Thursday, July 5, 2012

"Progressives", spare us

[Originally posted at NOW Lebanon]

What exactly is it about those who describe themselves as “progressives” that sends me into such snarls of revulsion?

It isn’t just the California campus accent I hear every time I read it – the kind that throws half a dozen question marks into every sentence (“My name is Karen? and I find it really offensive? when you’re insensitive about somebody’s voice like that?”).

Nor is it that I depart significantly from the typical “progressive” in politics itself. When MJ Rosenberg writes that, “For progressives like me […] there is no choice but to vote for Obama”, I don’t at all disagree with his conclusion.

No, what I think piques me most is the profound insult the word implies about my (and your) intelligence. “Excuse me,” I want to say, “but I’ll decide what’s ‘progressive’ by myself, thank you.”

After all, is there a political person on earth who doesn’t believe their stance or ideology offers humanity a better alternative? Hitler sincerely believed that ridding the world of Jews was doing the rest of us a great service. Lenin thought that establishing a totalitarian police state was a supremely virtuous act. American Christian fundamentalists, messianic Jewish settlers and Lebanon’s very own Islamists all believe that they alone hold the secrets to progess, or Progress.

In their own, milder way, the “progressives” are every bit as tribal as the violent fanatics. And they are equally blind to the ironies incurred at their own expense. George Galloway was undoubtedly correct when he described Israel’s Operation Cast Lead as a “crime” and “massacre” - words that would presumably outrage many a right-thinking “progressive” New York Times reader. And George W. Bush was also undoubtedly correct when he said in 2005 that the Syrian regime “[uses] murder as a tool of policy” - something that Max Blumenthal, “progressive” par excellence, couldn’t bring himself to write until 12,000 dead Syrians later.

“Progressivism”, then, need not always be the friend of progress. Such reflections, however, are unavailable to the morally certain “progressive”, who deals not in honest self-examination but in smug self-congratulation.

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