I observed with amusement the 2010 Conservative Political Action Conference last weekend — especially Glenn Beck’s diatribe on progressives, in which he said that the difference between Communists and progressives is the difference between revolution and evolution: “one requires a gun and the other does it slowly, piece by piece, eating away at it, to the point to where now our people in Congress, they don’t even care.” I’m not quite sure what Beck was referring to when he said that progressives were eating away at “it”–I assume that in his mind, he’s referring to the values of America.
The definition of what Beck believes progressives are chipping away at is the key to unlocking his statement. If it is, in fact, the values of America, it’s very important to take a look at his discussion of these values. He mentions several stories about his life to illustrate American values–but all of them reduce to “personal responsibility”, words Beck used himself in his speech. He essentially believes that people should take care of their own problems, secure their own jobs, buy their own health care, and buy their own food. And the government should in no way interfere with anyone’s life.
I’m taking a fascinating American history class this quarter, in which we learned that an important characteristic of the colonies and early America was labor scarcity and land abundance. People were able to work hard and secure their own land and they were also able to get jobs quite easily because farmers needed workers on their land, and there was a need for resources to use and export.
However, when America began to modernize and industrialize, things began to change. Cities began to form, and there was less of an opportunity for people to successfully make it into the upper or middle class as there was during the time of the Revolutionary and Civil War eras. In the early 1900s, problems began to emerge in society, such as what to do with immigrants and women. Should women have the right to vote, and did America promote equality and freedom? Out of these tough questions emerged the progressives.
The progressives did not want to abolish the values of America, nor did they wish to make America a Communist or socialist nation. In fact, they wanted to retain our capitalistic economy. They merely wished to address these problems. From this desire to address the issues of America came Franklin Roosevelt’s Four Freedoms and his New Deal–two, I imagine, of the more egregious historical American policies and concepts to the conservative mind.
But we’re not chipping away at any old values, or attempting to turn America into a socialist nation. We’re merely stating that in today’s America, there are people who, without reforms, wouldn’t have a fair shot at the capitalistic opportunities that America offers. And when Glenn Beck stands up and shouts to his followers that progressives are ruining America, he is only causing people who trust him to be afraid. And the results of this fear-mongering are visible today. One big fear that conservatives grappled with when the Democrats and President Obama took office was the notion that we progressives were going to take away their guns.
On the contrary, President Obama has remained fairly silent on the matter of gun control, and as far as I know people are still able to own guns–and we’re already beginning the second year of progressive rule. In fact, the NY Times reports that President Obama “signed bills last year allowing guns to be carried in national parks and in luggage on Amtrak trains.”
Nevertheless, there are reports of states loosening the reign on gun control and a mass purchase of guns in response to the nonexistent threat of restrictive gun control. According to a NY Times report Wednesday, “In Virginia, the General Assembly approved a bill last week that allows people to carry concealed weapons in bars and restaurants that serve alcohol, and the House of Delegates voted to repeal a 17-year-old ban on buying more than one handgun a month.”
The article goes on to state that several other states, such as Wyoming and Arizona, are also considering relaxing their gun control laws. Action and protestation based on fear and imagined threats is becoming a trend in conservatism today, and until that is corralled, truth can’t prevail in society.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt eloquently discussed this problem of fear hindering truth from progressing in his First Inaugural Address, when he said, “This is preeminently the time to speak the truth, the whole truth, frankly and boldly. Nor need we shrink from honestly facing conditions in our country today. This great Nation will endure as it has endured, will revive and will prosper. So, first of all, let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance.”