Thursday, February 25, 2010

Where Is the Anger On the Left?

Clancy Sigal has a very interesting article in today's Guardian Comment section entitled, "US liberals have lost their thunder", in which he argues that the American left have allowed rage to be something which is only ever expressed by that country's right wing elements.

In this second or third year of a devastating depression, not just recession, that has inflicted an epidemic of suffering on the lower half of the American nation, Obama is very busy being fluent and civil while being essentially untouched by the rage felt by so many of us. Our world, as we have known it, is being annihilated, and nobody in power shows signs of giving a damn.

The real anger is all on the right, kidnapped – or authentically voiced – by the all-white Tea Partiers, Palinites, Oath Keepers and "armed and dangerous" patriot groups, some but not all of whom are native-fascistic but also include pissed-off libertarians and the disappointed and dispossessed at the bottom of the pile.
And he reminds us of the last time we heard real anger from the left:

The last time I remember collective anger as legitimate was in the now-much-derided 1960s with its protest marches and brazen hippie-style slogans. Ever since there's been a gradual slide – I would argue descent – into sterile politeness. Recently, I attended a meeting of my local school board where a mild, hardly-above-a-whisper grumble from a parent prompted his expulsion enforced by armed police. Who knows what might have happened if any of us in the audience had stood up and actually spoken out as in that famous Norman Rockwell painting of a town hall meeting?

Why should full-throated emotion be the monopoly of the so-called "populists" who seem to be the only people around unafraid to shout, yell, stomp and scream?

I grew up in a boisterous, immigrant, loud neighborhood where everyone had an opinion and voiced it full throttle. Somewhere along the line, maybe when I shifted from working class to middle class, I lost my rough, grating, empowered, assertive voice – and maybe the anger that had fuelled it. If so, that's a pity.

We need liberal anger now more than ever.

I have just finished reading Nixonland, which sets out how Nixon used the genuine and deeply felt anger which the people who opposed the Vietnam war felt, and how he was able to appeal to "the silent majority", the people who felt that hippies and gays and blacks and women's rights activists were changing the planet far too fast for their comfort.

The truth is that anger on the left is always portrayed as dangerous to society as a whole, whilst to watch the tea party protests - as they are portrayed on Fox News - one is asked to look at this all white, aged group of people and imagine that one is looking at all that is good in civil society.

The fact that Sigal remembers the "much derided" protest marches of the sixties says a lot about the way both the left and the right are portrayed in the media when they protest.

Dirty hippies with their brazen slogans were easy fodder for Nixon to portray as people challenging the very way of life of the comfortable and the middle class in the United States.

Now that that same middle class rise up in anger over the election of a black president (and that is honestly the only coherent thing which I take from their protests) then their anger is never portrayed as dangerous, rather it is always the noise of "real" Americans or "ordinary everyday" Americans, and we are warned that we ignore their voices at our peril.

It could be argued that the left don't need to protest at the moment because they are in power. However, what they do need to do is put pressure on Obama and the Democrats to ensure, now that he has been elected, that Obama governs according to the promises which he made whilst campaigning.

Obama was elected with a much greater majority than anything George Bush ever achieved. He has a mandate from the American people to do the very things which the Tea Party protesters are insisting that he must not do. Universal healthcare being the most obvious thing which he promised that he would do.

The left need to keep up the pressure on him to see that this is done.

Click here for full article.

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