Twelve Step Program For Recovering Liberals

Ben G. Price

Liberal (lib'er el), adj. 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in religious or political affairs. 2. (often cap.) noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform. 3. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.4. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism. 5. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, esp. as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties.6.favoring or permitting freedom of action, esp. with respect to matters of personal belief or expression. 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant. minded or tolerant, esp. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc. 9.characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts. 10. given freely or abundantly. 11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal. 12. of, pertaining to, or befitting a freeman.

---The Random House Dictionary of the English Language, The Unabridged Edition

Liberals are addicted to their weaknesses, or so it seems. Rush Limbaugh is (far) right when he whines that the left loves to invent victims. But he's wrong about the details because the victims he denies exist are real enough. It's the activists who bemoan their elbowing-out from political seats of honor by right wing zealots who most nearly fit Limbaugh's accusation. Liberals have bought the Newtspeak of the right to such a degree that they've stopped calling themselves liberals!

And while "recovering liberals" sit on the curb of the political superhighway, their hearts broken and bleeding, people really are being victimized by the transubstantiation of the Republic into a Plutocracy. The poor are victims of corporate hegemony in which labor is becoming the lowest of all overhead costs. The environment and those (all of us) who depend on it are being diseased and ravaged and plundered for profit and wealth that will never be "redistributed" among those being deprived of the simple but necessary gifts of nature. All of this and more in the scorched earth campaign of capital creates a class of victims (by far the majority), a panjandrum class (obedient and paid-for bootlickers such as Congressmen), all dictated to by a minority of insular aristocrats who have as their prime directive the Machiavellian commandment: increase and centralize profits; redistribute costs.

We are addicted to our weaknesses and invent ourselves as victims because we haven't bothered to overthrow the yolk of twisted rhetoric so assiduously woven and lashed together by those hirelings, those chiselers, those wax-tongued laureates of the new tyranny. It is time. I propose a 12 step program, following the which we may recover our lost social sobriety.

1) We must admit we have an entrenched problem, not just a political setback, and determine to do battle, using every strategy available to our creativity, ingenuity, intelligence, experience, and sense of community (which we must rebuild to gain strength from it). In defining the nature of our problem as a confrontation with an all-consuming and liberty-destroying beast, we must be ruthless in challenging its insinuation into our lives at every social event, and at celebrations of community affairs. There is no pride to be taken in sharing the day with a flag waving dictator who cares for the flag as a symbol of what HE can make it stand for, while planning for us the ways we will carry out his plans and be enslaved under that same banner.

2)We must admit that there is a higher force in the political cosmos than money, and that there is a higher force than clout. That force is the individual citizen, whatever we imagine him or her to be: liberal, progressive, conservative, moderate. And that force, when called upon for aid against the power of the tyrant, can not fail to triumph. Once called on, we need to set out a plan, an unwavering commitment to change those things that have caused the magnification of our weaknesses into a near fatal failure of liberty, democracy, and government as a public right, not a servant of private money and privilege. That commitment and agenda is to be outlined in the remaining ten steps of this 12 step program proposal.

3)Crime is to be defined by its social impact and as activity that creates victims. Where there are no victims, there is no crime. Where there are victims, there is crime. This, we must stand by and not be shamed into abandoning so rational a social stance by those bully boys who would pooh pooh the suffering of others as proof of some blameworthy flaw. Crime, then, would include such activities as hostile corporate take-overs and other business practices, such as down-sizing that create wealth for the few by redistributing the cost of creating that wealth among the many. Hostile business practices result in the impoverishment of the community and should be treated as criminal attacks on community. The community has a right to act collectively to end such activities and penalize the criminal perpetrators.

4)Corporations, defined by one Supreme Court Justice (Chief Justice Morrison R. Waite in Santa Clara County v Southern Pacific Railroad [1886]) to be "persons" within the meaning of the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, have since grown in the eyes of the law to supercede the rights of living individuals and their social organizations, such as legislatures, unions, and citizens themselves. For instance, employees may retain their constitutional rights in the community, but upon entering the work place they are subject to restraints, censorship, restriction of association, and all manner of tyranny. In the belly of the corporate chimera, the citizen becomes a non-entity. There may be nothing to it, but if precedent such as this means anything, then perhaps the debate over Roe v Wade and the "personhood" of the fetus merely models the so-far unjoined battle over the personhood of the citizen in the womb of capital incarnate.

5)The tunnel vision, disinformation, hypnosis of ideology, and domination of education, publishing, broadcasting and art by commercial agendas must be halted and put under the control of the people at large who own the airwaves and who send their children to school for an education, who participate in art as a community, not as consumers. The use of the public airwaves must be deloused of commercialism and the promotion day and night of uncivic consumerism.

6)Political correctness, a code for public morality disliked (for not being "profitable") by the right, should be embraced and defined intelligently. We need to stop accepting the ridicule of the mean-spirited and start promoting such "correctness" as the embodiment of positive values. Jesus was a bleeding heart liberal! The Christian right deserves to be ridiculed for its abandonment of the beatitudes, and for its embrace of the money changers in the temple of democracy. We need to take the moral high ground from them, unapologetically. They didn't earn it, and they don't deserve to sermonize from Capital Hill!

7)Substance over symbolism needs to be re-adopted by recovering liberals as a healing step toward revitalizing a nation that has always touted its ideals, but often failed to enact them as living social policy. At a time when the power of the individual citizen to influence public policy has been diminished to near non-existence, and where even the vote has been neutered by influence-buying and the hijacking of legislation by monied blocks, laws are being proposed, even to the degree of amending the people's constitution, which would make it a crime for citizens not to revere and show homage to the national flag. The flag, ostensibly a symbol of the ideals that would be invigorating citizen-run government (had those ideals not been downloaded from public consciousness), would instead be elevated to the status of an icon, a sacred image, the ideals which exist or perish behind it being irrelevant.

It is important that we make citizens democracy-literate. For those who have forgotten what democracy is all about in this age of sound bites and information bites, perhaps a computer metaphor will make the point. The flag is to democracy what the program icon is to the computer application. It is an image that tells you democracy should be backing it up, but you'll never know unless you test it. If when you push the flag icon on society no programs empowering the people are run, then the icon is useless. It has malfunctioned as an image. Let's adopt a computer-age slogan to symbolize the needed re-investment of the flag with portentions and not pretensions of people-run government: Programs, Not Icons!

8)It is up to liberal-minded citizens recovering from the villanization of the left by eloquent hypocrites on the right to Halt the Deconstruction of Democracy. The left is often blamed for the splintering of society into narrow special interest groups, and it can not be denied that in an effort to identify pockets of the citizenry who have been left out of the political process an unforseen and unwelcome result has been the creation of a broad vulnerability to criticism by those who would preserve and enshrine the status quo. Disadvantaged subgroups of society rightly deserve to be identified and their needs met by publicly funded programs, so that society as a whole can be represented and served by public institutions that offer and if need be create equal access and equal benefits. Those who take advantage of the demarcations of society based on special needs are the very same who took advantage of people by corralling them through hate, mistreatment, and disregard into separate but invisible categories like race, thereby creating both the splintering and the neediness that has left an erstwhile symbolic democracy a torn fabric of social lies that needs mending.

And as for those "reformers" who would ridicule the effort of liberal-minded citizens to recover democracy from the delirium tremens brought on by the withdrawal of civility and political responsibility: constitutional democracy is not to be deconstructed like a literary work. It is a mutual agreement among citizens about how to leave each other alone in private matters and how to function together in public ones. To say there are either only private matters or only public matters is to espouse a form of tyranny, and those who disabuse us as a society of this agreement by abusing our differences to put us against each other are themselves tyrants.

9)In reclaiming our social sobriety, it is inevitable that we will see clearly again, as if for the first time after so long a binge on right-wing disinformation, that a government run by the people would naturally become a target for attack by those whose interests run counter to the will of the people. The siren song of the right has been a running polemic of sour notes crooning a ballad of bad faith against what was at least partial democracy. Big Government was villanized as inimical to the freedom of commerce demanded by hard-working entrepreneurs. Laws that prevented unrestrained profiteering were caterwauled into infamy by laconic lyricists with yet more laconic evidence of the social need to dismantle what had been built by the will of the people.

After so successful a demolition of the fortress of law built to protect people from the mania of the consolidation of power in the hands of an elite, it is now time, for the sake of our continued recovery, to invest in the retooling of our social industry, to rapidly phase out subsidies of destruction, armaments, vapid consumerism, and phase in programs that deliver services directly to people who need them. Education, health care, nutrition, housing, employment: these are the kinds of activities public funds need to be spent on, not loan guarantees for arms sales, ethanol subsidies, advertising write-offs, and government contracts that are written by elected sell-outs who have received money from industries their laws aggrandize. Put simply, if we are to regain the social sobriety that we so sorely need, it is absolutely imperative for us to stop apologizing for a stance we should openly embrace. We should proclaim proudly that public monies are rightly spent for the public good, to serve citizens' needs directly and without know-it-all middlemen who say they know what's best for the people.

10)Denial is our enemy. We can not heal the disease of democracy if we deny our affinities. Once a liberal, always a liberal! This is not said disparagingly; it is said triumphantly. How can a mind once open become permanently closed? How can a heart once full become forever empty? Many liberal minds and hearts have been cowered over the last two decades because the pacifism with which we tried to imbue our demands for social change and progress has often been manipulated and taken advantage of. Instead of cringing at the rhetoric from the right that attacks the very nature of our stance, a social stance that aligns us with the best ideals of Socialism, we need to answer in the affirmative, and we need to affirm that we hold the needs of people above the whims of power and profit. Those of us who have been in long denial of our roots in the left-liberal political soil must admit the truth, state the facts, and embrace them heartily.

11)Creativity is the hallmark of the progressive, liberal spirit, and it is from our artistry that our message will gain its voice. Be bold in exploring the world of the mind, heart, and spirit. Do not listen to the death rattle of the materialists, the plutocrats, the naysayers and those with dried-up hearts and vision diminished by allegiance to long dead and misquoted prophets. Ideas that cage the spirit are not heaven-sent. Take chances, challenge assumptions, question authority, demand information, use your wits in the service of discovery and innovation, all without losing sight of your membership in the community.

12)Good practice for good citizenship is the practice of honest and harmonious interpersonal relationships. It is impossible to have open and honest relationships with others when we are not honest with ourselves. Practice self-critiquing. Society is built from the cornerstone of the individual. The society reflects the character of its members, and they are reflected by the character of their leaders, whether popularly chosen or self-chosen. Recovering liberals who are distressed by the malfeasance of national and community leaders must ask themselves if, by their self-indulged silence, they have not allowed things to go from bad to worse. People-run government requires people willing to speak from the heart and not be silenced by threats, snubs, or ridicule. The devices of tyranny are pain and fear. The devices of liberty are fearlessness and indomitable optimism.