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Thursday, May 26, 2005

Life after the left

I've heard from readers who hugely dislike and disagree with the thrust of my essay. A few (and relatively few, I would add) have cast the obligatory accusations about being bought off by Karl Rove and selling out to all the reactionary forces afoot in the world today. Makes perfect sense: If one's particular style of narcissism is founded on seeing oneself as "progressive," then by definition someone who says "goodbye to all that" must be ... regressive. Several have demanded that I submit to a test that basically comes down to this: "So it's clear what you don't like about the left, but now you are obliged to say precisely where you stand on all of the following issues..." The issues range from Abortion to Gun Control; Worker's Rights to Single-Payer Health Care; Iraq to the Patriot Act. Here's my response: No. I have no such obligation. Here's why. If I find out there's a crack house in my neighborhood, you can be sure that my mind is going to get powerfully concentrated around one goal, namely how to get that house closed down. If I go to a neighbor for help in this task, and if he says he shares my concern but doesn't want to act against the crack house until we have a plan for a new use of the house once the house has been vacated, I'm going to shake my head, walk away and go looking for neighbors who understand why the crack house needs to be closed, period, now. I'm guessing that metaphor is going to drive some readers ballistic. They'll say I'm declaring that everyone who identifies with left-of-center thinking in any way is comparable to a crack user. That's decidedly not what I am saying. I know that many people who favor, say, a larger role for government, or who don't like what's happening in Iraq, aren't crazy about the dogmatism of the politically correct left, especially the academic left that spawns reactionaries like Ward Churchill. So let me be precise about my analogy. I'm convinced that the cultural left as defined in my essay is indeed extremely dangerous to "the neighborhood," by which I mean our culture. Possible future uses of what's currently a crack house are irrelevant to the task at hand: recognizing the dangers posed by the activities of that house, and acting accordingly. Doing so would be nothing extraordinary. Not doing so would be insane.