Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Confessions of a Liberal Fascist

 If you prick us, do we not bleed? If you tickle us, do we not laugh?
-William Shakespeare, The Merchant of Venice
Perhaps the most startling assertion by the teabaggers and the conservative media is their equation of liberalism with fascism. I don't read their propaganda books because I won't give them my money, so I didn't know that the source of all this is a two-year publication by right-wing provocateur Jonah Goldberg called Liberal Fascism: The Secret History of the American Left, from Mussolini to the Politics of Meaning. Recently, the History News Network sponsored an on-line symposium on the book, in which academic specialists in fascism eviscerated Goldberg's fundamental grasp of the term, his selective misreading of history, and his flawed scholarship. Goldberg's blustery response attacked straw men and defended his right to define fascism as he chose, never mind that the academic definition of the term has coalesced around a meaning that has nothing to do with contemporary liberalism.

The allegations in Goldberg's book are apparently gospel among the right, and explain why I am an America-hating force of evil in the eyes of Goldberg, Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, Fox News, and the teabaggers.

Who am I? What makes me a threat to truth, justice, and the American Way?

I was born in 1955, the first of five sons, to a librarian father and a stay-at-home mother who practiced speech therapy on the side to bring in extra money.  We went to church on Sunday and most of us attended parochial school at one time or another, despite the financial burden that must have been. In both parochial school and public school, my brothers and I not only said the Pledge of Allegiance and sang the Star-Spangled Banner, we meant every word. Our family lived in such exotic locales as Washington, D. C.; South Bend, IN; Concord, NH; Baltimore, MD; Columbus, OH; and Kingsville, TX. (Back then, the country had a shortage of librarians, who ascended the career ladder by moving.)

My father was, and is, a Stevenson Democrat who annually paid out a dime to any of his boys who knew that February 5 was "Adlai's" birthday. He also never let my mother forget that she voted for Dwight Eisenhower in 1952. From them, all of five of us came to value reading, humor, education, history, art, politics, movies, music, travel, and the Democratic Party. And, I'll come right out and say it, my veteran father raised us to have a deep skepticism of the military, especially generals. Dad -- a Bostonian -- also bequeathed us his lifelong devotion to the Boston Red Sox, an inheritance which may or may not be a blessing. He'll answer for that one on Judgment Day.

Six weeks shy of her 45th anniversary, my mother passed away. What kind of person was she? The kind whose passing had five daughters-in-law in tears at her memorial service. The kind who did the everyday work of raising five boys while returning to graduate school so that she could resume her career, the point of which was to save money to send us to college. From her, we learned patience and forbearance. From both, we learned as a matter of daily instruction that "violence never solved anything." (My father, now 81, also had a two-word apothegm that I will lobby to have etched into his grave marker: "Cheer up!")

My parents also raised us to respect others regardless of race or religion. I can't remember a time when I assumed anything other than, as Sly Stone put it, "we are the same whatever we do." Like any white person, I've had to keep a watchful eye on my assumptions about race, but that's not because of anything my parents taught me. I once told my father that if I ever hit it big, I didn't want to make the mistake of believing that it had been 100% by dint of my own hard work. He told me to never lose my compassion. (He has also been known to say that one should never resist a generous impulse.)

They were so open-minded that two of their closest friends were Republicans, although this was back in the days when conservatives didn't automatically dismiss anyone who disagreed with them as being fascist-Nazi-socialist-communists. I recall my mother laughingly telling my father that a neighbor boy had asked his mother -- who told her the story -- if his family and ours were still friends because we were Democrats. Those were the days.

Above all, my parents taught us to value family. We moved a lot, and so learned to stick together. Vacations were spent visiting relatives in Pittsburgh and Boston. Oft-told stories were typically of family lore. My father adopted Pittsburgh sports teams as readily as if he had grown up there and made sure that my brothers and I pulled for the Pirates and Steelers (who genuinely sucked back then) almost as hard as we rooted for the Red Sox and Notre Dame.

After graduating from college in San Antonio, I met and married the woman who would be my wife for twenty years until her death. During the course of our marriage, we also lived in Austin, the San Francisco Bay Area, and Seattle. She stayed at home and took care of our two sons while my career -- in the private sector, I might add -- developed and flourished.

Our boys grew up, stayed in school, and learned from me many of the same things my parents taught. They are hard workers, well-liked, and don't have many bad words for anybody. It's also their curse to be fourth-generation Red Sox fans.

My wife took care of me when we thought that I had Multiple Sclerosis and when we knew that I had cancer. We were, for want of another phrase, best friends. Five years after her death, I was fortunate enough to meet Premium T., now my wife and best friend.

In short, I was raised in a church-going nuclear family that lived family values and believed in liberty, justice for all, and the national pastime. I married, had a career, and raised children. I've suffered sickness and loss. I've grieved. I've loved and been loved twice.

And that's how I became a fascist...

The on-line edition of the Seattle Times published an edited version of my What If... blog of last Thursday. The comment thread is here. I read one of the three comments removed by The Times, an unhinged rant about William Ayers. The Times did not respond to my request that they reinstate it. Too bad, because it was unthreatening, contained no obscenities, and was a perfect example of how loony tunes these people are...

God, but I love this stuff. You can't make it up. Nope, you won't catch the Republican National Committee at just another "club with glass boxes filled with naked dancing girls." These boxes are made from the windows of a 1920s Manhattan building that housed the New York Times. Talk about a class act. But what's this about equipment rental?...

Roy demolishes the theology of Glenn Beck...

Check out this comical exchange between Rushbo stand-in Mark Steyn and a caller who proudly hails from "Belair, Maryland, home of John Wilkes Booth." I mean, with these people the laffs just keep on coming...

Call Me Disillusioned Dept: Sean Hannity is a greedy fraud and Michael Steele is a corrupt pol...

Onward Christian soldiers, marching as to war. "It's just patriotism. It's in our Constitution." All I can say is, "Shake it, shake it, Hutaree." All the way to prison for a very long time, please. Parsley Pics has more here, including video...

15 comments:

tnlib said...

My upbringing was very similar except parents were divorced and it was a few years earlier. : (
Grew up in a home with mom, brother, aunt, grandmother, grandfather and sometimes uncle. Same values as your family. My dad, otoh, was "redneck and proud of it."

T. Clear said...

Although I know this story, it still brought tears to my eyes. Well done, Citizen K.

TaraDharma said...

you are obviously a danger to democracy and the American Way! (wink)

K. said...

tnlib: Yeah...what the hell happened to us, anyway?

T: Thanks, honey!

TD: I can but try!

Paula said...

K, thanks for your stunning self-portrait. Most "fascists" I know followed similar paths, including this one. Maybe it's necessary to have a brush with cancer, heart disease or a chronic disability if you are to understand the urgency of real health care reform or have compassion for those who need it, I dunno. As for staying true to your family and religious values, loving art, music, politics, non-violence and the Red Sox, well, many of us would applaud your choices, even if they're evidence of your slide into dangerous waters. And, you may need to call up some of that patience and forbearance you learned from your mother, if our "patriots" continue to divide this country by fanning the flames of hate and violence. Keep up the good work. (Go Sox!)

mouse (aka kimy) said...

wonderful post. thanks for sharing your journey....i guess i'd be considered a fascist liberal also....

in fact, i do believe a teabagger relative may have called me a pinko fascist....what is it about this propensity to call people names - and dismiss the quest for social justice with vitriol words and accusations

okay, off to find the what if post...both links here took me to comments...not the edited version of your post that the seattle times printed.

been out of the look in blogland - having just spent the better part of a week in the dark. when this happens, as it periodically does, i give up trying to catch up and just start anew....

sussah said...

Dear K, I don't know how you can stand putting yourself out there in those meanspirited "argument clinics". You don't deserve the abuse. I'm glad you are doing well these days, and thanks for sharing your life story. take care, sp

K. said...

Paula: It's always nice to meet someone blessed with the curse (of the Red Sox). Conversation between me and someone raised on the Yankees:

"Don't you wish you were a Yankees fan?"

"No."

"But we've won all those rings."

"So what? I get to root for the Red Sox."

Kimy: I fixed the link. As for the name calling and derision, I think that deep down that's because they find themselves lacking in some way.

My definition of a conservative is liberal whose ox hasn't been gored. The minute there's a problem, they turn to the government for help. Look no further than Nancy Reagan: Once Alzheimer's entered her life, she was suddenly a huge advocate of federal funding for research.

S: What can I say? I get a kick out of driving those guys nuts by being hyperrational. Hey, we all have our hobbies!

Roy said...

Yup, you're a dyed-in-the-wool danger to the Republic! And I see the problem right off the bat - your father is a ((gasp))...... librarian! Don't you know that books are the devil's slide chute right into hell?

From one proud liberal fascist to another - well done!

nursemyra said...

Five sons? your poor mother....

RGG said...

Your life story sounds very familiar somehow.

You know what I like? I like the fact that the Tea Baggers want to see "proof" that slurs and threats were made, bricks were thrown, etc -- i.e. they want video on the news or photos in the paper. But if there was video on the news or photos in the paper, it would be the staged work of the Liberal Media and no proof at all.

K. said...

Myra: Mom maintained until her dying day that all her life she had wanted five boys. We never shook her from the story even though she had her chances. One thing about boys: They love their mothers.

RGG They flat out deny that anyone called John Lewis the N word, and some even accuse him of lying. John Lewis. We're talking about the closest living link to Martin Luther King, a man who was beaten and came within an inch of losing his life during the Civil Rights movement. I'm going to go out on a limb here and say that John Lewis knows the N word when he hears it.

Sylvia K said...

Fantastic and very moving post, K! Glad I had a box of Kleenex handy. I'm so behind reading blogs because I acquired a computer virus and my computer guru was out of town until yesterday and I've been playing catch up. I grew up in Texas and I still married a black man in the 60s, most of my relatives disowned me although their children reestablished a connection years later. So, I know about hatred and race and politics in a way not everyone does. So, of course, your post spoke to me in a very personal way as well. Thanks for sending me the link. I do appreciate it. Have a great evening! We're going to have to get together again for lunch one of these days!

Sylvia

K. said...

Roy: Librarian = Subversive, every time. Remember the bit in It's A Wonderful Life when George finds out what happened to Mary? "You're not going to like it, George." (Is Violet pimping her out, I wondered.) "SHE'S AT THE LIBRARY!" A fate worse than death.

Sylvia: You sure got a beautiful daughter for your troubles! But I can't imagine going through all of that in Texas in the 60s. Let's catch up soon!

ZenYenta said...

The thing is that most of these extremists, if you were to discuss this with them, would find something in your background to twist around. Your parents would be denigrated and reviled for some failure that only they can see. The ugliness there is stunning.