Liberals, Conservatives, Neoconservatives, and the Rest of Us

Every little while, I could hear something about the abolitionists. It was some time before I found out what the word meant. It was always used in such connections as to make it an interesting word to me. If a slave ran away and succeeded in getting clear, or if a slave killed his master, set fire to a barn, or did any thing very wrong in the mind of a slaveholder, it was spoken of as the fruit of abolition. Hearing the word in this connection very often, I set about learning what it meant. The dictionary afforded me little or no help. I found it was "the act of abolishing"; but then I did not know what was to be abolished. Here I was perplexed. I did not dare to ask any one about its meaning, for I was satisfied that it was something they wanted me to know very little about.

-Frederick Douglass, Narrative of the Life

It took me two years to figure out what a "neoconservative" was. I kept hearing the word in the news media, invariably in a phrase like, "some neoconservative hawks in the Bush Administration". If you thought about it, you'd have to notice that these "neoconservatives" - whoever and whatever they were - seemed only to exist in the government (specifically the "Bush Administration"); clearly, then, they did not represent any segment of the American people. Opinion writers would often describe them as a "cabal", suggesting a close-knit group of crafty outsiders, sort of like ... well, you could always draw your own conclusions.

The neoconservatives (whatever the term might mean) seemed always to be stirring up trouble. But who were they, and what had they done to earn the media establishment's enmity? I think it's partly because the liberal establishment has been caught sleeping on the job, and they're not happy about it at all. Liberals like to portray themselves as the messengers of enlightenment, open-mindedness, and freedom. But where was the liberal concern for the peoples of the Middle East suffering under islamist or ba'athist regimes? It appears that many of these self-proclaimed champions of human rights are really only interested in "human rights" when it provides an excuse to bash America - or those Americans they don't happen to like (for instance, Republicans).

Those neoconservatives, then, were a threat to the liberal media establishment. They showed up the weakness and hypocrisy of what liberalism had become. No longer could the people who controlled the newspapers, the TV networks, and the universities hide behind their vapid slogans about peace and brotherhood. If you're serious about fighting dictators, the neocons were saying, it takes more than writing a few letters for Amnesty International.

I've always thought of myself as a liberal. I was raised by Unitarian parents who opposed the Vietnam War and disliked President Nixon. I became involved in a number of liberal causes (including seven years with the Green Party) because I really believed all that stuff about human rights and freedom. And I still do. I've been reluctant to call myself a "neoconservative" mainly because I don't care to cede the title of "liberal" to a bunch of moonbats. What amazes me is the number of so-called "liberals" who, having been at best indifferent to the human rights of Mideasterners, were only too happy to actively defend the fascist regimes in Afghanistan and Iraq. When the democratic revolution begins in Iran in mid-June (mark your calendars), they will probably oppose that too.

The other big discovery for me has been the depth and scope of media propaganda. Leftists like to use the word "propaganda" in conjunction with "government" because they can't conceive of any other kind; after all, the left conceives of power - and the government - as intrinsically evil. But there are other kinds of propaganda too. And I have to admit I was slow to catch on to the media's game. After all, they were the voice of reason - educated, literate people who reported fearlessly on current events. Writing on the Vietnam-era news media, Neo-Neocon puts it this way:
I was getting my news from several sources: network TV, Newsweek, Time, the Boston Globe, and the NY Times. I was under the impression that this represented a broad spectrum of news.

But some of us have seen through the matrix of deception woven by the media machine. We've awakened to the mortal danger that threatens our very existence, even as the entrenched powers try to keep us hypnotized with their version of reality. We are the ones who have chosen to face the truth, however horrifying it may be; we are the ones who took the red pill.

(Maybe that's why they call us Neo-cons? But I digress.)

I'll always believe in the possiblity of positive change. But there are some things that are worth conserving. I've learned a lot from conservative thinkers, and I've learned a great deal of respect for the values of tradition, religion, morality, cultural authenticity, small government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise. Perhaps we are coming to the point where the old labels no longer mean much; in any event, I don't mind saying that I have a "conservative" side as well.

I think there will always be people who are temperamentally predisposed to seeing the possibilites of a better, future society, just as there will always be people who instinctively understand the value of our heritage of the past. What matters is to learn from one another, and to find common beliefs and goals. "Out of many, one."

See also:
Poison Pill - the Media Today