Monday, December 13, 2010

“Odd Ducks and Loons”

Whether they are defending the Soviet Union or bleating for Saddam Hussein, liberals are always against America.  They are either traitors or idiots, and on the matter of America’s self-preservation, the difference is irrelevant.
                                               - Ann Coulter
I was walking downtown to pay the water bill when I spotted my neighbor raking leaves from the Bradford pear in his yard.  “Ron,” I greeted him.  “Long time no see.  What’s been keeping you so busy?”
“Oh, hi, Ace,” he said, glancing up.  “I’ve filed a suit for federal protection under the Endangered Species Act, and you just can’t believe how much time all the paper work eats up.”
“I didn’t know you were a nature lover,” I said.  “What kind of critter are you trying to save?”
“The political liberal,” he said.  “You used to see them everywhere.  From the redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters, they were once as common as robins and English sparrows.  Now they’ve virtually disappeared.”
“Now that you mention it, I used to hear their call almost every evening on the news,” I said.  “But I can’t remember hearing one for ages.”
“It’s been years,” he affirmed.  “The only remnant populations are on scattered Internet websites and in preserves like Austin, Texas; San Francisco; Madison, Wisconsin; and Charlottesville.  And even those are under threat of commercial development.  Most of the state of Wisconsin just underwent corporate takeover.”
“I’d hate to see them go,” I said.  “I have all those fond memories of their sweet songs on the radio in my childhood.”
“We’re not just talking nostalgia here, Ace,” he said.  “They’re a keystone species.  They provide aid and shelter for all kinds of other creatures.  If they go, a lot of other species are vulnerable.”
“Do liberals actually qualify under the Endangered Species Act?” I asked dubiously.
“Oh, no question,” he assured me.  “The act was specifically intended to protect critically imperiled species from extinction as ‘a consequence of economic growth and development untempered by adequate concern and conservation.’”
“Is the problem really that serious?”
“The liberal is the passenger pigeon of our time,” he said gloomily.  “People acted as if the liberals were so abundant that the species could withstand anything.  But market hunters downed them by the millions.  Then, the unregulated use of poisons on talk radio and the loss of habitat in newspapers drove their numbers steadily downward.  They’re on the verge of vanishing as we speak.”
“I just can’t believe it,” I said, shaking my head.  “How could this happen?”
“Partly because the hunting lobby keeps talking as if there’s still a huge population,” he said.  “They’re always looking for that big trophy kill.”
“When did you first become aware of the danger?” I asked.
“Well, I remember becoming pretty uncomfortable being called a ‘liberal’ back in the 70’s.  You’re too young to remember, but it seemed then as if everybody on the left suddenly wanted to be a radical.  Liberals were considered comfortable enablers of the status quo--people who only wanted easy, painless fixes and wouldn’t pay the price for real change.  So that peeled off a lot of the more vigorous members of the breed.”
“Boy, that era sure has passed,” I said.  “That attitude is as outmoded as bell-bottom trousers and love beads.”
He nodded.  “Then, in the 80s, the fire came from another direction.  Reagan swept into office, and somehow being a greedy, right-wing imperialist was all the rage.  And then the first George Bush began alluding to liberalism as ‘the L word,’ as if it were obscene and unfit to be used in polite company.”
“Is that when a lot of Americans who had been calling themselves liberals began to feel uncomfortable in social situations?” I asked.
“Uh huh.  The overall population took a big hit then,” he said.  “But there were still decent-sized breeding populations in a variety of habitats around the country.”
“And then?”
“The onslaught just never let up,” he said.  “Your modern liberal isn’t typically an aggressive bird.  Bolder birds can drive them away from feeders.”
“You mean blue jays and such?” I asked.
“Well, not just blue jays.  But they’re a good example.  They’ll steal another bird’s nest.  They’re loud and not shy about voicing their opinions.  They bully other birds mercilessly, especially ones that are smaller and weaker.”
“So liberals began to call themselves ‘progressives’ in self defense?”
“It’s a form of protective coloration.  The survivors are almost all ‘progressives’ now,” he said.  “And that’s just scattered colonies outside government.  With Ted Kennedy dead and Russ Feingold bounced out of the Senate, it’s hard to even name a liberal politician in the US now.”
“Oh, surely there are still some liberal politicians around,” I said.
“Well, what would you expect a liberal to do if he or she were in office?” he challenged.
“That’s easy,” I said.  “You know, the common sense stuff.  Admit climate change is a global threat and do something about it.  Fight to defund the war.  Cut the deficit by eliminating tax breaks for the rich and reducing military spending.  Raise the minimum wage.  Guarantee health care for everybody.  Defend the Constitution by insisting on habeas corpus, eliminating torture, giving terrorists and everybody else their rights to know the charges against them and have a speedy trial.  Insist that gays and lesbians be treated as ordinary citizens with the right to love the adult they choose and work at any job they qualify for.  Support public education.  Give public employees their due.  Protect consumers and the environment.  Stop acting like corporations are God’s gift to the planet.”
“There’s a lot of variety to their song,” he said, nodding his head, “but you’ve identified some of the most common variations.  Now, how many birds perched in Congress are out there singing those tunes?”
“Well, there’s... uh... uh....”
“Exactly,” he said.  “And how many congresspeople can you name who deny climate change is real; who fully support the war; who are all for grabbing suspected terrorists, torturing them, and then tossing them in some hell hole and throwing away the keys; who swear that homosexuality is sinful, deviant behavior that God despises; and who want to privatize everything they think they or their patrons can make a buck on?”
“Just offhand, dozens,” I said.  “But there are hundreds of congresspeople I’ve never even heard of.” 
“You see the situation, Ace,” he said.  “First it was liberals who were afraid to be called liberals.  Then it was liberals who were afraid to act like liberals, whatever label they wore.  Now, it’s where is a liberal?”
“So they’ve modified their behavior, muted their calls, and fled to isolated pockets,” I summed up.  “Is it too late to designate Congress as a critical habitat zone?”
“It’s not just Congress,” he said.  “It’s the whole mainstream political arena.  A few localized populations are still hanging on, but that’s about it.” 
“Gosh.  It sounds as if the situation is getting desperate,” I said.
“I’m afraid we may be approaching the point of no return,” he said gloomily.  “Isolated individuals are unable to find a mate.  It’s a whole tradition that politicians have simply kissed goodbye.  If the Social Security system and the GI Bill of Rights and the TVA and the Clean Water Act and the Voting Rights Act had come up before this bunch now, we’d still be sending old people to the poor house, drinking water laced with raw sewage, and watching blacks be blocked from the ballot box.”
“You’d think the public would be alarmed at the possible extinction of such a valuable creature,”  I said.
“It’s like a lot of other vanishing species, Ace,” he said.  “Nobody raises the alarm until it’s too late to do anything about it.  Younger people now have trouble even identifying one.  They mistake them for odd ducks and loons.”
© Tony Russell, 2010