Sanity manifesto

By Eli Gottlieb

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Since I will unfortunately not be able to attend Jon Stewart’s Rally to Restore Sanity (also known as Stephen Colbert’s March to Keep Fear Alive) this Saturday, I will instead print here the introduction to the manifesto that I was going to press on people at the rally. If anyone likes it, I advise them to include themselves in the “we” of this column and perhaps leave a thoughtful comment on the website. Above all, remember: I may disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler – except when you are. Perhaps, if anyone likes, a bunch of University of Massachusetts students could gather on the lawn of the Campus Pond next to the Fine Arts Center Saturday around 4:00 p.m. to talk, sing, yell and wave around the picket signs we wanted to take to the Rally, but couldn’t.

Obviously, this work will present an apparently eclectic set of ideas, driven by a relatively new philosophy. At the very least, the average reader will most likely not have seen many of the enclosed ideas in the discourse of mainstream American politics before. We are not mainstream people, or are we? The observant reader will, after all, find that we are not utopian or totalitarian radicals of the kind typically implied by calling someone “not mainstream.”

Here we reach the core issue that drove writing this entire piece: American politics has become like the weather – everyone complains, but nobody does anything about it, at least not anything to get at the root of our society’s present problems. We no longer necessarily have a definitive mainstream encompassing most actual Americans, merely a set of old, established and usually quite wealthy institutions calling themselves “mainstream” and defining the American “Overton Window” according to their own opinions. More Americans now call themselves “independents” than any time before, yet depending on the issue and the poll most Americans seem to adhere either to some form of radical individualism, some form of theocratic Christianity, or to an ideology that other countries would call social democracy.

Yet nobody represents these people, not honestly at least. The Republicans claim to represent the radical individualists, but in practice act for the neoconservative militarists, Evangelical Christian theocrats, and their friends in oil companies, agribusiness and defense contractors. The Democrats claim to represent the social democrats and social-issue libertarians, but in practice betray the social democrats to nearly every conservative counterproposal, or simply inaction, that they can lay their hands on and instead act for their friends in big academia and the media industry. Both parties bow before the purported wisdom of the richest banks and worship the ground upon which they serve foreclosure papers.

The far left and far right have risen boldly to this occasion of history, each seeing finally the inevitable crisis that will allow them to take power, purify the Earth of all evil and build their fantasies.

The associated scourges of totalitarian hatred have returned with them. Fascism has come to America, on the one arm draped in the flag and carrying a cross, and on the other pumping its fist to liberate everyone oppressed by bourgeois economics, Jewish bankers and imperialist aggression by doing away with all traces of capitalism, Jews, banks and militaries. These groups and creeds thrive on the fear, uncertainty and doubt generated in these times of political death matches, public ignorance and shriveling economic opportunities for a more-shriveling few.

In this context, some have begun to rally for sanity and call themselves “the radical center,” claiming to deplore partisanship. Yet more often than not, the so-called radical center merely puts a polite smile and a nice suit on compromising between the Democratic betrayals and the Republican duplicity, fallaciously reasoning that whatever lies between of the two “extremes” must somehow constitute a rational, reasonable “Golden Mean.” We admire the sentiment, but simply cannot assent to the reasoning.

So then, who are we? We are people who tend to call themselves liberals and progressives but who often have to hold our noses when voting Democratic. We are some people so unable to stand the Democrats’ spinelessness in defending American liberal democracy against totalitarian assault from without and nanny-state social regulations from within that they close their eyes and vote for the purportedly-libertarian Republicans.

In our hearts and heads, most of us are probably social democrats, but may not particularly like the European connotations of the term. Most of us are definitely on what we think of as the Left, even if we so often find vocal leftists like the Chomsky-ites condemning us for our patriotism, our bourgeois lack of proper radical spirit, our incomes or most often our failure to join in their pet cause. Some of us may be on the individualistic Right, at least by the standards of other countries, though we do think that the American Right has by now drifted so far right into hatred of government that it must soon fall off the scale into full-on anarchism.

We are people who want to live in a society that maintains its own health, that gives its young every opportunity they merit, that takes care of its citizens no matter their race or class or income or status, that lets its culture and lifestyles evolve naturally rather than dictating them from on high. We are the people who want to build a society that grows upward each year, and we want to plant the seed of that growth, to spiral and spread out until we enable everyone in our country and in every other country to thrive as much as we know they can.

Human thriving is the cause for which we stand, and in it we stand together. We know well what we can accomplish through all our work. The reader is invited, if he or she favors our notions, to join us. To the rest, well, we answered that above. So yes, let us be for our freedom, but as Paul Berman would add, “Let us be for the freedom of others.”

Eli Gottlieb is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at [email protected].