stories worth a thousand words #49



Not the most appealing image is it?

Written: October 26, 2004

One week from today, voters in the United States of America will decide who is to lead their country for the next four years.

To my knowledge no presidential race has been as tightly contested and as clearly polarized as this one, between the incumbent George W Bush and Senator John Kerry. At time of writing it is highly likely the tally will be so close that the string of legal challenges brought up by the 2000 race will be repeated if not surpassed.

Were you to discuss current affairs with me it would not take you long to work out that my views would fall to the left of the political spectrum. Having said this, I am fascinated by the driving force behind the right’s way of thinking. Their biggest strength is their ability to unite for a common cause. If your conviction is that things should stay as they are, there is less scope for internal feuding. It’s all very well for your mind to be open to change as would befit the left, but if you all disagree on exactly what that change would be, things can get ugly real fast.

Although the taunt has never been directed specifically at me, I am always amazed with the way hard-line conservatives try to tarnish people with views similar to mine with the epithet “bleeding heart liberals” (BHLs). Through endless rhetoric they have managed to make this phrase a negative description. They will have you believe BHLs want to set free all prisoners, never go to war, let women have abortions willy-nilly, and hug all the trees. It is an extremely clever blanket term and sits permanently in a right wing debater’s back pocket for production whenever things get tough.

Let’s say, for example, a “hypothetical” president wanted to wage a war and remove from power a particular rogue leader, an action which would not only avenge his own father for failing to do so, but would also substantially reward business allies of his own party in the awarding of ensuing reconstruction contracts. Throw into the mix a vague contorted notion that perhaps this rogue leader was involved in a serious terrorist attack on the president’s nation, and you have an argument that will probably win over more than 40% of the people.

But what of the other sixty? Most of these would comprise the left, who will draw party lines and argue for the sake of arguing, picking at every aspect and attempting to portray the deception in much the same way as I have done above.

The remaining “undecideds” resemble Wimbledon Centre Court spectators as they look both ways for a cause worth voting for. At this crucial point, out comes the president’s trump card. These BHLs can’t make up their minds on what they want to do, he would say. They would have allowed the despot to stay in power while they argued, instead we got him out. And so the blanket is thrown, engulfing the entire left sufficiently for enough support to fall in with the president for him to get his work done.

But I cannot understand how he can justify the use of the term “Bleeding Heart Liberals” as a negative. The current president (I guess I need no longer call him hypothetical) more than any other has referred to his own religious background in his speeches, and puts himself forward as a clear poster child for the religious right. The Christian religious right. Followers of Christ. That’s Jesus Christ, isn’t it?

Now my interpretation of the bible may be a little rusty, but I was always under the impression that Jesus Christ was all about forgiving sinners, feeding the poor, and camels passing through needles before rich men got into heaven? Didn’t he dedicate his life to spreading the word that however dull and dreary people’s lives were, there was another way which could lead them to salvation? Weren’t his death and subsequent resurrection sacrifices for all mankind, or was I missing something? Given all of this, can I be so bold as to make the statement that perhaps Jesus Christ was the greatest Bleeding Heart Liberal that ever lived? If so, what is wrong with trying to do the same?

Now before you think I’m going to go around attempting to heal lepers or making promises of banquets on hillsides armed only with a sliced pan and a couple of kippers, be sure that is NOT going to happen. My personal religious leanings are for another day’s writing, but suffice to say I would not be one for bashing bibles. I am simply trying to claim back this term as the positive reinforcing description I believe it to be.

I believe one human killing another to be wrong on ANY level. We do not understand life OR death enough to endorse this. Of course you could reel off countless justifications for me, but I find it hard to believe one would make me think of any government backed military action as anything but sanctioned murder. I see the likes of army generals as little more than overgrown boys with oversized toys which they are dying to take out of their wrappers and use. And I can’t for the life of me understand how a nation of 200 million taxpayers can stand idly by while their dollars pay for hardware to destroy a country only to pay even more dollars into the coffers of a major construction company to build it up again.

The prospect of George W Bush serving a four year term as a lame duck president scares me to my very core. I was even moved to register to vote for the first time in my 35 years. Should he be democratically elected (and we can’t be even sure of that anymore), I must bow to the will of the American people. But to his supporters I will always maintain, I’m a Bleeding Heart Liberal, and proud of it.

© JL Pagano 2004

NEXT, #50 – 1000 WORDS ON…NEW YEAR’S DAY, 2005 [final chapter]

Click here for full index of all 50 chapters


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