Thursday, November 03, 2005

I Have My Reasons

Why I can't be a conservative; or, why I am the way I am (which is a left populist/social democrat).

1. Absolute, to-the-core, hatred of Ronald fucking Reagan. I remember that day in 1983 when my mom picked me up from day care and I could even tell that she was scared. The Soviets had shot down the Korean jet, and we had a madman for a President. Of course the Russians were crazy, but that was a given; what sucked is that our guy was crazy, too.

I dreamt of mushroom clouds a lot as a kid. Watching The Day After when you're ten years old will do that, and it didn't help that it had a scene in it where a little boy and old man are standing in a wheat field when they see the blast go off.. and they run.. and they are vaporised.

At the time, I could remember how I didn't feel scared when Jimmy Carter was President. I knew that Reagan was different. Now I know it was even worse than I'd thought -- that the planet owes its existence to a garden-variety technocrat in Moscow who did not push the button when protocols demanded that he should. I also know about other things Ronnie's goons did to try to heighten the already unbearable tensions. Thankfully, Reagan himself pulled the plug and reversed the course of the Perles, et al and got shit straight with Gorbachev. But it was a close call, and there's no excuse for destroying detente as he and the lying neocons did.

Had I lived during the Cuban missile crisis I would probably hate JFK and Krushchev in the same way.

2. My grandfather's amateur archaelogy. It's a stretch to call it that -- let's say it was relic collecting. But some of my best memories of him are of the springtime, after-the-rain trips we'd make to sandy, ridgey fields to look for points. This was before so many fields were levelled for rice production.

I was terrible at it, and rarely found anything on my own. But the old man had hunter's eyes -- he never needed anything but reading glasses til the day he died -- and he found a great many relics, which I still have.

Kids are curious, so I had to ask: Who made these things? What happened to them? Why aren't they here now? Of course miserable, horrible fascist-minded fuckwads like Glenn Reynolds blame the near-extinction of the Native Americans ...on the Indians themselves, but a kid's mind is pretty pure: who killed the Indians? Why? Oh yeah? I would have fought back, too, if I were an Indian. A child has empathy; a poisoned, twisted freak like Reynolds doesn't.

3. Grandfather: war's awful. That one took a while to sink in. "But what if you're trying to do good and the enemy is evil?" Answer: even when your enemy is cartoonishly super-evil, not everyone among them is all that. And you can't sink to their level even if they are.

4. Grandmother: history. literacy. That I got such a head start (which I've since ruined, obviously) in learning history and reading literature I owe to my grandmother, who had some things published in farm magazines and tried to write a novel but never finished it. Her politics were totally populist, with all the good and bad that entails (mostly good). While officially apolitical when I knew her (she was a Jehovah's Witness) she was very opinionated on who was exploiting whom. And she was right.

5. Waco: I watched it all, threw shit at the television as it happened, vowed to never vote for Bill Clinton again. In '96, I voted Libertarian. Proof to me that the government can be fascist no matter who is in office.

6. Drug War: I've done my share of drugs; had many friends who did more than their share. The penalties for drug possession and use are outrageous, and a product of two different mindsets: liberal interventionism into personal affairs, and conservative Puritanism. the latter is far worse and far more responsible.

7. Factory Work: I lost a job thanks to Chainsaw Al Dunlap, a lisping, neanderthal Robber Baron who, I can say with only slight hyperbole, is a billion times worse than Adolf Hitler.

8. Farm Work: The system is designed to benefit the rich. Without fail the richer the farmer, the more poorly he treats his workers, the more he complains about "niggers on welfare" while he himself cashes huge subsidy checks, the more he is wasteful with his land and water resources. Rush Limbaugh was on in every farmer's shop and tractor cab in those days, ranting about the evils of government spending. One in my family took all this very seriously, and to this day has a deeply reactionary, even quasi-fascist politics. In the dust on his combine, I wrote with my finger in huge letters, "Paid For With Government Spending." We didn't talk for a long time after that.

Incidentally, when I went home this last time to help with the harvest, I talked to several people and the discontent is deeply-felt. One guy I know, who displays a plastic copy of the Ten Commandments in his yard, volunteered that "Bush has fucked-up the world." Another I talked to, commiserating that commodities aren't worth anything, said "Yeah, and you know who's to blame for that."

Even those with property are feeling it. Diesel prices have more than doubled; fertilizer has exactly doubled. Most every operator I talked to said that there's no profit at all to be had this year, and only good luck will enable them to repay their crop loans.