< meta name="DC.Date.Valid.End" content="20050825"> Amendment Nine: our way of life

Sunday, November 07, 2004

our way of life

Our way of life is under attack, and no one in power is doing anything to defend us. That basic feeling has set the terms of political debate in my home region -- the south -- for 150 years. It sounds to progressive ears like the opening of a reactionary rant. Progressives have become instinctively wary of anything that sounds like a yearning for the past. Sometimes, that's a good thing, but I want to suggest that right now, at this time in the history of American and Western civilization, that single phrase should be the progressive battle cry. First of all, it is unquestionably true. Never before has the future of reason, of a society of ordered liberty built on the consent of the governed, of the idea that humans, rather than faceless institutions, control human affairs, been under such threat. In more concrete terms, never before have the vast majority of American citizens had so little influence over their daily lives. Who has more power over the future of rural communities or urban neighborhoods -- the people who live there or the executives of the big box retailers who decide -- sometimes without ever visiting the place and almost always without meeting any person in the area whose life will be irrevocably changed by their decision -- where to locate their stores? Who has more power over our children's minds -- their parents and family members, or marketing executives at record companies and tv networks? Yes, in a thousand ways, our way of life is under attack, and no one in power is doing anything to defend us. But the reason progressives must make this their battle cry is not just that it's true, but also that it is good politics. No theme has the power to energize and engage people both in the short term and over time than feeling that their way of life is at stake. Republicans have become masters at making people feel this way, even while doing virtually nothing effective to stop the things they fear from happening. They do this to mask their profoundly futuristic vision (think Gattaca, Minority Report or 1984, rather than a progressive futuristic vision like, say, Star Trek) of an oligarchy of overlords jetting around above a mass of proles satiated into disengagement by consumerism. They are against the power of individuals over their own lives. They are against the power of local communities everywehere over what their world looks like. They are against freedom, against democracy, and for disenfranchisement through disengagement. Their aspiration is to bring the era of the individual, of a society built on reason rather than on privilege, to an end. They are attacking our very way of life, and we must fight in every imaginable way to stop them.

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