Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Left Wing, Right Wing – Who Cares?

I’m no conservative, but I still find it galling that people equate conservatism with the “right wing” and with indecent political behavior. I first noticed this phenomenon when the Iron Curtain was unraveling. I found it strange that after hearing all my life, from conservatives and liberals alike, that communism was a left-wing, progressive, and (from the leftists) wonderful thing, the mainstream media were describing those who sought to take down the communist governments as revolutionaries (or something like that) and the communists as “conservatives.” Wait! I thought. In this country all my life the conservatives were anticommunist! Since when did conservatives turn communist?
I got an elbow in the rib along that line a few years ago, when the TSA brought out their first line of security scanners – which were explicit enough that a TSA agent who volunteered to be scanned for his training class received so much ridicule about the size of his privy member that he assaulted a fellow trainee in the parking lot. I was expressing my disapproval of them at work when a coworker, a proud leftist who was OK with these scanners, said, “Libertarians – aren’t they the ones on the extreme far right?” When I was a boy, it was the left who used the term police state as an insult and the right wing – think J. Edgar Hoover – who defended it as necessary. How times have changed!
But wait! There’s more!
A conservative friend this weekend was talking about the movie Enemy of the State and said that the villain, the head of some national security agency who uses government omniscience for nefarious ends, was “an ultra-right-winger.” Now she may have meant that that was what the film’s producers were trying to get across, but her tone made me think she thought the term fit. It’s true that most of the film’s heroes were young and hip, and the villains were old and establishment, but I never thought in terms of right and left while watching. So I was very surprised to hear a conservative – who has no sympathy for the left and has at times accused me of leftism when I take stands she disagrees with – call the villain ultra-right-wing.
So times have indeed changed. When Barry Soetoro was smoking pot with the Choom Gang in high school, he was a leftist, and it was conservatives who wanted to jail druggies. When what anyone but perhaps a microbiologist would consider the same person ran for President in 2004 as Barack Obama, he wore the leftist label proudly. But now he prosecutes choomers. Is the left now anti-drug? If so, what side are the druggies on?
In the 1970s Augusto Pinochet was the right-wing dictator of Chile. The film Missing (produced by the left) has to do with the extrajudicial abduction (and torture?) and killing of leftist Americans in Chile. Now President Obama meets with a secret group to go over his “kill list,” which is produced by another secret group using criteria that are secret, and decides who will be the object of extrajudicial abduction, torture, and execution. So is extrajudicial killing is right wing or left wing? Does it make a difference?
Or does “right wing” simply mean “I don’t like you”? This reminds me of blue-eyed playground bullies saying, “Let’s take turns. Blue-eyed kids go first.”
Much more helpful than the left wing–right wing dichotomy (or continuum) is the voluntary-coercive test. Are you touching another person’s body or property without that person’s informed consent? Then you’re violating that person through coercion or deceit. It doesn’t matter whether you’re trying to feed the hungry or protect the innocent or just have a good time. You’re violating that person. It’s wrong. The end never justifies the means.
If the church is ever to fulfill the Great Commission, she needs to abandon the “compassionate conservatism” that makes her feel justified in coercing her neighbors. I suppose such a view is ultra something, but it doesn’t seem to me like it’s right wing.

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