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Things to do

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I haven't had a chance to make the rounds of journals and blogs and LJ in more than the most cursory fashion this week, but in the few places I've looked, I've been pleased to see left-leaning friends come out of this election actively looking for ways to get more involved, to be more politically active.

I'll have more to say about all this later, but for now here are a couple of quick suggestions:

  • One area of concern for leftists and libertarians alike is the potential for further erosion of rights in the US. Regardless of your political beliefs, if Ashcroft worries you, here's the first thing I recommend doing, because it's very quick and easy to do (if you can afford it financially): join the ACLU. You might also consider joining the EFF while you're at it. Both organizations do excellent work.

    . . . I feel obliged to mention that the work they do isn't always completely in accordance with liberal beliefs; the ACLU in particular has at times in its history championed freedom of speech in ways that some on the left have found uncomfortable. If you're at all concerned about this, I strongly urge you to visit your local library and request a book by interlibrary loan: Defending My Enemy, by Aryeh Neier. It's the most compelling and inspiring defense of freedom of speech I've ever encountered. In fact, if any of y'all small press folks are looking for a good out-of-print book to reprint, you might be interested in this one.

  • If you find yourself bewildered about why anyone would vote for Bush, I highly recommend seeking out some intelligent people who did vote for him and listening to what they have to say. I don't mean "glance at their arguments and then yell at the person"; I mean listen. Start with the assumption that the person is not stupid, evil, or insane; try to understand their premises and how those premises might lead them to their conclusions.

    . . . Actually, I don't recommend doing this just yet, if you're still outraged and distraught about the election; wait until you're a little further along in the grieving process, until you're in a frame of mind where you can really hear what they have to say. You don't have to agree with them, and you probably won't—but it seems to me that it's a good idea to understand what the arguments are. Note, btw, that Bush voters are no more monolithic than any group; demanding that one of them explain themselves to you so you can understand all of them would be like demanding that someone of a different race from you explain "their people's experience" to you. And a lot of the right-leaning political blogs have been as vitriolic lately as a lot of the left-leaning ones have. But there are people out there who will be happy to discuss things calmly and rationally if you're willing to talk to them calmly and rationally.

  • Don't get complacent. It will be easy, in the days and weeks ahead, to let the energy dissipate, or to spend it in railing against society. Take your energy, your anger, your frustration, your concern, and channel it, and keep it going. (But also don't let the anger consume you. Long-term rage can be awfully hard on a person.) Join organizations; educate yourselves; participate in protests; make allies; work for change. Figure out what's most important to you, and then figure out what you can do to help in that area, and then do it. Go forth and Do Good.

9 Comments

Last night I thought maybe joining the ACLU would be my activism-for-the-day for Friday; thanks for providing the link and making it even easier :-) I just joined.


The ACLU is unpleasantly non-libertarian; they favor authoritarian big-government solutions to social problems in ways that have little to do with what people usually mean by "civil liberties". Progressive leftist types should certainly sign up, but the ACLU is not aligned with small-government libertarians any more. :^(


On what issues? I haven't followed the ACLU policy card for years, so I have no idea where they stand.

Thank you,
-V.


Huh; I'd never regarded the ACLU as particularly in favor of or against large or small government. (Maybe I wasn't paying attention.) But given the choice between supporting a big-government organization whose ideals I dislike (e.g., the Bush Administration) or a big-government organization whose ideals I like (e.g., the ACLU), I'll take the ACLU. (Sure, there are other choices. But the ACLU seems to be pretty effective at what it does.)


Jed,

Once again you are the voice of moderation. I've been trying to think of ways to express what you just said, but you said it better. Thanks.


Or I thought you had. I directed someone to this entry and got in trouble. It seems wholly inoffensive. How do we say things without offense?

Anyway, you're still highly cool in my book--for what little that may count.


The ACLU tends to argue that civil liberties can only be guaranteed by massive wealth redistribution, state-run health care and education, et al. Their web site is surprisingly light on these issues, but when I was a member, their newsletter seemed filled with them.

About their effectiveness: Someone was arguing elsewhere that they're not actually very effective, in that they make big headlines out of lunatic fringe cases, rather than making big changes on important issues. I don't know how valid that criticism is, and the lunatic fringe certainly needs someone to stand up for its free speech rights, but I figured I'd pass it along for the consideration of those better well versed.

The EFF is pretty good at staying on message, and they seem to get involved in the big cases that really affect the things they care about. I'm also fond of the Institute for Justice, but they tend to be more about property rights (their big thing has become fighting eminent domain abuse) than speech and religious rights.


Brother Jed,

I really appreciated your comments about listening to someone who voted for Bush; a lot can be learned. Once again, you are the voice of reason. I regret to say that I voted for Bush in 2000...but I kept an open mind, and was ultimately convinced that Kerry was the "lesser of two risks" so I voted against Bush this time...and tried very hard to convince my conservative friends to do likewise.

In that process, I did a lot of listening, and I have some enormously intelligent friends who voted Republican for philosophical reasons. I think they are generally wrong, but calling them them idiots and claiming they misunderstand fundamental macroecomics is fatuous.

I was in NYC last week and Bill Clinton spoke to a group I'm in. He reminded us that dems had a massive failure by LETTING Rove and company define them as baby-killing elite snobs who think the heart and soul of America is Whoopi Goldberg making jokes about the part of the female anatomy that corresponds to George W.'s last name. I'm no Clinton fan, but he's right...anyone who wants a non-Republican in the White House in 2008 has got to do better. And it starts with "cool it on the name-calling, pandering and condescension."

And not to namedrop too much--sorry, there is a point to this--but I have met and spoken with Karl Rove...and I can say categorically that he is not Lucifer. A long story, but upshot is that awhile ago, I paid an absurd amount to partcipate in a fundraiser (not to benefit the president, but Bush was speaking) and I was supposed to get a picture with the president. They nixed me and a few others for the pix at the last minute and our "consolation prize" was a meeting with Rove. Anyway, here's the bottom line: Rove is not a evil man. I have seen the face of evil when I served on a jury and Rove simply is not evil.

He is a political genius and it seems that most of his reason for existence is to win. But he also wants what he thinks is best for America and he is a patriot; we just strenuously disagree on how to get there. So calling Bush and Rove names and being condescending and pandering (Kerrypander: "Me big bad hunter man, watch me git my gun and shoot things") is not going to get the Republicans out of the White House in 2008. But listening carefully to people who have an opposite point of view from us is a very good place to start.


One quick follow-up.

If people aren't ready yet to engage conservatives in conversation (e.g., if you are afraid you might start shouting at them, as I have unfortunately done on occasion) then let me recommend (as a starting point) reading the columns of Daniel Henniger and/or Holman Jenkins in The Wall Street Journal.

Henniger and Jenkins are very talented writers and thinkers, and while I disagree with them a lot of the time, they are articulate conservative voices. A very good contrast to my steady diet of Kristof, Krugman, Freidman, Brooks, Herbert, et. al. of the NYT. (Kristof is the best of the bunch, imho.)


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