mythos and pathos
by Ipsa Liberalis
It has been my experience that there are two conflicting mythos in the US:
1: We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.
2: May the best man win.
As we have seen in this political cycle, the 'best' man rarely wins, and all men are certainly not created equal.
Thus, it should be no wonder we are all so confused all the time. Which am I supposed to be, equal to my peers or better than them?
Never mind that the first part is impossible to achieve. Imagine all those 18 year olds whose birthday is today. They can now buy smokes and join the military and vote and go to the electric chair, if that's a thing that happens in your state. Now imagine all of the people who are turning 36 today, who can do all of those things, as well as all the people who are turning 54 and 72. All, theoretically equal, but I doubt any of us really considers all of them to be functionally equal.
And so, disqualified from uniform equality, we strive to be better than each other, better than we are at any given moment. We want to live at the apex of our best selves: the nicest possible house, the best possible job, the coolest possible phone. We vaunt that our sports team is the best, and our ideologies, and our ugly sweaters. Advertisers certainly help with that, all day every day.
I don't think these have to be oppositional desires. I think if we each got the right opportunity at the right time, we can all be our best selves, and when we all get to be our best selves, we'll appreciate each other equally. And, as a liberal (and as a person who lives in this country), I think that a large government is the best way to facilitate opportunities to become our best selves.
This isn't the first time I've talked about big government, but I think it is a touchstone the left needs to get back in touch with. We aren't meant to be prohibitionists (guns) or censors (hate speech). We are people who believe, not unlike churches or corporations, that when we all come together toward a common goal (equality, security, prosperity) we are better off together than we are apart. We believe we can govern ourselves well in a marketplace rich with diversity in demographics as well as ideas and in order to do so, we must largely protect each other.
That's what being a liberal means to me. Make guns safer by regulating them, not prohibiting them. Make Neo-Nazis safer by regulating against discrimination. Make us equal by giving us all, adults and children alike, a chance at a public education... forever.
Unless this is your first Liberalis reading, you'll know I was not with Her. I was with Sanders. He said the one thing I have been so desperate to hear: End the war on drugs.
And then, secondarily: Make education available.
And then, other things.
Now, many criticized him for these 'pie in the sky' ambitions that he couldn't back up with a viable plan. The fact was that they were missing the point. I don't think for a minute that Sanders thought he could come through on such grandiose ideas. But, like a baseball player pointing his finger past the outfield, he was saying he wanted to knock it out of the park. And the thing about knocking one out of the park is it isn't up to the batter alone. He's gotta have a hard, powerful pitch coming at him from the other side.
Sanders, I think, knows it takes both sides to play the game. To continue with this surprise metaphor (I'm no baseball fan), he knows you should want to make that homerun hit, even if you plan to bunt, or sacrifice yourself to advance the runner. Dream big, and be prepared to work with what you have to work with.
Clinton (and her supporters) poo-pooed that. She offered... what? I don't even know. A woman in the White House? The appearance of progress while the ballpark raked in the big money with corporate subsidies and $12 cups of Coors Light?
Well, no thank you. I'd prefer the myth of big home run and the pathos of playing hard with the other team to get it done. I'd prefer the hope of actual progress and the pathos of working together to get it done.