Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Okay, I'm a Radical Leftist. So What?

Back in my "student radical" days, I attended peace rallies in Berkeley (once or twice), went to demonstration planning meetings (mostly run by "outside agitators," meaning Vietnam veterans), and jumped in front of marching troops and got thrown out of Santa Clara University (suspended actually). I was a major hippie on my campus and was even the subject of at least one term paper for a sociology class -- dude told me I was the best-known hippie on campus. Yikes. I'm finally the best!

All around me, though, were SDS guys who talked armed revolution and "one of these days we're going to need those guns in my trunk!" I just wanted to stop the war, smoke dope, and listen to the Beatles. Two out of three ain't bad.

BTW, the guy who was the most Bill-Ayers of all of us sat out his suspension from Santa Clara over in Europe, came back and finished up his under-grad stuff before finally listening to his dad and going to law school. The last time I saw him he was wearing a shirt and tie, smoking a pipe, married to his Vidal-Sassoon-haircut wife and waiting to join his new firm that specialized in -- wait for it -- corporate law. Maybe he just wanted to fix things "from the inside."

Hippie life in Marin County in the 1970s
Fine. I settled into Marin County north of SF, founded a decent band and had a good run for a few years. I espoused my liberal views to anyone who was interested and voted for Barbara Boxer like clockwork. Big whoop.

Now here I am years later in Sonoma County, still a radical leftist, but what does it amount to?

  • I favor nurturing parenthood over patriarchal authoritarianism.
  • I believe in social justice -- and demonstrate it when the rare opportunity presents itself.
  • I believe that workers have the right to organize in order to negotiate from strength.
  • I believe that all of us, from the least successful to the most, owe a debt to the society that enabled our success, though some who have been denied success for systemic reasons related to poverty or race, for instance, might be owed some extra help to overcome those obstacles.
  • I believe in public service and exemplified that belief by spending some years as a teacher.
  • I am in favor of a woman's right to choose, strict gun control, well-regulated markets, and a progressive income tax structure that works to level the playing field and make sure those that profited the most from what society provided offer a fair share back.
  • I love social structures like social security, single-payer healthcare, workman's compensation, unemployment insurance, and all the safety net our society can provide for those in genuine need.
Sermon on the Mount
I could go on, but you can no doubt fill in the blanks. You know roughly where I probably stand on a number of related issues and practices. The most important takeaway I would hope you'd get from the above is that there is nothing particularly radical about where I'm coming from.  In fact, as I've said before, most of my beliefs -- though I'm a confirmed atheist -- would be very familiar to the average Christian, at least the kind of Christian that lives according to the precepts of Christ as enumerated in the gospels.

When I defend Christianity, I'm reminded of the quote from Gandhi: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

I don't want to argue the shortcomings of fundamentalist Christians because, again, I'm sure you know what I'm talking about, which is essentially about the hypocrisy of belonging to a church but not living the life its core tenets dictate. If Christ is your personal savior, act like it. Don't spend your days planning which country would be cool to blow up next.

Pick your philosophy of life: whether you're Christian, Jewish, Hindu, Buddhist, Taoist, Muslim, or humanist, the basic core tenets of how to play nicely in your society are essentially the same. How to live peaceful, happy, healthy, successful lives just isn't rocket science. It's also no mystery how to screw things up, unfortunately. There's one important caveat: some people, for whatever reason, are so motivated by the need for personal gain and success that they have absolutely no interest in the health and happiness of others.

Anyway, there's nothing particularly radical about my leftist beliefs. I believe in a society that works to assure the success, peace, and security of as many of its citizens as possible, and whose citizens know that responsibility must be shared and shared willingly.

I don't sound very radical to me. I sound like a good, honest, decent American. With the usual faults...

The Road Not Taken

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for the post. I think there is nothing wrong with having a different opinions and views too.That was interesting, Calvin!