I am a liberal. A progressive, if you will. I believe women should have choice. I don't believe the free market can be trusted to do much beyond make rich people richer. I believe felons should have the right to vote. I believe in amnesty for illegal immigrants. I believe in higher taxes for the rich, and comprehensive, intimidating regulation for coporations. I think the net should be neutral, and the death penalty should only be used when the system no longer discriminates against poor people. I believe day care should be government subsidized, and college should be cheap. I think the massive government subsidies that currently flow to oil companies should be diverted to innovative alternative energy companies, and that public school teachers should be paid more than garbagemen unless they're not actually good at their job, in which case they should be fired.
I believe that conservatives are both selfish and more optimistic about human behavior and instinct. "Why should the government handle social security? If the market can't handle it, I'm sure the next generation will be generous with their money." Which, if you have money, makes sense. The problem is all those pesky people who don't have money.
But whatever. That's not what this is about. This is about an experiment I'm doing. Recently I read "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein - a serious book about disaster capitalism and its proponents on both the left and the right, but mostly on the right - and "The Great Derangement" by Matt Taibbi - a less serious book about how the modern American is delusional, and that's why the modern American is both religious and may vote Republican.
I enjoyed both books immensely, for different reasons. One of those, however, was that they merely reinforced my own prejudices against conservatives and Republicans. I like to think of myself as open-minded, so this bothered me.
Then a fantastic solution presented itself: why not balance the books with two right-wing books? It's perfect! I'll find one serious conservative book, and one crazy conservative book, and I'll read those, and see if I can actually appreciate any part of either of them. I looked around, and found two books: "Liberal Fascism" by Jonah Goldberg, and "If Democrats had Brains They'd be Republicans" by Ann Coulter.
So today I began "Liberal Fascism." I haven't gotten very far, but I've already noticed a couple of things.
1) I'm embarassed to be seen reading this book on the bus. My ride takes me through two college campuses, wherein reside hundreds, nay, thousands of nubile young ladies, many of whom fancy themselves liberal. The sheer volume of Obama pins and stickers supports this. Not that I'm trying to date any of them, but I'm still screwed up enough to want complete strangers, albeit hot ones, to like me. Beyond that, I like being a liberal. I like the lifestyle. I like all the smart people I get to hang out with. I like the comedians. So projecting an image of myself that doesn't coincide with my internal conception of who I am, even if it's simply by reading a conservative book, makes me a titch uncomfortable.
Also it has a picture of a smiley-face with a Hitler mustache, which I think is just tacky.
2) In neither of the liberal books did the author feel the need to proclaim his or her patriotism. First because Naomi Klein is Canadian, so she doesn't need to love America - Dick Cheney's opinion notwithstanding. Second, well, I don't know why, but I would guess because the default is that if you live in America, on some level you love the country and its ideals. If you didn't, you would leave and move, say, to Canada.
Jonah Goldberg, like many conservatives it seems, needs to proclaim his love of America loudly, and often. He doesn't even make it through the introduction before referencing his love of America and all its citizens, even the crazy leftist Commie homos. Well, maybe not the Commies. Or the Muslims. But you get the point. His patriotic declamation comes in the midst of a paragraph where he might be seen to be criticizing part of American culture. This gives further weight to something conservatives do a lot in public - say that people who aren't conservative or Republican hate America, because they're criticizing it. Maybe this book will do something to explain the "obvious" connection between criticism and hatred.
3) Jonah Goldberg, as it turns out, is not actually Jewish, as I had guessed from the name. Which maybe goes to his claim that the Holocaust could never happen here, because this is America. Which is what they said in Germany. And Spain. And England. And France. And Italy.
(No one says this in Russia or Poland because, let's face it, those are prime anti-semitic plots of real estate.)
But he can be excused for this because he loves America so much, and America can do no wrong.
See? There goes my prejudicial sarcasm again. The point of this exercise is to balance that out a bit. After all, I'm against legislating health, like banning trans fats and speed limits and narcotics. I deplore the victimization that is a constant tool of the left, which only makes us look like a bunch of whiners. And I'm ashamed at my own conceit that liberals are, well, we're just smarter, is all.
So we'll see how this goes. Although Ann Coulter, man, I just hope I have the stones to carry that book in public. If only to see the wide-eyed contempt as I ride past Pitt and CMU.