The right wing attack on American liberalism is no accident. The irony is, as many have noted, that it is constituted by two wings of U.S. conservatism with radically conflicting roots and objectives.

One branch of this attack is the Scrooge appeal of libertarianism that claims the absolute right of individuals to own what they can garner — devoid of any obligations to assist their fellow humans. Our recently deceased Harvard philosopher, Robert Nozick, was the intellectual spear carrier of this branch of conservatism who argued uses of ‘Lockean’ principles in his Anarchy, State, and Utopia:

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His offering was twined with John Rawls’ liberal counterpart, A theory of Justice:

in the college texts presented to several generations of students during their formative years. It is saddening to learn that Nozick may have won this competition with reports that our current college student generation is now more interested in getting rich than assisting fellow human beings?

Libertarians needless to say lobby for maximum personal freedoms as well and one of the most noted ones in my field, John Hospers, was driven out of the Brooklyn College philosophy department because he was gay, later ran as the presidential candidate of the Libertarian Party:

The other wing of conservatism, the right wing evangelicals and comparable religious groups, are united in their obsessive homophobia, embedded anti-Semitism, and disparagement of women (attack on abortion rights, etc.). These religionists are radically opposed to any intellectual challenge to their primitive religious assertions. Richard Hofstadter’s classic study, Anti-intellectualism in American Life, captured their mindlessly hostile attacks on liberal religious views of reality:

Needless to say this unholy alliance of conservatives, coming from such disparate foundations, is unstable. But it is also extremely dangerous in that its attack on liberalism disguises and defeats realistic appraisals of the problems to be solved out there. Bob Woodward’s State of Denial told it as it is!

What we have seen from the Bush administration at home has been a series of attacks on basic scientific facts. The most deadly of which I am personally aware through one of my students, Kojo Davis, was the refusal of either Christy Todd Whitman or Rudy Giuliani to take responsibility for the deadly impact of the debris of the World Trade Center upon the lungs and psyches of the 40,000 workers subsequently gravely injured by the deadly substances they had inhaled there during their cleanup operation. There have been a few media reports on their suffering and some efforts to pry loose even the pay still due to them for their sacrifice, but to little avail thus far beyond an extension of possible workmen’s compensation and/or possible disability status for those who have remained in NY:

Even more immediately threatening than such denials of basic scientific facts at home — blocking uses of stem cells for finding means of healing major human illnesses and injuries, the irreparable damage being done to our environment by under regulated uses and abuses of dangerous substances, and a host of ‘re-written’ reports of our scientists by federal ‘censors’ — is the on-going and escalating disaster in the Middle East. All reports indicate that any who can escape from Iraq are doing so by the millions — its businessmen, its teachers, doctors and other professionals. One cannot construct a democracy on the back of warring militias! And meanwhile Afghanistan is slipping back into the hands of the Taliban, lurking in nuclear Pakistan only temporarily held at bay by a general who carried out a military coup there and who is only a bullet away from assassination!

One hopes that the unholy alliance of the two conservative groups that have brought Bush to power will collapse, allowing liberal America to return to our proper business of building a better democracy at home and supporting international human rights and law abroad. But the information void and our diversion into such as ‘Survivor’ games by our corporate media may not dissipate the denial fog in time to save us from ourselves.

Other great powers have committed collective suicide in the past and national suicide may be the road that we Americans are on today.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is
legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent 718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

[Edited by Simon – Typos]

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