The Free Associator

The Philadelphia Syndicate is a collection of writers, businesses, artists, musicians, and activists based in Philadelphia, with connections to associates around the world via the internet. This publication is produced by members of the Syndicate's private online discussion forum for the purpose of giving exposure to the organization's thinkers to the public.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Liberals vs. Conservatives: The Use of Mythology


Assumption 1: The Founding Fathers were men with faults. Some were geniuses. All accomplished a lot and all did some rather shady things, like own human beings. Because of the work they have done, we all have in some way benefitted from a democracy and from a market economy.

Assumption 2: We live in a society where issues are polarized. Ideally, we would all be able to see the nuances behind who they really were, but arguments become symplified and issues are framed as right vs. left in public discourse. For the purpose of this post, we're just going to assume things are the way they are. The purpose of this is to take the basic assumptions of our current culture and frame questions to be answered within those constraints.

Assumption 3: A liberal would be likely to change a name of a school *from* that of a Founding Father.

Assumption 4: A conservative would be more likely to change a name of a school *to* that of a Founding Father.

Question 1: What can be said of the potential success of an ideology which denegrates and denies the founding heros of the nation and denies or obscures the importance of its founding mythology/creation story of a nation?

Question 2: What can be said of the potential success of an ideology which glorifies its past, obscures the negatives, and idealizes the founding mythology/creation story of a nation?

Question 3: If you live in a nation with a 200 year old political culture, and essentially a stable form of democratic government for 150 years, which ideology would be most likely to be able to attain and maintain political power?

Given that I'm assuming the truth regarding the Founding Fathers is somewhere in the middle, I can't help but make observations on how liberal and conservatives both treat our "creation story." One could argue and defend, or attack, the founders until you are blue in the face. You may even change someone's perception of the Founding Fathers and the surrounding mythology, but there are many things you can not change. All of the people that were involved in the early creation of the republic were rich, white, mostly Protestant, men. You can't just start inserting Latinos and women into paintings to suit current political trends, nor can you erase the fact that these people owned slaves. In the end, you make a decision and you pick and choose -- are these heros of yore to be celebrated or to be denied?

The answer to this is -- what will suit your purpose?

Conclusion: The way an ideology or political party chooses to look at its founding mythology will in large part determine its success or failure amongst an electorate. Do people want to connect to a past that makes them feel good about their position in the world? Or do they want to connect to a past which is filled with rapists and slave owners? I believe they will vote for whichever party makes them feel good about their past, the same way people will listen to conservative talk radio because it will make them feel good about unpleasant realities, most notably our current war.

Liberalism, most notably through its support of "activist judges" has shown a wide disregard for the rule of law and the Constitution for nearly three generations now. Jeffersonian Libeals, such as myself, have long seen liberalism, as embodied in the Democratic Party, as the largest visible threat to human liberty for some time. In the end, we were wrong, the demise of our sacred Enlightenment ideals will come not at the hands of a nanny state, but will come from the barrel of an out of control Republican Commander-in-Chief and a convivient House and Senate. If we are to preserve our liberties, it has been clearly demonstrated by so-called conservatives to be a desperate struggle during this republic's hour. Unfortunately for defender's of liberty, succor is to not be granted by the left in America. Liberty will only be preserved upon the recognition of the basic impulse of American democracy, the opposition to a centralized power. For decades many of us have fought against power as embodied in the hands of the state, others have opposed power weilded by private interests represented by all too powerful corporations. Only when constrictive and meaningless labels like liberal and conservative are disregarded, can a new liberty forged. (Insert three short cadenced sentences here to tie it all up.)


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