Grow Up America
by Charles Lemos, Fri Apr 10, 2009 at 06:02:52 PM EDT
I am less than bemused by Glenn Beck and his ever more insane antics. Yesterday while perusing Free Republic as I do nearly daily, I came across the clip courtesy of Instapundit, home of the gay American conservative, of Mr. Beck pretending to douse with petrol an actor (a very bad one at that) and then setting him afire. The cause for this insanity on the part of Mr. Beck was the President's decision to tackle immigration reform that will include a path to citizenship for most but not all of the nation's twelve million plus illegal immigrants. Grow up, Mr. Beck. If you're opposed to moving forward on immigration reform then state your case. Spare us the antics. (Dave Neiwert over at Crooks and Liars has the whole sad episode with a transcript)
This past Fall, a European friend of mine went to a Sarah Palin rally in Colorado Springs. I asked him about it. He told me "Charles, you can see the fear in their eyes. They have lost their country and they know it." My friend, I think, is right. Conservative America is not unlike the Afrikaner of 1990. The writing is on the wall. They have lost the battle of ideas and just as important they have lost the demographic battle. They talk of a silent majority by pointing to the electoral results by county that still show a wide swath of America as "red" but those are the empty spaces, the rural part of the country that may cover 85% of the country in terms of acreage but accounts for about 40% of its GDP. The America that is coming is going to be more diverse and more liberal and open-minded. This development seems to frighten the closed, self-centered, conservative mind. They talk of going Galt, we talk about moving forward to solve energy issues, providing healthcare for all and narrowing the growing social inequality that threatens to tear the nation apart. Like petulant children, an increasing number of conservatives wail incessantly about non-existent threats and bizarre world government conspiracies. Grow up and get real.
Yesterday in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, a Baptist preacher by the name of Eric Schumacher said that gay marriage in Iowa was more destructive than a 500 year old flood.
Last June, a "500-year flood" ushered millions of gallons of water through eastern Iowa. In Cedar Rapids alone, more than 25,000 individuals were displaced in one day. Hundreds of millions of dollars in property damage was done.
The Flood of 2008 is arguably the most destructive disaster that the state of Iowa has seen -- at least, that is, until last Friday.
On April 3, the Iowa Supreme Court unanimously ruled that a state law limiting marriage to one man and one woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution. Licenses will be issued to homosexual couples April 27.
It is not hyperbole to say that this ruling has the potential to be the worst disaster to strike the state of Iowa.
Flood waters destroy houses, ruin offices buildings and displace families. Yet, recovery happens. Houses are rebuilt. Businesses relocate. Families eventually find housing.
Legalized "homosexual marriage," on the other hand, does far more pervasive and irrecoverable damage. Civilization itself is eroded as marriage, the central building block of culture and society, is redefined. Soon, our sons and daughters are confused about what it means to be male and female, as "homosexual marriage" gains both legal status and visibility in neighborhoods and the classroom.
Far worse, the Gospel message is confused. Marriage is established by God to be a living picture of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the husband representing Christ and the wife representing his church. "Homosexual marriage" presents a distorted picture, a false Gospel, promoting a blasphemous message.
Flood waters erode the soil. "Gay marriage" erodes the soul. A flood impacts for a decade. "Same-sex marriage" destroys generations. A flood draws a community together. "Homosexual marriage" tears the family apart. Communities recover from floods. The promotion of un-natural unions has an eternal consequence.
Let's see if I marry, civilization collapses. Grow up, Mr. Schumacher, grow up.
Then there these "spontaneous" tea parties. Spontaneous even though they are pushed by Free Republic, Michelle Malkin, Erick Erickson and now even Fox News. Spontaneous is the Twitter-enabled protests in Chişinău, the capital of Moldova. These tea parties are little more than the death cries of an irrelevant conservative movement bereft of ideas and threatened by liberal values of tolerance and fairness. Conservatives argue that this tea party phenomenon is based on an idea, that of small government and personal freedom. Interesting that their composition is nearly all white, mostly male and generally over 40. That America is the America of the past.
As many of you know, I am from Colombia. It's not always been easy to be a Colombian. In the 1980s when I came of age, the country came undone as a result of long-standing social injustice and then all of a sudden we had to contend with a multi-billion illegal drug industry that we have been fighting with modest success ever since. In 1991, Colombia adopted a new Constitution and as a result the political process was opened up. For the first time in our history, we elected directly mayors and governors. More than anyone, it has been the mayors that have changed the country. One of these mayors was Antanas Mockus. Mr. Mockus, the son of Lithuanian immigrants, was a mathematician and the rector of the Universidad Nacional which in the early 1990s was unruly and beset by student strikes. At a forum when student activists wouldn't behave properly, Mr. Mockus got up and mooned them. They promptly shut up.
That episode garnered him international attention and launched his iconoclastic political career. As Mayor of Bogotá, a city of seven million, he tried some rather unusual programmes. He launched a "Night for Women" and asked the city's men to stay home in the evening and care for the children; 700,000 women went out on the first of three nights that Mr. Mockus dedicated to them. When there was a water shortage, Mr. Mockus appeared on TV programs taking a shower and turning off the water as he soaped, asking his fellow citizens to do the same. In just two months people were using 14 percent less water, a savings that increased when people realized how much money they were also saving because of economic incentives approved by Mr. Mockus; water use is now 40 percent less than before the shortage even though the city has grown. Incidentally, Bogotá is now one of the greenest cities in the world. So change is possible. But it must begin with each one of us.
In contrast to these tea parties of the recalcitrant among us and the reason I bring Antanas Mockus up is that as mayor, he did something very very unusual. He asked people to voluntarily pay more taxes. He created a Bogotá 110% Club where citizens pay 10% more and could direct the expenditure towards a specific project. To the surprise of many, 63,000 people voluntarily paid the extra taxes in the first year alone. A dramatic indicator of the shift in the attitude of Bogotanos during Mockus' tenure is that, in 2002, the city collected more than three times the revenues it had garnered in 1990. The changes have been dramatic if unexpected. Bogotá is a city transformed even if its challenges remain daunting.
In my time in the United States, I have always admired its civic culture. I now find it lacking. I believe that one of the primary reasons that propelled Barack Obama to the Presidency was in fact a cultural one. Mr. Obama was asking the nation to look at itself and "set aside childish things". Mr. Beck pretending to set someone ablaze surely must qualify as one of the most sophomoric if not moronic stunts ever performed, and it was a performance, on an American television "news" programme. It's time to grow up and tackle the multitude of problems that we face.
At the end of March, I attended a lecture by William Greider, the national political correspondent for The Nation. He was on tour talking about his new book, Come Home, America. Those of us of a certain age might recall that Come Home, America was also the refrain of the 1972 George McGovern campaign. That speech is worth revisiting.
From secrecy and deception in high places; come home, America.
From military spending so wasteful that it weakens our nation; come home, America.
From the entrenchment of special privileges in tax favoritism; from the waste of idle lands to the joy of useful labor; from the prejudice based on race and sex; from the loneliness of the aging poor and the despair of the neglected sick -- come home, America.
Come home to the affirmation that we have a dream. Come home to the conviction that we can move our country forward.
Come home to the belief that we can seek a newer world, and let us be joyful in that homecoming, for this "is your land, this land is my land -- from California to New York island, from the redwood forest to the gulf stream waters -- this land was made for you and me."
So let us close on this note: May God grant each one of us the wisdom to cherish this good land and to meet the great challenge that beckons us home.
And now is the time to meet that challenge.
Now indeed is the time to meet that challenge and tomorrow we have a chance to move America forward. A New Way Forward is holding planning forceful, creative actions all over the country tomorrow at 2 PM EDT (1PM CDT, Noon MDT and 11 AM PDT). The idea for the site and the demonstrations on 4/11 came while Donny Shaw and his girlfriend were watching Bill Moyers' interview of economist Simon Johnson which aired in mid February. As Donny told me he and his girlfriend just thought that there needed to be a strong public movement, stronger than a contact-Congress type campaign, to demonstrate to the Obama Administration that there is strong public support for tackling the banks structurally, intervening on insolvent ones, rather than continually bailing them out. In Donny's view, the right was really owning the anger over AIG, but the left has an actually message -- real structural change of the financial sector. I agree the ideas are ours. It is the progressive movement that has vibrancy, optimism and energy offering concrete proposals, not just the failed rhetoric of Reaganism.
I hope that tomorrow you will attend one of these rallies that are being held across the nation, demonstrating the maturity of the left and the vibrancy of our ideas. It's time to grow up and come home America. The journey that George McGovern foresaw has been delayed by four decades. We can delay it no longer.Update [2009-4-11 0:25:1 by Charles Lemos]: I am relieved that there are many conservatives appalled by the antics of Glenn Beck. In this light, Rick Moran of Right Wing Nut House deserves credit for noting that "anyone who believes we may be headed for dictatorship is a loon." Thank you. Charles Johnson of Little Green Footballs too deserves praise for calling Mr. Beck on his "over-the-top irresponsible extremism and conspiracy theories." Thank you. We on the left can criticize Mr. Beck ad naseum but it is really up to the right to engage him and to challenge him on conservatism stands for.