Wednesday, February 18, 2015

'Believe, Even If It's Wrong'.

Mike Greone is a libertarian activist & newly elected state senator for my hometown of North Platte.  I do not know the details of how he was elected nor how his defeated opponent compared to him on the political scale; it's been a long damn time since I lived there.  I could lookup those details right now but naww.. (It's been a long damn time now since I've lived there you see.) all I can recall right now is that the weather in North Platte is more dramatic than on the eastern plains; more pleasant when pleasant & more miserable when miserable, and that while the  town is often considered to be the cultural border between the mid & mountain west this frontier is really more a transition zone across the Platte Valley than a hard border.  Grand Island is a distinctly Midwestern market town; while North Platte; raw-boned, blue collar, transitory, and hostile towards the merest hint of gentility, is very much of the rural West; more similar in spirit to Rock Springs Elko or Pocatello than Terre Haute or Mason City.  So I'm not surprised that N.P. elected a libertarian tubthumper to the Unicameral.  That is exactly the sort of thing that my town would gladly do.  

Greone anyhow, has recently caused a stir by filibustering a bill which would have required vaccinations against meningitis for adolescent schoolchildren.  This was of course a dick move on his part, a pointless endangerment of public health.  This does of course play into the long overdue blowback against the anti-vaccination movement that has popped up recently, and certainly blogs which are vastly more widely red than more have delved into the latent classism and other post-colonial hangups of this movement, even among the fair-weather west coast liberals among whom it seems to have originated. The latent association of contagious disease with poverty and 'lowness' and the not so latent feeling that viruses are magically self-aware enough to recognize and respect human social status, that of course very important and 'civilized' people are too essentially clean and pure to have to worry about the infection of others.

It was only natural that fair-weather libertarians should join fair-weather liberals on the anti-vaxxer boat. Rand Paul's 'parents own their children' comment says all that needs to be said about that.  It plays perfectly into a feudalistic ideal of human being in which 'socialism' is defined as the merest suggestion that such a thing as the public good exists; that 'regular folks' unsubtly understood to be  white male 'heads of household' would be exceptional and socially dominant if only they weren't held back by the unnatural corrupting influence of the state.  The ideal of freedom here is one where White fathers and husbands are masters and no one else is quite human at all; and this again is not so subtly spelled out by the libertarians themselves.  It is of course absurd to hold the State in general or Welfare state in particular as the only true source of Real True Oppression.  Private tyrannies do of course exist within the family workplace etc. etc., and state coercion is not by some magic inherently worse than these private tyrannies; the power to spread contagious disease, at any rate, is certainly oppressive among other bad things, and it is a tyranny that high and low people from all walks of life can and do impose upon each other. Not usually with malice aforethought but what does that matter?  Anyhow we move on.

One quote that struck me as telling in Groene's interview with the Journal Star  was as follows: ""I'm passionate. I've got to stand up. But it's not about me."  Actually dude, if you feel the need to let a stranger know how passionate you are; than yes, it is so totally about you.  I am solidly of the left myself.  I do not mean to propose a knee jerk moderation on al things here and I do not believe that 'compromise' is either inherently virtuous or inherently craven in itself.  But one thing I have noticed in life and find abhorrent is that there are some people who indulge in ethical or political belief the way that other people indulge in drugs.  I shall always hold suspect those who place belief at the core of their being; even when I agree with those beliefs.

This may be because while I've grown into something of a 'hipster' in my adulthood I am still a Nebraskan; my most formative experience with loudly performed subcultural identity shall always be the movement conservatives; the protest -too much patriots and the more Christian than you Christians.   I suspect that part of the increased dogmatism among the right is partly defensive reaction towards loss of social control as the wider US culture slowly grows more socially liberal in spite of the mid-term ballot box.   Part of it as well is I think the 'passion' of conservative media; the vital anger of talk radio and the eternal parade 'greatest outrages of all time' allow for a flamboyant self- expression otherwise forbidden to those who generally emphasize patriarchal sternness.

Senator Jim Stevens of Papillion warned against using the vaccination bill as a 'litmus test'     and that's good advice so far as that goes.  I again do not support or advise knee jerk moderation in any way; but the fact remains that it is by definition rare for first principles to be under true existential threat.  Every basic worldview has survived multiple defeats at both the ballot box and the battlefield and shall continue to do so.  We are all guilty of claiming the last victory are side happened to have was uniquely definitive because reasons but in the end nobody really thinks so.  I'm afraid though that Stevens' admonition is bound to fall on deaf ears to those who emotionally & existentially need  every public controversy to be a great litmus test and morally opposed to the very idea of public good.  

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