Monday, May 11, 2009

Freedom and Democracy and Other Big Words

I'm struck by the number of supposedly serious commentators taking the time to weigh in on Ms. California, supposedly shunned because of her belief in opposite marriage. It's not a story, not unless you're someone who finds beauty pageants to be of preeminent social importance. Yet the conservative media has latched on to the story and the liberal media has mercilessly mocked them for it. I'm distressed because it's an unfortunate sign of the times when whatever a pageant contestant says is somehow supposed to be relevant political news.

Back in the real world, the debate over small government languishes, in no small part because the right seems insistent on making the debate a partisan rather than an ideological one. And as I noticed when I watched HBO's resident douchebag Bill Maher the other night, the foolishness of the right has allowed the left to become more ideologically lazy than ever, so much so that only a scattered number of honest liberals have tracked President Obama's poor record on civil liberties and government secrecy.

But while the partisans talk past each other, it's become more and more clear that in this current political and economic climate, truly important questions about freedom and democracy have become more and more pressing. Those words (along with other platitudes describing our system of government) have been so overused that standing alone, they tend to lack meaning. Again, this is why the tea parties held so little meaning for me. They weren't spontaneous outbursts of grassroots intellectual opposition, but emotional partisan outpourings. As the days in the Obama administration tick by, I'm left feeling more and more that left and right, people's concerns about government are about specific issues and not really about principle.


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