October 3, 2008


As much as I would like to turn my brain off to the farce that passes for American politics these days, I simply cannot look away. Tis the season, and so I writ. I am fully aware that each post trickling from my mind is stating very little that can pass for original thought, but my voice creeps from my throat nonetheless.

let’s face it, it is easy and fun to make fun of Sarah Palin, but an article came across my doorstep tonight has got me thinking.

It is a blog post by my new hero Joe Bageant. I suggest you read his posts in its entirety here, but below are a few points that I would like to examine.
…you must not only take these people seriously (referring to conservative white, heterosexual Christians) and by that I do not mean demonize them, but rather understand why they believe what they believe -- and figure out how to understand and even, yes, find common ground. No matter what your kind Democratic congressman tells you in order to capitalize on you alienation, we need to think for ourselves and try to understand America as it is, not the way we wish it was.
I wish that we could slice an independent nation from the bosom of conservative America, and live happily ever after, but last time people tried to carve up the union there was a long dirty war. I don’t see a United States of Progressive America having a seat at the UN anytime soon, besides if we did have our own country, we would probably immediately be invaded by the real USA and forced to “share” our natural resources.

While I have a hard enough time relating to progressive Americans, as any reader of this blog knows I spend much of my time trying to waken people to the deceitful nature of the Democratic Party, to me connecting and understanding the Red state voters is like trying to connect and understand people from another planet. To think that I need to try and empathize with the conservative minions in our crumbling empire seems like a task beyond my capabilities. I simply do not understand people who shoot moose from helicopters, speak in tongues, and pray to deities they call the “Lord.” But what Bagaent is trying to help the me and the Left understand, is that the voters that Palin and her Republican puppet masters are trying to appeal to, are the exact people that we need on the Left need to be connecting with as well. Before you click away, please hear what I have to say.

I know it seems like a monumental feat to connect with people who believe in creationism, the big JC, and think that having a passport makes you a terrorist, but let’s face it, America has always been two nations dancing under the guise of a United States. Or is it? What the right wing politicians fear most is that their constituents will see that a left wing progressive agenda is more aligned to the needs of the very people they are brainwashing, and so they spend all of the energy trying to tear the right wing voters away from their very own interests, but telling them that the left will never take them seriously.

An anti-corporatist, socialists, (Under any other name) Eugene Debbs style campaign running through the fly-over states designed not to alienate and ridicule the American heartland is what is in order.

I would like to think I am the type of person who can see things from my opponents point of view, and realistically, if I was a lower-middle class Nascar dad, why would I vote for a candidate who not only does not understand my day-to-day life, but who also does nothing but call me a moron every chance he gets.

Bageant goes on to say:
Sarah Palin's real coup is that she brings out the snobbery of the left in their dismissal of her as an ignorant hick typical of small town red state America. They vastly underestimate her. Just like they have underestimated George Bush for the past eight years.

...each time Democrats and liberals take a shot at her religious beliefs and moral choices, which just happen to be those of tens of millions of heartland voting Americans, she gains political ground, or at a minimum, holds some for herself and McCain.
This point is a very important one. I am just as guilty as any reader of this blog, when it comes to looking down on rightwing conservative beliefs. As liberals, we cannot continue to play into the corporatist agenda and belittle a very large and powerful voting block of the American electorate.

This sounds impossible, but if we truly feel that we are open minded and “progressive,” then we must progress beyond entrenching ourselves behind our beliefs. If we believe in the power of truth and justice, peace and science, law and order, evolution, then we must have faith that our ideals will prevail. How can we accuse the other side of being close-minded and unmoving, when we never even acknowledge them as political equals? Don’t get me wrong, I am not advocating you try and turn all your gay friends straight, but we do need to start finding a way to at least understand what factors have divided the two sides to such extremes.

The corporate ambush of our media, the influence of religious organizations, the deteriorations of our public schools, and the specter of the great American Dream and manifest destiny telling us we are perfect, come to mind, but the left has also been brainwashed to believe that we alone can save America. Until we realize that we need the help of every member of the American underclass, no matter what his or her beliefs, we cannot move forward.

We must learn to relate to the red states and not divide ourselves on the issues like the political machine has been forcing us to do. We must unite our needs based on class. This bailout should be a unifying force; the war in Iraq and the men and women who are forced to fight it should be a unifying force.

Luckily for me Bagaent agrees with me and can articulate my point much better than me:
But one thing I know for sure. Liberals and leftists, theoretically at least, have more common national interests with red state heartland white working class Americans than any other current political group.
We need to make these connections more real. Like I said in a previous post, we need progressive intervention in the heartland. I am not talking about face value campaign stops making empty promises, or “liberal” media berating the very people we want to influence, but actual grassroots work. We need progressive activists talking to farmers, factory workers, Red state voters, not talking about them or down to them. We need a Paolo Freire style campaign in the American Heartland. Pedagogy of the Oppressed is dedicated "to the oppressed, and to those who suffer with them and fight at their side," in which Freire includes a detailed Marxist class analysis in his exploration of the relationship between the colonizer and the colonized. It is rooted in his own experience helping Brazilian adults to read and write, the book remains popular among educators in developing countries.

Heartland America is colonized territory. We need to be engaging average Americans and educating them on their own oppression by corporate forces.

Bagaent goes on to say:
And the way to communicate that is NOT sneering at the only candidate who resembles ordinary Americans, their beliefs and lifestyle. When we do that, the Republicans grin like Cheshire cats, our global financial oppressors turn the screws down a bit harder, and the Devil takes a nap, because his work is done for him by fools using the most efficient tools available -- arrogance and hubris.
Rather than humiliate and degrade people like Palin for what they represent, we should be looking to debunk the lies she is telling her base. Hatred and ignorance are easy. Pointing fingers and degrading what we don’t understand is easy. If we truly are progressive and liberal than we must be able to sit down and understand and appreciate not Sarah Palin, but the people who understand her. Would love to hear your thoughts. Reach out...

Photo by Monsiurlam
Having said all that, this is precious.


  1. realizing that for the present all of us have to share the same country- and planet- i would have no problem keeping my contempt to myself when it comes to the christians. unfortunately, a large chunk of them want to take away civil liberties from everyone in order to maintain their fragile facade of a fearful life. no thanks. it isn't snobbery i feel- it's self preservation. as a woman, a deliberately childless one, the fact that they not only want to repeal roe v. wade- but take away contraception as well- makes me angry. the fact that they want to control who lives together within the same house and raise children as a family unit- when their own backyards are full of infidelity, incest, and pedophilia- well, hypocrisy aside- they have no right in a free society. i was born an american and the america i was born into inspired me that i could live where i wanted, marry who i wanted (if i so chose) get a decent education and well, the sky was the limit. and i grew up poor in a poor section of my state. so for these christians to deign to tell me how to live my life- well, it isn't elitism that makes me feel contempt and disgust and the urge to fight back- it's self preservation.

    but i ramble. :)

    why would i want to understand someone who is bent on destroying the american way of life? it doesn't really matter to me what they believe or why they believe it (and yes, i am aware that i sound like bush invading iraq)- they need to keep their religious beliefs to themselves within their own churches, homes and religious schools. period.

  2. I have a friend with a "Celebrate Diversity" sticker on his car. We were talking the other day about how hard that is to really live up to. He said, "You know, some days I really find it hard to celebrate that SUV speeding down the freeway with the W sticker in the back window. But I can't really claim to celebrate diversity if I'm only celebrating people who are just like me."

    That seemed really profound to me.

    I also had a really really cool conversation with my partner's ex-boss the other day. He's pretty much the epitome of red state religious conservatism that I can't stand. He doesn't believe in evolution and won't let his kids watch science shows that talk about it. He thinks my partner and I are wrong for living together without being married. He's virilently anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-divorce. I pretty much avoid any hot topic at all when I need to interact with him, but he came over to borrow a tool from Preston the other day and I was the only one there and I'm not sure it happened but somehow we got to talking about the state of the world.

    And I realized that we are really coming from the same place. He knows that the world is going to hell in a handbasket. Things are pretty much fucked (obviously, he didn't word it quite like that), and that has a lot to do with our government. He and I are both operating from a place of deep deep sadness and fear about the state of our world. And we even have common ground in our beliefs about what it would take to fix it. We both believe that a connection to spirituality, a belief in ethics and morals, and a strong sense of family and community are what's missing. We've become disconnected from our support systems and that makes us vulnerable to manipulation from governments and entities that do not have our best interests at heart.

    Obviously, our thoughts about how to actually implement those beliefs differ greatly. But it was eye-opening, and heart-opening, to realize that even this ultra-conservative old middle-class white guy and I have much more common ground than difference. That seems important somehow.

    So to give my answer to betmo's question, why would you want to understand someone who is bent on destroying the american way of life? Because in understanding is your only chance of averting it.