Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Thinking Points to Start Off the New Year

Without further ado, here are some ruminations as I face 2006:

Can we even have a conversation about compassion? Is it even remotely possible, anymore, for a libertarian, a liberal and a conservative to sit down together, like grownups, break bread in peace and intelligently discuss the subject of what might be best for those less fortunate than ourselves?

Liberals close their eyes, clamp their hands over their ears, and repeat, "I am compassionate...I believe in compassion...I care about the poor..." yada, yada, yada, over and over again. They seem to have an extra bone in their heads when it comes to listening to libertarian views on social welfare. But what is so "compassionate" about relegating poor folks to the "care" of faceless bureaucrats thousands of miles away in Washington? People who skim off the top of whatever funds are earmarked to help the poor (they must, after all, be paid) so that nothing more than a tiny fraction of what the taxpayers put out ever actually reaches those who need it? When you try to get an honest answer our of our liberal friends, again you get the closed eyes, the hands over the ears, and "I am compassionate...I believe in compassion...I care about the poor..."

Would it not be better for those who need social assistance to be helped by those who live right there in their own community? People who know their names, can see their faces, and have heard their stories? What is so terribly "uncompassionate" about volunteer aid for the poor -- administered by people who don't need to be paid for their trouble, so that the poor actually get more than just a tiny fraction of the money that might go to help them?

Most conservatives are not even remotely credible when they rail against tax-funded welfare programs. All they would do is continue to tax the living crap out of the citizenry, leaving us all so bled-white we can't afford to act on our nobler impulses toward the poor, and use the take they get from us to fuel the military-industrial complex or dole out welfare to the rich and corporate. If liberals want to call THEM "uncompassionate," I can certainly relate.

Conservatives simply don't give a shit about the poor. Maybe they did at one time, back when libertarians didn't have to join a different party just to get the hell away from them, but they don't anymore. Unfortunately, when it comes to opposing the Right Wing, their liberal rivals are stuck on stupid. Meanwhile, the vast rift between rich and poor just keeps on growing. We fiddle while poor children starve and the elderly in poverty die of diseases that otherwise might be cured.

Do we REALLY want democracy in Iraq? Only time will tell. And here is exactly HOW we will eventually be able to tell: will we get out when they tell us to, or will we ignore the wishes of the Iraqi people, stick around and go on telling them what to do?

I am fairly convinced that the Bush Administration wants to install a puppet government. They refused to even count the innocent civilians our military have killed, so it is hard to believe they will count the votes of those who have managed to remain alive. If we "give" democracy to those who do not like us, they may very well use it against us. That is the risk we run, and it strains credibility to believe this is a risk the Bushies are willing to take.

Polls indicate that a majority of Iraqis are not yet ready for us to leave. Is this because they love us, or because they have languished in an infantile state for so long that they are incapable of governing themselves? Again, only time will tell.

I hope those purple fingers meant something good -- for us and for them. But in order to learn the truth about this, we will need to view the ongoing situation free of ideological blinders.

Will the "Breck Girl" run? I am positively breathless with anticipation. Senator Edwards is still insisting that marriage must be defined strictly as between a man and a woman. Yet in the next breath, he assures gays and lesbians (whom he has just dehumanized) that he supports their rights. Well, now I really CAN sleep easy.

Surely the good senator knows you don't use laws to define a word. For that, all you need is a dictionary. This is all about rights and responsibilities -- it hasn't a damn thing to do with how some nose-picking yokel out in Bible Belt America chooses to define the word "marriage." People will jolly well go right on defining it exactly as they did before the con artists in whatever legislative body wave their wands this way or that.

Of course Edwards is positioning himself for a run at the Presidency. The Democrats have already designated gays and lesbians as the official scapegoats for why they lost the last one -- we are this past election's Gerry Ferraros. I should have bailed on this party back when they tried to stick the blame for Mondale's defeat on her. They have grown neither nobler nor wiser with time.

Any gay or lesbian American who votes for John Edwards is a fool. Period, finito, end of discussion. But do we have the gumption to stand up against him? Don't even pretend you don't know the answer to that.

As we sail gaily forward into another year, we demonstrate, as a nation, that we are as clueless as ever.


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