Tuesday, June 07, 2005

Let's Drink

Like, I suppose, most people with my temperament and personality type, I know how to play about a dozen assorted songs on the acoustic guitar. Sometimes with these songs you get to a point where you actually prefer your own version, and it's hard to listen to it on the record. But there's another kind that you can never quite get right; there's something about the chemistry among the band members that creates a mood or a sound that is neither duplicable nor replaceable.

One such song for me is "Let's Drink to the Hardworking People," off of the Rolling Stones' Beggar's Banquet. The song is so strangely honest, extolling the virtues of the common folk while acknowledging that Mick and Kieth and the other megastars will never be able to understand what it's really like to be part of that "faceless mass of grey and black and white."

There's a feeling, a mood, a thread running through the song that is sorely needed in the Democratic party. The first step in bringing the "middle class" (a term generally used to refer simply to the majority of the population) back into prominence in the Democratic Party is to acknowledge that the Democrats have lost touch with the common people.

Uncle chides me sometimes for claiming to identify with the common people. I was, after all, born to college-educated parents, raised in the suburbs, and offered the opportunity to go to college on my parents' nickel.

But in other ways I have much in common with the sort of people who so often seem such a deep mystery to the pampered, millionaire liberals who make up the elected Democratic party. I don't talk about religion or God incessantly, and actually don't consider myself "religious" in the sense that I understand the word (and no, I'm not "spiritual" either), but I can't and don't identify with the weird reeligious phobia that seems to afflict so many on the left, including most of my IRL liberal friends.

I did not graduate from college, for a variety of reasons, and I've managed to rise to a fairly comfortable position through luck, some timely risks, with a sprinkling of white privilege thrown in for good measure. Which is, though we don't like to admit it, the way the middle class generally gets by.

I was born in the South, and I identify as a Southerner, right down to what, if I were louder about it, would probably be considered by most people to be a downright heretical interpretation of the history of the U.S. Civil War. I'm no Confederate sympathizer (though I went through a phase) but no war is clear-cut. Neither was that one.

My cultural beliefs are informed, at least, by my Southern upbringing, and I have always aligned myself with the most right-wing elements of society on the specific question of local control over the maximum range of public policy. This extends to schools, where I have never understood why it should be of any concern to me if a local school in Kansas wants to teach that evolution is an unsupported hypothesis and that intelligent design or creationism is a valid alternative.

Sure, we know these things are misleading at best, but I paid attention in high school history. I learned more lies and was fed more bullshit in that class than they ever could have crammed into a biology class. I survived, even made up my own mind about it. All that without the benefit of a college education. How about that?

Yet when I bring these things up with other liberals, they don't want to hear about it; they want to convince me to convert to a more proper liberal way of thinking. I'm not whining about persecution or marginalization; on the contrary, what makes it so interesting is that many of these people seem to be very interested in what I have to say in the general case.

But who is interested in hearing the perspective of a liberal, white, male, middle-class, Jesus-lovin' Southerner at a time when the liberal ideology is at a historical low point in popularity among white, male, middle-class Jesus-lovin' Southerners?

Bears thinkin' about, don't it?


Anonymous said...

Speaking for the liberals who are trying to convince you of a particular belief, I'd like to add the following brief remarks.


Become one with the liberal way of thinking.

Reject your states' rights positions, become a centralist!


The larger issue you're pointing out is that in politics, everybody is somebody else's bitch. The Republicans are not the only political group that want people to fall into line on some core beliefs; liberals do it too. The question is which beliefs a particular group considers part of its canon. They tend to reveal the underlying principles upon which they base their judgements of politics. For example, you can either start from the premise that the purpose of the government is to provide for maximum health, welfare, and prosperity of its populace, or you can start from the premise that it's there to provide for maximum personal freedom, including economic freedom.

What are the underlying principles of politics? That's what's important, because when push comes to shove, and interests overlap (which they always do) your underlying premises and principles are all you have to figure out where you stand on something.

Uncle said...

"But who is interested in hearing the perspective of a liberal, white, male, middle-class, Jesus-lovin' Southerner at a time when the liberal ideology is at a historical low point in popularity among white, male, middle-class Jesus-lovin' Southerners?"

Much of the democratic party spent the better part of 20 years expunging the beliefs of the "white, male, middle-class, Jesus-lovin' Southerner" from the platform. Little did they know how close those beliefs were to the "gun totin', beer drinkin',
pick'em up truck drivin', union dues paying, yankee" that was the other half of the party. The end result was a paternalistic elitism that we deal with today. That elitism can get a party in trouble when it comes smack dab up against something the constituency wants, but the elites don't think they should have.


By the way, there is a reason we should care about what they teach in Kansas. Several of them, but I don't think that is what you were asking.

Traveller said...

Ah -- now I see why we agree. A Euro-northeasterner transplanted to the South, I have absorbed some of the thinking of the South and find it very compatible with a kind of independent spirit once found in, say Massachusetts. Tired of arrogant lock-step thinking -- both sides do it. Tired of it. Bored, frustrated, annoyed. And realizing, increasingly, that I'm not alone.

Adam P. Short said...

The voucher issue is a complex one. I'm not a voucher guy. But I understand the position of those who favor them. The problems with our schools are deep, cultural problems. Vouchers are a band-aid that may make the problem worse in the medium term while distracting from the long-term issue.

That said, this is one of those issues, quite unlike Social Security, where the Democrats really do need some new thinking on how to address the very real crisis in the U.S. public school system.

On the Kansas curriculum, I didn't say I don't see why *we* should care. I said I don't see why *I* should care. Of course *we* with our boundless compassion care about everything. *I*, with my limited attention, cannot be bothered with such trivialities as what people in a state I have never set foot in are teaching their children.

I keep a list of things that I give a shit about in my head at all times. The list is a fixed length. When I want to add something, I have to chop something off. School curricula in communities where I don't live dropped off the list about the time I learned that the U.S. props up fascist dictatorships in Latin America that routinely slaughter their population.

Julie said...

Seems like Mark Warner was trying to say the same sort of thing yesterday, about when it comes to choosing Democratic political candidates.


If the party would stray a little from those orthodoxic check-boxes, they could draw in more of those white, male (and female), middle-class Jesus-lovin' Southerners, particularly the so-called independents (myself included).

Adam P. Short said...

I have soft spot for Mark Warner, though ideologically we are not that similar. I think his style is pretty much what's needed, though.

I think in a certain sense our system is so fucked up that we can basically move past ideology entirely for the time being. What's really needed is an honest (key word there) assessment of the real state of things, and a sincere commitment to try to find solutions to the problems.

Basically the exact opposite of the Bush administration.

Anonymous said...

Didn't Howard Dean more or less try what you're referring to with his claim to be the candidate for "guys with Confederate flags in their pickup trucks"? And didn't he get royally bitch-slapped?


NoTONoEagles said...

Help Mommy, there are Liberals! underneath my bed!!! (No, seriously, that's the name of the book...) Don't believe me? The dang thing's on Amazon, not some hippie-press bullcrap ;) Anyway, thought you might enjoy, pinko ;)