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Sunday, March 8, 2015

I Progressive

We have argued that categories and symbols are the stuff of thinking. They matter.

Laugh at "political correctness." I do. And yet the words we choose to use, define our character and our orientation to the world. e.g. "humankind" rather than "man," "African American" rather than "Nigra." "Christian terrorists" not "Christians," "gays" not "fags," "Japanese" not "Japs," "rural conservatives" not "ignorant rednecks," and so forth. Words that degrade or dehumanize are not fitting in civil conversation.

Satire is different than ridicule. Satire is inclusive and constructive in that it makes us laugh at and so transcend our categories. Ridicule (the mean, non satirical kind) is exclusive and destructive in that it reenforces and fixes categories.

There is a difference between bias and prejudice. Bias is endemic and natural. We all have different bodies, perspectives, histories, viewpoints that shape our categories of thought. Critical thinking accepts, recognizes, and accounts for these biases as shaping our thinking. Prejudice is bias unrecognized, uncriticized by which our categories become stereotypes

My main observation about my Fox News inspired Cousin Vinnie: Out of fear and hate (he is very pessimistic), he names, blames, and shames. His categories are fixed. There is no arguing with him because he is right and we are wrong. He consistently argues a bleak future for America. He falls back on that old time religion and cares more about his personal salvation than social justice. He passes on ridicules of persons, not thoughtful criticisms of policies. I do not want to be like him, nor can I talk with him on matters of importance. However, he teaches me what I do want to be.

All categories need to be questioned, criticized, expanded, and transcended if we value thinking. To grow in thinking and human development, our categories become more inclusive, complex, nuanced, and explained. Just as models do in science, forms in art, and doctrine in religion. And I think it is that which defines what it means to be a "Progressive" today.

Some equate "progressive" with liberal. I do not. I consider myself progressive because I do think I and we can do better, because I do criticize my religion, my country, my history, and myself in the hopes that I/we can do better. I am liberal culturally and for the most part want people to be free to choose their own lifestyle, partners, beliefs, control their own bodies, associate with whom they want, and publish whatever they want to whomever they want. But I am conservative politically in that I value and want to preserve institutions and the earth; and I value informed, interacting publics over mass society. And I am socialist, not liberal, economically in that I believe that all people should be guaranteed the same opportunities for income, wealth, and livelihood--and that means all the necessities of life.

Some equate "progressive" (as did George Will in today's Post) as favoring government expansion. That is simply not true. Neo-cons want to expand the American government so that it rules the waves and maintains stability. Progressives want quality government, not big government, and believe we can do better in reforming many government programs--including taxation, health care, public health and welfare, and defense.  Progressives see government as the most important tool because it belongs to all the people (if it is not bought and sold by elites), but hardly the only one. We are for community organizations of residents, voluntary associations, and political movements like we are celebrating today in Selma.

I think President Obama's speech in Selma was the greatest manifesto of the Progressive movement in the US that I have heard. I don't always agree with our President. But this speech said it all for me.

Yes, progressives criticize the status quo and the injustices our nation inflicts both at home and   abroad. But that doesn't make us less American or less patriotic. As he said it makes us more American and more patriotic because we believe we have it in us and in our institutions to keep doing so much better. We are the optimists who welcome the future through new thinking. We are the ones with faith in ourselves and our higher power, our family and friends, in strangers and neighbors, and in our nation and the human species. We are the ones who believe that we can transcend our narrow tribalism and our violent instincts and commit ourselves to that mission.

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