Democrats & Liberals Archives

Get out of our way if you don't like complaints

Looking over at the right-hand column, I see that three of the last four postings from Team Red have focused on one issue: the injustice and inappropriateness of criticism of the government. They say “the left sees something sinister in every piece of good news”, “get out of the way if you just want to complain”, “the liberal press has mastered the art of lying”, and so on. Elsewhere, progressive criticism of the government has been called everything from whining to high treason.

But the last few weeks have given us two great examples of how a little whining can make a big difference.

  • Just last week, Bush was roundly criticized for reacting slowly to the tsumani disaster, and then pledging an embarassingly small amount of US aid. (Well, I was embarrassed anyway). And amazingly enough, after a few days of criticism, Bush actually increased the amount of aid by a factor of 20 over the initial proposal.

  • Just last month, a brave soldier, with some some help from brave embedded reporter, asked Rumsfeld a very direct question about the lack of properly armored vehicles. The mainstream media picked up this story (finally), and in the ensuing storm of criticism, guess what? it was discovered that, amazingly enough, the army actually could do better at armoring up-armoring those hummers.

Of course, these are just a couple of notable cases in which criticism did what it was meant to do, namely, wake up our elected officials, and let them know that they're not doing their job.

Now, when both of these stories broke, and when criticism first started to emerge, the reaction of the Red Team was swift, decisive, unified, and completely brutal. Eric's comments on the reporter's involvement with the question to Rumsfeld, titled " #1 Goal: Defeat America", uses phrases like "close to treason", "virulant ant-Americanism", and said that "As long as America is capitalist and free it will be opposed, slandered, and obstructed by the left". Pretty harsh words, directed at an embedded reporter - a man who is very much risking his life in Iraq, and a man who was riding around protected by the same "hillbilly armor" as the troops he was reporting on! After the tsunami, Jack berated "the chattering classes" for "anti-Americanism", "anti-American prejudice", and "bigotry" - and that was just the first paragraph.

Now the criticisms from "the left" were clearly of Bush and Rummy, not "America" in general. Nonetheless, they were met by cries of "What? how dare you! you're being anti-American!" and a spurt of vicious name-calling. I'm completely disgusted to see the party of Lincoln descend to the point at which concrete, constructive criticism of specific government actions and officials is considered treasonous America-hating slander.

I urge the members of Team Red, and everyone, to re-read the last few words of the Gettysburgh address:

...we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.

This is not a fascist state, in which the leaders are above criticism. Our government, folks, is not just government "of the people, for the people". It is also by the people - by we, the people of America. America is a representative democracy, and the men and women in Washington that run the government are our representatives - they are there to represent our views and our values. In the US, the job description for any elected office more or less ensures that one will be criticized, and further, requires one to listen to that criticism.

Moreover, if we stand by quietly when our elected representatives misrepresent us, the we, the people, are remiss in our duties - just as we would be remiss as parents if our children misbehaved, and we did nothing to stop them.

So, I say to everyone, Red, Blue, or Purple, whine away! Even your high school civics teacher would agree - bitching about the government is healthy, expected, and as American as apple pie. And sometimes, amazingly enough, it leads to something actually getting fixed. Posted by William Cohen at January 2, 2005 5:56 PM