Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Can I be a pragmatic liberal?

While going through diferent websites and resources for content to include with the Windy City Banner, I've noticed something. Much of the content available to the small indepedent press is either way right (luckily haven't seen many of those) or way left. Which kinda leaves me in a odd little niche Where is the information for the pragmatist?

Now don't get me wrong. I am a liberal and proud of it. I'm pro-choice, pro-union, support affirmative action, support peaceful action before military action, pro-gay rights and I have yet to see a tree I didn't want to hug. But just because I'm a liberal doesn't mean I toe the line completely.
For example, I happen to have a strong belief in God and consider myself a Christian. I don't necessarily advertise that because, well, why should I. My faith is my own. I'm against creationism and very secular. I think that each person has the right to the belief, or lack there of, of their choice. NO ONE has the right to take that away.

That has become just a bit troublesome in recent years. Thanks to the religious right, any mention of "faith" is often considered a code word for "conservative." Thanks a lot, guys.

How that becomes a problem is that many (not all and maybe not even most) people on the left will lash out at any perceived influence of religion, to the point of being as intolerant of faith of any kind as Christian fundamentalists can be of other religions. When I've said "could you not label all religious people as mindless" I've gotten blasted. I've had a couple of friendships end over it.

Faith and secularlism don't have to be opposed. For me, at least, faith is a comfort. I trust science, rely on it to explain how the world works. I think most things have some scientific explanation. I have faith because, well, it feels good for me. The world these days is just a bit rough. Economy imploding, possible class warfare (if it hasn't started already), environmental collapse possible, rising intolerance of all kinds, new diseases, it ain't easy out there anymore. Faith gives me just a little hope that there is something else. The combined goodwill of humanity if nothing else. Something that can have a least a little meaning. Yes, it is a crutch. With the weight of what we deal with on a daily basis, a crutch can be a good thing. The trick is not to let it be all you are and use it as an excuse do not deal with the difficult stuff. God gave us a brain. We still need to use it.

That's just one example, the one that keeps seeming to pop up. Military action is another. I opposed the Iraq War. It was pointless, based on bad intelligence, and made no sense to at all except (1) throw our weight around or (2) piss off as many people as possible. Well, in that case, it was mission accomplished. Yippee.

The current action in Libya is different. One, the U.S. isn't actually in charge. France and Britain are. We're just along to carry a big stick. Two, honest to God international support, including the Arab League. Three, the guy we're launching missles at is simply not a good guy. Gaddahfi was sending his own jets against civilians. People who had taken up arms only after being shot at themselves. People whose only crime was wanting a real voice in their lives and doing exactly what their neighbors in Tunisia and Egypt had done, protesting peacefully. We could do something to give a little protection to them and level the playing field. In other words, actually do something good with the power we have. Is it perfect? No. Could it go south? Sure. But I'd rather go down actually showing support for a people wanting democracy than just watching as people are shot for wanting to control their lives.

Of course, there are some who say anything with the military is bad. Period. Military force should never be used, at all. Well, the real world doesn't work like that. I'm not saying that military force and warfare is good. But it is sometimes necessary. Could be interesting if I say that in public.

Anyway, the point is not every liberal is gonna agree with every thing on the left. I, and I would like to think most liberals, are more pragmatic. Yes, it would be great if we could get everything we wanted right off. But we have to adapt. It's more important to have something that works and get things done then hold on to the ideology no matter what. We should be honest in what we want and have things we should not compromise on, but it also has to be balanced with what's acheiveable, at least short term. Now it would just be nice to see something similar in the media.

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