To whom it may concern…
I’m finding this “WE SURROUND THEM” project of Glenn Beck’s very interesting and thought-provoking. I have to admit that I don’t get the “SURROUND” part at all – seems to me that as Americans we’re way too intermixed and interdependent to talk about anybody “surrounding” anybody – but I understand that conservatives feel a bit beleaguered at the moment.
Part of that beleaguerment is an existential crisis – following the debacle that was the Bush/Cheney Regime, conservatives have been forced to rexamine themselves and figure out who they are, and part of that process is asking the question “What, exactly, do we believe in?” Glenn Beck has done them a great service in this regard by proposing a explicit set of values and principles.
Though I wouldn’t call myself a “conservative” in any sense of the word, I think I may concur, to a greater or lesser degree, with some of the principles he enumerates – but I am curious about a few questions of interpretation. Perhaps you would be so kind as to enlighten me.
1. “America is good.” CAN’T AGREE
What exactly does that mean? What does he mean to imply by “America”? The American government? “America” as an ideal? Americans collectively? (Even the criminals and jerks?) Does he mean therefore that everything America does – and *has* done – is ipso facto “good”? Though I know many folks who would say I’m being way too chartiable, to me, it might be more accurate to somethinig like “America usually means well, and tries its best most of the time.” We are, after all, human. (And by the way – isn’t there a Scripture to the effect that no one is “good” save God Himself?)
2. ” I believe in God and He is the Center of my Life.” AGREE, BUT
Whose concept of “god” are we talking about here? Just the Judeo-Christian-Mormon one? Y’know, the Muslims think that “Allah” is the same guy, we Jews & Christians just got the messages wrong. How about Buddhists, Hindus, Baha’is, Jainists?
And there are folks who have other things as their “God” — for some, it’s money. For some, it’s their concept of “America”…
3. ” I must always try to be a more honest person than I was yesterday. ” AGREE, BUT
This one is striking in that is is so different structurally from the others. Why not just say “People should always be honest” or “I always strive to be as honest as possible”? He seems to be allowing for the possibility that one sometimes might need to be dishonest…? I’d be interested in knowing the thinking that led to that exact wording. Why the wiggle room? The Quakers say it well :”Let your aye be aye, and your nay be nay.”
4. “The family is sacred. My spouse and I are the ultimate authority, not the government.” CAN’T AGREE
Does this just mean the traditional “nuclear family,” the mom the dad and the 2.5 kids? Or do you mean the extended family? How far does “family” extend? Is it a matter of filling out the right form and going through the right ceremony, or is it a matter of lave and commitment? If the latter, I think I would include some folks as “families” that you might not. And is “my” family any more sacred than someone else’s?
And “ultimate authority” over what, specifically? Your house, your property, your family? Does the government have no interest in going after abusive spouses/parents? What is the penalty when authority is misused?
And what about the communities that we are part of, and on which our families rely? I don’t hold the family as any more – or less – “sacred” than the community, or the planet – all are interdependent to my way of thinking.
5. “If you break the law you pay the penalty. Justice is blind and no one is above it.” AGREE, BUT
Wait a minute, didn’t you just say that “my spouse and I are the ultimate…” – oh, never mind.
I agree that “no one is above the law” – but in my mind, if I combine this one with #9, “Government works for me,” I can’t escape the logical conclusion that George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Alberto Gonzalez, and their minions should be investigated for possible violations of the Constitution and criminal law. Is that your interpretation as well? Or do you just mean that rehabilitation, mercy and forgiveness should have no place in our criminal justice system, and its only purpose should be the retributive punishment of wrongdoers?
(By the way, on a different but related note, let me point out here that there’s more than one type of law. I know that Glenn is a climate change skeptic – but the laws of nature are the clearest and most obvious expression of the will of the Creator, and we ignore them at our peril. If we continue to act as though those laws – the laws of physics, chemistry, biology – don’t matter, or shouldn’t be taken into account in matters of economics and commerce, we will run into a kind of justice that is blind indeed.)
6. “I have a right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, but there is no guarantee of equal results.” CAN’T AGREE
Sure there is: we all end up equally dead. Guaranteed.
Seriously, my problem here is that this one is incomplete. I would add something lke “This does not mean that I should accept injustice as inevitable, neglect those less fortunate than I, or give up trying to make life fairer for everyone.” Frequently, folks use the manifest unfairness of life as an excuse for not attending to matters of clear economic injustice.
Actually,now that I think about it, there are some guarantees of equal results in certain areas of life. They’re in the Constitution… y’know, due process, habeas corpus, stuff like that.
7. “I work hard for what I have and I will share it with who I want to. Government cannot force me to be charitable.” AGREE, BUT
No, they can’t make you be charitable, or compassionate, or generous. They also can’t force you to be happy, sexy, fit, or pleasant to be around. But if you and I and our fellow citizens aren’t taking care of our less fortunate fellows on our own, doing the jobs that need to be done, government has to take up the slack – and we have given government the right to tax us to do that.
8. “It is not un-American for me to disagree with authority or to share my personal opinion.” AGREE! (enthusiastically, even!)
Well! Here’s one that I have no reservations about at all! As someone who has lived in a certain amount of fear ever since 9/11 for the mere sin of being a pacifist, let me say CONGRATULATIONS! How nice to see that you have come to this conclusion! Will you please go down the hall there at FOX and inform Bill O’Reilly and Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter, and all the other fellow pundits who spent the last eight years calling people like me traitors and worse?? I think they may not be quite on the same page with you on this!
9. “The government works for me. I do not answer to them, they answer to me.” AGREE, BUT
Here’s another incomplete one. Yes, the people in the government work for/answer to you, and me, and all citizens — but they seem to answer to the rich and powerful *more*. Do you think that is the way it should be, or should they be answering to us on a more equitable basis? Or does that fall under the “no guarantee of equal results” in #6?
So, seems that I can’t bring myself to agree to any more than six of these, even with reservations, so I suppose that means I am disqualified from your revolution. (I will give big props to Glenn, though, for putting in that “agree with 7 out of 9” rule. I think that’s a novelty among social movements, allowing that degree of flexibility. Good for him – I’m glad he’s not trying to enforce 100% ideological compliance. If history is any guide, though, the purges of the insufficiently pious will come later.)
Underlying all Beck’s principles, by the way, I see a more profound one – namelty, the conviction that life is easily reducible to simple yes-or-no propositions, and people are easily sorted out accordingly. I think things may be a little more complex than that. This is not to say that I see no value in articulating such sets of principles; I just think we have to remain mindful that such principles are ideals to strive for in a frequently ambiguous world.
For example, I’m a Quaker, and we’ve been guided by a robust set of principles and values for centuries now – Peace, Simplicity, and Equality among them. And the Green movement, of which I am also a member, bases itself on a set of Key Values that include Ecological Wisdom, Decentralized Government, Grassroots Democracy, Community-Based Economics, Respect for Diversity, and Sustainability among others. (I invite folks looking for ethical systems to adopt, or for parts to add to their own systems, to look at those movements as well.)
Tell you what – let’s add a principle of self-determination, recognizing that each human being has the right (if not the obligation) to identify principles and values that fit their temperament and experience. Let’s add values of acceptance and mutual respect, understanding that not everyone will find identical sets of values to their liking, and that no one has a right to force such systems upon other humans. Above all, let’s realize that we’re not surrounding you, you’re not surrounding us – we are surrounding each other, and it’s up to us to determine whether that surrounding takes the form of an embrace, a dance… or a struggle to the death.