Monday, June 15, 2009

Tree Bleeding, Volvo Hugging, Chardonnay Jerking, Pansy

It's come to my attention that some of my readers and not a small number of friends, acquaintances and enemies have labeled me (shudder) a Liberal. Most have done so with the thin lips and squinty eyes
associated with suspicious--some would say, "paranoid"--Conservatives. Without protesting overly much, let me adjust the lens and set the record slightly less ajar.

I have never once hugged a tree. Yes, yes, there was that time, tangled in snow ski bindings, poles and deep powder, that I used a tree to haul myself to a standing position. However, I never saw that particular tree again and we did not subsequently exchange Hallmark cards and breathy phone calls. Don't get me wrong, I certainly like a good tree, and there are many just outside my window, but I have no desire to hug one. In fact, in just the past month, I have directed that several of the really ugly, scrawny ones be taken down in favor of a more pleasing assemblage of ferns and such. The other, more elegant, surrounding trees seem pleased with the extra room and sunlight.

It's also true that in years gone by I owned a Volvo. This was back during the days when my children were car-seat bound and safety was a paramount concern. However, once Ford came along with their gas-guzzling Explorer, I went through a series of three of them, looking down with disdain from my high perch on the more lowly sedans, including the Volvo. I currently drive a Chevy SUV called the Equinox, a name that has celestial meanings unrelated to ground transportation. This is one of the reasons that GM has been nationalized--poor model naming. I must also confess that there is a 11-year old Saab in the garage. I tried to sell it several times but it is a hatchback 5-speed. Older drivers want four doors and younger ones can't drive a stick. I'm stuck.

I have been known to suck down the occasional chardonnay but I also enjoy Bordeaux, Italian reds, pinot grigio, mojitos (Hemingway's fav) and the ice cold Bud out of a long neck. I used to think that scotch was where it was at until it dawned on me that I really didn't want to be where it was at, or at least where too much scotch took me.

It should be clear by now that putting me into the Liberal pigeon hole is not entirely accurate. The question is, where do folks like me fit into the political bell curve, bracketed by Sean Penn on the wacko left and Sean Hannity on the nut-job right (I call this the Sean to Sean continuum).

As luck would have it, I recently came across a book review of Alan Wolfe's latest,
The Future of Liberalism, and it struck me that his description of a true liberal was eerily like me. This serendipitous discovery has allowed me to created a political label for myself that is neither too Sean nor too Sean; I am a Wolfesian.

Here, in brief, is what being a Wolfesian means:

1. I have a "sympathy for equality". This does not mean that I believe that the outcomes of people's lives will be equal or should be made to be equal. It does mean that, for those who want to try for better outcomes, artificial barriers should be eliminated so that they can have a go at it.

2. I have "an inclination to deliberate." Black and white solutions to social, political, religious and policy issues are exceeding rare. "You are either for us or you are against us" statements usually lead to poor outcomes instead of solutions. Most bumper stickers are evidence of narrow thinking and lack of deliberative thought. Real solutions printed on bumper stickers would lead to tailgating because the print would be so small.

3. I aspire to have "a commitment to tolerance" although I struggle with this one on occasion. There will many readers who will roll their eyes and think, perhaps aloud, "No joke, Sherlock." Go on, have your fun, I can handle it. I'm working through the 12-step tolerance program. However, in the end, I still won't be able to tolerate either Sean.

4. I "appreciate openness." This tendency toward candor, of course, has gotten me into much deep doo-doo over the years and is one of the reasons that I could never be elected to political office. Having lived in the South since 1972, however, I have learned the technique of being open with folks and then immediately soothing the sting so that they know that I have their very best interest at heart. An example: "No, those stretch pants don't make your butt look big, it's just that you have a big butt, bless your heart." See, honest but sympathetic.

5. I have "a disposition to grow." This is a reference to intellectual or knowledge growth. I have long since come to terms with the fact that I am never going to be taller. This ability to grow really means the ability to change my mind as I garner additional information. If I didn't do that, I would be stuck in some past ideological rut. Many of our elected officials seem tethered to ideologies from the past, ideologies that have been refuted with the illumination of additional information. This is true at both ends of the political bell curve, i.e. we didn't eliminate poverty by giving people money and the unmonitored financial free-market wasn't the holy grail of perpetual prosperity.

6. I have "a preference for realism." Here are some examples of conservative and liberal ideas that are not grounded in reality and so, either haven't worked or won't work.
(a) Promoting sexual abstinence will lower teen pregnancies and the spread of STDs. Posters in the classroom have no chance against raging hormones in the backseat. Bristol and Levi please step forward as Exhibit A. (b) Banning all privately-owned firearms will dramatically reduce gun violence in America. This Pollyanna dream will not be possible in a democratic society borne of a violent revolution. The independence and self-protection implications of owning lethal weapons are woven into the fabric of American culture. Neither is it realistic to allow the private ownership of shoulder-fired missiles, anti-tank weapons, Claymore mines, rocket-propelled grenades, fully automatic assault rifles with military-grade ammo and such. The realists among us must draw the line and the NRA has proven itself unable to play that role. (c) Universal health care insurance is socialism. No, universal and socialism are not synonyms. Universal health care insurance means only that. Our employment-based health insurance system has given rise to a whopping 47 million uninsured Americans, some employed, some not. Those Americans eventually receive health services and the rest of us pay for their care through cost shifting by the providers. Finding a way to get everyone some insurance coverage lessens the under-the-table cost burden on those of us who are insured. "Socialism" suggests that not only is everyone covered but that all of the providers are government controlled. What's up with that unrealistic conclusion?

7. I have "a taste for governance." Let me amend that slightly. I have a taste for "good" governance. Unlike Ronald Reagan and Libertarians, I do not think "that government is the problem". The problems come from "bad" government. In a government responsible for 300 million independent-minded citizens, there will always be pockets of bad governance...always. Generalizing that to mean that the problem is the entire government is simply too simple. The apostle Paul was a firm believer in having no ruling church hierarchy, an early Libertarian he, but his letter to the Corinthians indicates that things in Corinth got way out of hand in the absence of some governance. Anarchy is a lousy substitute for a governance structure that allows personal freedoms but sets realistic limits on same. (For the official record, neither do I believe that government is the solution for every social, financial or health care challenge that crops up.)

So there you have it, the labeling of moi and other like-minded citizens as "Wolfesians", a label that rests nicely on my psyche. Perhaps I'll get several million t-shirts printed up and sell them on-line. The slogan could be: Wolfesians Give Good Government.


Observoid of the Day: Unless one is a catcher, a baseball hat worn backward is the international symbol for "immature, vapid, knucklehead."


  1. Bruce, it's so refreshing to see you making refrence to the Bible. I'm sure you were thinking of his first letter to the Corinthians which contains so much of his most quoted verses. Here are a few of my favorites:
    1. "...there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live: and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live." (v. 8:6)
    2. "...whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God." (v. 10:31)
    3. And last, but not least, "And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love." (v. 13:13)
    Which ones are your favorites?

    I think the Observid of the Day would indicate you have a ways to go on the tolerance program. I hope you make it to step two soon.

  2. Boots, you may have just started a new political party that 92% of Americans relate to. (if you deleted #7 or added "slight" in front of taste you could get up to 98%).

    Of course when you delve farther away from the generalities and get into actual political issues the Wolfesians would split like a chopped onion. Then they would both claim to be sympathetic, tolerant, deliberate, open, growing, and realistic.

    Who are the REAL Wolfesians (or is it Americans)??? Let the fight begin!!! Wait, I think we're back to square one.

    Wolfe's principles aren't describing governance, politics, or a political party (sans #7). I assume he considers himself a Democratic so he naturally applied those enviable characteristics to his own liberal leanings, which is understandable - but not political.

    But I do like the slogan.

  3. Wolfe is a Brit so I assume that he is a Labourite not a Margaret Thatcher Conservative. In either case he isn't a democrat.

  4. A labourite is similar to a Democratic, just with worse teeth and a tougher immediate future.

  5. Bruce, face it you are one of those, who when the tire meets the road, has no beliefs to hang your hat on. You are mushy!

    Take your example "I have a sympathy for equality", but want artificial barriers to come down." Along comes someone who says the test discriminates against people of color and should be thrown out and quotas should be instituted, and you would say that sounds reasonable and off we go to affirmative action, overseen by the government.

    I think moderates, of which you are, will always try to find ways to reach agreement to keep everyone happy. They dislike conflict. But, how do you compromise between those who say it's ok to kill the unborn and those who say it's not? How do you find compromise between Palastinains who say there is no recognition for Israel and those who want a Jewish state?

    Some things are black and white and you moderates want to see everything as gray!

  6. Boldly said and oddly puncuated, Mike. May we assume that "Wolfesian" doesn't quite fit your more monochromatic worldview?

  7. Bruce, color me guilty of oddly placed commas. I'm, working, on, it!