Katrina vandenHeuvel @KatrinaNation
Alexander Cockburn,longtime Nation columnist, radical journalist, unwavering voice of dissent,RIP, 1941-2012.
So I’m laying in bed checking Twitter, and the above comes across. I didn’t know Mr. Cockburn, and I wish his family the best in their time of healing.
But what struck me about this is the “unwavering voice of dissent” part. I think this is what gets liberals off on the wrong track a lot.
Let me be clear: As Americans, we have the right – and sometimes the duty – to dissent. And all of us do this duty at some time or other. For instance, I dissent from Roe v. Wade, ObamaCare and just about anything Bill Maher says.
But I don’t think dissent for the sake of dissent is to be admired. When I was a kid, my dad took me to high school football games. The games always began with a prayer. Today, that’s verboten, if not illegal, virtually all over the country. Why? Dissent for dissent’s sake.
You may argue – as have, well, plenty of dissenters – such prayers amount to an establishment of religion. Anybody who heard the prayers – Please God, let this contest enrich the lives of participants, and let nobody get hurt; Amen – knows better. Nobody linked the prayers to anyone being forced to honor or profess a religion, which is what most Americans understand the First Amendment to forbid.
On the other hand, the dissent of Martin Luther King and Rosa Parks appropriately moved the needle toward true equal opportunity in this country. There’s was not dissent for the sake of dissent. It addressed evil that foreclosed the constitutionally guaranteed opportunity to pursue happiness for millions of Americans.
But look at the dissent that has flowed from that. It demands not equal opportunity but equal outcomes. It demands government supply that which can come only from the individual – the fortitude to succeed, however one defines it. It searches constantly for new avenues for dissent.
Similarly, dissent for dissent’s sake inspired the work of Charles Darwin. The question he asked was not “Why do these turtles look as they do?” It was, “How can I make a case for the origin of species that doesn’t include God?” Science is unsympathetic to our inner spiritual struggles, though, and it is proving increasingly uncooperative to Darwin.
Dissent for dissent’s sake fueled the Occupy movement. (Face it; past tense is correct … that thing is cooked.) What exactly did those people want? The YouTube videos were classic. They wanted free college. Eradication of their college loans. Other peoples’ property. They posed as the ‘60s radicals of their age – as if that is something to which to aspire. They were James Dean: “What are you protesting?” “What do you got?”
Why? Because they wanted to be unwavering voices of dissent – even though they had nothing, really, to dissent about.
Dissent for the sake of dissent means being bad because it opposes good. The research is overwhelming that children who grow up with two loving parents at home have the best chance for success in life. That going to church reduces rates of teen pregnancy, pushes up the average age of first sexual experience and leads to less crime, physical abuse and drug and alcohol problems. That those who play sports earn more, learn more, get in trouble less, make better grades, experience fewer divorces and avoid all kinds of social pitfalls.
So, the dissent-for-dissent’s-sake crowd naturally opposes all of that. It pushes for alternative family structures and glorifies the single parent. It ridicules religion and revels in any scandal that in any way can be connected to a church – as if a few – and it was a tiny percentage – clergy abusing children destroys all of the church’s moral authority. It demeans organized sports – and the dedicated athletes who take part in them – as elitist, wasteful and counterproductive.
It dislikes for the sake of disliking, and justifying these dislikes is its own cottage industry. It is a line of thinking that demands we switch off the right-wrong indicator in our minds. It poses as an intellectual pursuit – as the intellectual pursuit in the telling of his adherents. But it is, at best, intellectual gymnastics. It rolls and tumbles, flips and flies and finally falls off the bar … accomplishing nothing of value in the process.
What do we do about it? Absolutely nothing. What Darwin and the Occupy movement and liberal opposition to a sensible pro-family agenda tell us is these faux intellectual pursuits will collapse on their own, without our help. But it is important the avenues for dissent, the opportunity to oppose, is never foreclosed.
We’ve needed it before – it’s how America got started. And we’ll no doubt need it again.
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