already losing the debate.
Progressives progress. It’s our goal as well as our nature. Conservative leaders (at this point, we may as well just admit that term refers to the corporate oligarchy that has been strip-mining the American economy since the embezzlement scheme known as the ‘Bush Years.’), do not want us to progress, Their only goal is to inhibit a constructive narrative that might lead to us wrestling our way out from under their thumbs. That’s why people like the Koch brothers and Rupert Murdoch have spent such incredible amounts of money to frighten our least capable citizens into political action against their own best interests.
And that’s why instead of using this incredible technological opportunity to advance our society, we squander it by arguing with people who have somehow been convinced that the president is a foreign spy. And even though their argument is ridiculous, even though the same person telling you Obama is a Muslim today, was losing their mind over Reverend Wright three years ago, as long as they interrupt the conversations of people who genuinely want to discuss the world’s issues, they’re winning.
It doesn’t matter how inept they are; if every other word is misspelled, or if they’re confusing Ted Nugent with Thomas Paine. It doesn’t matter if their entire argument just some pre-digested cut & paste from World Net Daily, that drips with unintended irony or projection. As long as they slow you down for a minute, or distract you, they’re doing their job.
They’re the geek biting the heads of chickens; when you slow down to stare, your pocket is getting picked. They’re the belligerent drunk at the club whose girlfriend steals your money off the bar, while you defend yourself.
They are speed bumps. They are strewn across the internet like Lego blocks in a child’s room, to slow your trajectory and make you swear.
Having said all that, I also realize how irresistible they are; they are the slow pitch over the middle of the plate, that every batter dreams of hitting out of the park. The feebleness of their arguments, and the self-satisfaction they present them with, make them an oh-so-attractive target. I know this. I’ve taken more than my share of swings. And every now and again, it’s a fine distraction to dismantle some addled goober’s deeply (if inexplicably) held beliefs.
But if we’re going to take the next step as progressives, and come to term with the sources of our issues, we’re going to have put the fools behind us. We have the tools. We’re intelligent, inquisitive, and we’re committed. And they can’t distract us forever.