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Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Chronicles of Self-Destruction
In 1969, demonstrations, rallies, campus takeovers, and violence abounded. America was roiled in the spitefulness of the New Left. It was a most intense time. Being a student, I went to the rallies, curious about the left's "new" ideas. They were making their case, were mobilized, intense, and loud. Their speakers could be engaging, and the crowds were big. I listened, wondering if what they were saying was true. America was being described as racist, heartless, warlike, imperialist, and rotten. The speakers were animated, confident, bold, and they were swaying many with their message.
As I listened, I slowly became turned off. Watching the strident anger of these people was disturbing. In every speech, in every action, they were more intense and extreme. Continuing to attend, I couldn't help but suspect these New Left people had deep personal problems. There were two experiences that created an indelible imprint about the left.
The first was at a rally. Speeches stirred the crowd, one saying we needed to take to the streets. Well, the speaker got the crowd into lines of about ten; a lot of lines, one behind the next, and we walked into the street. I already felt a little uncomfortable, but I was in a line with a friend. We're marching, line after line on the street. Someone held a bullhorn and started chanting the following. "Vote with your feet, get to the street, vote with your feet, get to the street!" I was in my line, looking both ways, and there we were, supposedly intelligent students, chanting mindlessly. I tried. Honestly, I never felt so foolish in my life. Rather than empowerment, I felt deflated. Instead of thinking I was doing something good, I felt like a total doofus. Materially well-off college students pretending we were the proletariat to take power from the eeevil capitalist bosses was full-on absurd.
Another event came weeks later. There had been a building takeover on campus. I knew some of my friends had participated, and after a class I went there. I noticed a long line of tough-looking policemen in helmets, with guns, batons, and large (well behaved at that moment) police dogs. I took one look, then headed towards the door of the occupied building to warn my friends. Suddenly the door swung open, and the leftist leadership burst out, raising their fists, chanting "Workers to the street, workers to the street!" over and over, yelling epithets at the policemen as they went by. I found one of my friends at the back of the line, asked what that was all about, getting a blank stare for an answer.
The leftist message was ugly; authoritarian, angry, ingrown, hyperbolic, self-righteous, untrue, and yes, violent.
It was my last day as a potential leftist. I never attended another meeting, coming to the realization if these people ever came to power we would be in huge trouble. The left was a strange cult, a group that believed in things that weren't true. They were an unrelenting set of true believers that excluded all others who didn't agree with them as ignorant and immoral. They were angry, doing nothing helpful, just venting and yelling. They were intellectually shallow, they were much ado about nothing. What they had achieved was to make me become apolitical for much of the next decade. Looking back, I am fairly certain the main effect they had on most was to drive them away. By their juvenile tactics, they drove tremendous numbers of people from their message. The country went in the opposite direction. Yes, the radical left would remain, but it was marginalized. Two years later, Nixon would be reelected in a massive landslide. Ten years later, Ronald Reagan would come to power, gaining momentum from people such as myself who had run from the leftist agenda. I thought I had seen the worst, and strangest, political debacle in my lifetime back then. Shrillness and juvenile toddler-like behavior would never take over this many people again.
Then came this year. They have finally outdone themselves a generation later. Violent, self-righteous, and banal, they have returned with a vengeance.
Now, I know there are a lot of people, young and old, who would like to believe the narrative of the left, who lean enough to the left to try to listen. But I have watched this movie once before, and I also know the real effect the left is having, and it's not what they think. There is a parallel of banality here years later. Yes, the United States has changed, but what hasn't changed is the left's transparent self-righteousness, their bent towards anger, towards violence, towards destructiveness, and yes, towards the grotesque.
The destruction in Washington DC and other cities this past weekend was not unnoticed. The violence in the name of moral superiority is hard to overlook. The demands to be heard, the demands to force all others to see their narrow viewpoint, these are hard to see without cringing. It's the same very uncivilized, quite grotesque, and yes, banal attitudes from years before. When Madonna and Ashley Judd can get up in front of thousands with their message of F-ombs and tampon inanity broadcast to millions of people without an adult from the left standing up to say, "Stop! You are making fools of us all," you know they are in trouble.
They can't help themselves, it's who they are, it's who they've become. Tone deaf, shrill, and on the edge of sanity. My moment of never wanting to listen to the left again has returned for a new generation; they are metaphorically watching the lines of chanters, wondering if the emperor has no clothes.
Yes, it's disturbing to watch these people, and yes, it's sad they think so highly of their opinions that they can act like two-year-olds who believe they are winning because they are so loud. Unfortunately for them, it didn't work years ago, and it's not working now. A whole generation is watching this meltdown, likely feeling as foolish as I did long ago. Yes, a few in the current generation are lost to the nonsense. Yes, the mainstream media is trying to sell this as "public discourse" and righteous civil disobedience. Yes, a political party is trying to regain a political foothold on the backs of this craziness.
But no, it's not working. The leftist narrative is not being bought. People are not flocking to this message. Instead, even those who are left-leaning are watching in horror as the extreme left displays who they are. The center may not listen to them for a decade. The right is finally seeing just how terrible an enemy this is, maybe they'll even stop saying we should reach across the aisle and work with these people.
We can hope so, and surely, it's been a long time coming.