Friday, July 10, 2009

Of Handbooks and Humanity

It's official, conservative's now have a handbook. As a liberal, purchasing "The Conservative's Handbook," by Phil Valentine wasn't too much of a stretch. I figured what better way to get a handle on where these folks were really coming from. While I haven't read all of Valentine's book (and to be honest, I may never read it all), The portions I have read have proved eye-opening. As a foot soldier in the "Kulturkampf" that exists between liberal's and conservatives in America, I think I may purchase many similar books in the future. What better way to ferret out the many weaknesses inherent in the conservative program, and to find common ground, assuming it still exists between the camps.

Conservative's who wish to become equally educated about the ideology of the left may have their work cut out for them. Even I struggle to recall ever seeing a compendium of liberal thought that exists under the title say, of "The Liberal's Handbook." I haven't found one yet, but I do own a copy of Eric Alterman's 2008 book, "Why We're Liberals," which bills itself as a political handbook for a "Post-Bush America."

Then there is Ted Rall's entertaining "Wake Up...You're Liberal!" which purports to show independents and even many Republicans just how unwittingly liberal they actually are. Neat trick, I'd say.

There are more such tomes weighing down my shelves here at the homestead, but I'll only mention one in passing since it probably hasn't seen a lot of publicity due most likely to it's admittedly wonkish presentation and the general anti-intellectualism that prevails in our time. The book is "The Second Bill Of Rights," by Cass R. Sunstein and it offers a compelling argument in support of President Franklin D. Roosevelt's rarely discussed, though brilliant State of the Union address of January 1944.

I suppose my point here is that while conservatives have had the commendable foresight to compile their ideological touchstones in an accessible volume and in clear, simple terms, liberals have to search far and wide to piece together the core beliefs that drive their movement. George Lakoff has done much to crystallize these ideas through such books as "Don't Think of an Elephant," "Moral Politics," and "The Political Brain," but more needs to be done.

While we await our one volume compilation of all things liberal, maybe we should be about the business of identifying and codifying them for ourselves. Conviction however, need never wait upon finding the right book. Our liberal values are inscribed in our hearts and minds already. Just look to the basic morality, fairness and compassion that characterizes humanity at its best. Surely our values as liberals are enshrined there at least in rudimentary form. Not insignificant is the fact that the word humane has as its root "human."

d.

8 comments:

  1. I would assume that a Liberal Handbook would include such chapters as: Tax 'Em Till it Hurts, Don't Worry..Social Security will be around Forever! and How to Pass Your Liberal Agenda (Hint: don't read ANY legislation, and try to pass it off as a benefit to the poor!)

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  2. Anonymous is clever, if not very courageous!!

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  3. I guess the saddest thing about the comment by "anonymous," is that he/she happens to be channeling "The Conservative's Handbook," but probably doesn't know how or why. In the tax comment, chapter 20 is invoked. In the Social Security jibe, chapter 23 is referenced, and the liberal agenda crack was right in line with chapter 12.

    Anonymous "assumes" what a liberal's handbook would look like. In my post, I presented myself as a proud liberal not content with assumptions, not even my own. Perhaps if anonymous actually attempted to find out where his/her liberal fellow Americans were coming from, we might make real progress in this country.

    I own every book mentioned in my post. And while I haven't read them all, at least I'm making the effort, as liberals are wont to do, to understand the motivations of those who see things differently than I do.

    I'll translate anonymous's chapter headings into liberal alternatives. "Tax 'Em till it Helps!," "Old Age With Dignity Will Live Forever!" and "Stay Abreast of All Legislation, and You'll be a Benefit to the Rich and the Poor!"

    d.

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  4. D.,
    The problem with creating a "Liberal Handbook" is that being labeled as a liberal is almost all encompassing. Gays, straight, white, black, christian, non christian, etc. can all be liberals where as those that label themselves "conservatives" are a much more narrow(minded) group.

    That being said it is easier for conservatives to agree on almost all topics.

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  5. Mike B.,

    Good point. That nails liberal culture pretty well. I want liberals of all stripes to know the core principles that over the decades have joined them in common cause; freedom for American slaves, the freedom to vote for women, worker's right to a safe environment to make a living. These are the concerns of grown ups trying to make the world work better for all concerned. Liberals need a "handbook" if for no other reason, than to remind them of their proud track record of doing good in the world. On that basis we can respect everyone, yet take no crap off of anyone. Thanks for posting.

    d.

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  6. I'll be the first in line to get my signed copy when you write it. :)

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  7. Just came across this blog again. In reference to my "assuming" what the liberal handbook would entail, I have to say, if it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck...

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  8. True, Jessica. Of course the same saying would apply equally to assumptions, which calls another old saw to mind about assumptions making "asses" of both speakers and hearers.

    d.

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