Believe it or not, claiming the “liberal” banner can be a real embarrassment sometimes. As liberals, we must share the uncomfortable, awkward company of Ralph Nader, Joan Baez, Rage Against the Machine and Jesse Jackson. Nader is naive enough to believe he can steal Republican votes during a crucial election year. Baez became the calling card of liberals as simpering, sentimental folk singers. Jackson never chooses his battles carefully enough. And Rage Against the Machine believed they could educate people by turning the volume knob up to 11.
Criticizing our ideological colleagues ought to be the hallmark of the liberal temperament. Little is more depressing than party line Republicans who unquestionably support their leaders, “no matter what!” or their country, “right or wrong!” Hell is a place where no questions are asked, and nothing or no one is challenged.
Amid the charade of what passes for liberal thinking these days, the title of worst offenders belongs to those who believe they can change the world through firebombs, graffiti, or damage to property. These people may be changing the world. What they aren’t changing is minds.
Case in point: Last week’s arson of West Jordan’s Stock Building Supply, for which the Earth Liberation Front made “a claim of responsibility” because it didn’t like the exhaust fumes from the lumberyard’s forklifts. So they torched the place, fled by cover of night and left someone else to brag on ELF’s Website that their action resulted in $1.5 million in damages. “If the consequences of early Monday morning are what it takes to bring their negligence to the attention of the media and the people of the world, then it is well worth it and we will continue in our mission to stop large companies from destroying the environment. If you build it, we will burn it!” the ELF Website proclaimed.
Congratulations on the media attention, ELF, but yours is a lost battle because you choose losing tactics. It’s downright irritating how some of us in the liberal camp might criticize conservatives for torching abortion clinics, then condone similar actions in the name of progressive causes. Let’s be fair.
Then there’s the simple matter of the law, which exists to protect us all from the abuses of others in society. The law isn’t perfect, but it protects the vast majority of us, more often than not in an equitable manner. As such, it ought to be respected. This reasoning seems hopelessly antiquated to those caught up in the romance of tossing bombs, but it’s worth stating because it’s not stated often enough. Want to change the world? Start by changing the law.
If that’s too much work, at least make your protest nonviolent. History’s full of great people who changed the world by not respecting the law. But there’s a crucial difference between you and them, ELF. Henry David Thoreau, the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. and others hated unjust laws so much they marked their protests with liberal doses of prison time. They sacrificed a part of their life, and sometimes all of it. And, unlike you, they remained nonviolent.
You don’t have the guts for that. Or do you? Until you do, pack up your incendiary devices and go home. And, please, don’t embarrass the rest of us by calling yourselves “liberal” or “progressive.”