Nobody’s right if everybody’s wrong

Outrage with the Left and the Right have me nauseated, probably like many other people. What’s worse is that a majority of our nation endorses either group with a kind of vigor that is superficially inspiring, but troubling deep down.

I’m talking about ideologues–whatever the make, model, flavor, or political orientation. Serving a set of ideas for their sake alone is to hold an ideology. To hold an ideal above the harsh, mundane criticism of its reality or non-reality is to be an ideologue. Furthermore, to be an ideologue is to cut across boundaries of race, sex, age, religion, and social station to hold the equal opportunity status of an idiot.

It is impossible anymore to have a political discourse without these conventions rearing their ugly, propagandic heads. The Left is a concept that generalizes progressive, socially minded political orientations, while the Right is a concept that generalizes traditional, self-sufficiently minded political orientations. This is not news to anyone who thinks a moment about these subjects. We strangely treat these grand and foul generalizations as if they represented real and cohesive constituencies. What’s even stranger is that not many people take the time to point out the discrepancy between how political movements are represented and what they actually are. It would be a bright day in the news if a report were made about how representations of American political orientations stifle dialogue rather than enrich it.

There is logic to our two-party, two-toned political spectrum. It is simply that one is the foil of the other. They are not really opponents, not in the largest consideration of their aims and whims. They are compadres, amigo. They are war buddies who have each other’s back. This is no better demonstrated than in the massive campaign over the last six years to smear Bush with what is laughably called “dissent.” I don’t think that any president has ever gotten more publicity done for free by the people who claim to hate him the most. His face and name are everywhere. He is in song lyrics. He is on the bumper of damn near every other car in the nation. Americans talk about him so much, probably to a degree never felt by any other president.

Many of those who associate with one side over the other also have political beliefs that may totally contradict their overall status as a member of the Left or Right. In a strange way going against the grain, breaking expectations of “party loyalty,” which I have heard brandished too much by pseudo-pundit half-wits, endorses something closer to the real diversity of political orientations in our society.

Those calling themselves the right wing confuse themselves when they condemn and make use of mass media, one of the more regrettable advents of the 20th Century. In a counter-active endorsement, or at least advertisement of their opponents in the land of the Left, they make charge after charge, write book after book, about the liberal bias of the media. As they flood the news with this distress signal, they gloss over two things: they are giving free publicity to members of the media that they probably don’t want people to read/watch/listen or even think about, and they are demonstrating the opposite of what they are arguing.

The interplay between the Left and Right is not the be-all end-all of ideological quandaries. Racial ideologies, gendered ideologies, and ideologies based in economic class are all worth considering when talking about ideologies in general. What is especially worth noting about the concepts of Left and Right is their place in the American political discourse. They are the political discourse. They determine the possibility of political thought in our nation, because none can escape their scope. They give structure to how we think of governing ourselves. Any political thought constructed outside of their terms doesn’t stand for long.

Simply as conventions for summarizing political tendencies, the Left and Right are harmless concepts, until someone gets into power waving them as idyllic banners. It really does not matter if the gist of their message is peace, love, and free cookies. The political position or movement grounded in ideology is hollow and ready to be filled with whatever foul, corrupt stuffing is desired. This is how German Fascism worked, though some may argue with me. Hitler professed tremendously sweeping messages that alluded to sentiments of racism, anti-capitalism, anti-communism, and anti-progressivism all in the same stroke. His rhetoric was aimed in so many directions that it pointed to nowhere at all, and in that confusion he filled it finally with militant ethnocentrism.

That seems like nothing that could happen in America. Maybe that exact situation, or even one really quite like it, doesn’t threaten us. That’s not the point though. For all the influence fascism may have had on American government, I do not think it is genuinely fascist. Like fascist Germany though, our federal government is a puppet for ideologies, which as gross generalizations and deliberate simplifications aim to distract and numb our critical minds. The problem isn’t that ideologies drive us in this or that direction, but that people form under these banners with little or no real direction at all. For that reason, Fascism is but one manifestation of the potential of the Right, and Soviet-styled Communism is but one manifestation of the potential of the Left. It is not the content of ideologies that is scary, but their lack of content.

The truly daring position in which to put oneself, intellectually as well as politically, is one that knowingly carries the seeds of its own destruction, and even attempts to sow them at every turn. The radical is the one who breaks from conformity, adhering to none of its techniques.