Most people believe that they live in fairly liberal and free times. This is true of most periods in history. People do pine for the past, but generally speaking those are people who want MORE restrictions on freedom, rather than less. The civil war analogy would be the ex-planters, who were hoping and wishing and praying that the glorious institution of slavery would be restored as the law of the land.
Most people in post Civil-war America didn't want a restoration of slavery. They did, however heartily approve of racism, no voting rights for women (most people might be an exageration there, because the vaginaed ones probably would have prefered to have a say, but at least most VOTERS by a large margain) and a host of other things that we'd find abhorrent today. Our federal government tried to push great reforms forward in the form of the 13th-15th ammendments and reconstruction. What happened? The people in power pushed back. They believed that human rights for people of dark skin was not worth the trouble it would cause them and so they INTENTIONALLY and DELIBERATELY set about betraying their oaths of offices and lying about the true meaning of the ammendments (if they were on the Supreme Court) to achieve political goals.
They abdicated their duties in order to help persecute and repress millions of people. They did this and they slept WELL at night. It seemed natural and normal. It seemed all right.
They couched these lies and abandonments in the language of today. Economics. Social goods. It would be better for the blacks to be treated this way. We know what's best.
Things are much better today...aren't they?
From an absolute standpoint I'd say that they are. We've gotten past many of the horrors of the past. The blacks and bumpychests are allowed into ballot booths and public places, there are no more public whippings for minor crimes, heck we even don't let people starve to death (most of the time.)
But there are still issues. Still important issues of rights that are being threatened and trampled on by the government. This is always the most pressing issue of any age.
Let's look at pornography. John Ashcroft is trying to eliminate the right to pornographic expression even as we speak. He has people hired to catalog sex sites on the internet, look at dirty movies and magazine, and prepare for a rash of litigation attempting to circumvent the first ammendment due to the fact that our Supreme Court is too PUSSY to admit that even obscenities are important, and smash the right to sexual self-expression.
I have stated in the past that I consume pornography, and I do. I do, however, have some reservations about it. I read about the marriages torn apart and lives ruined due, at least in some part, to porn, and I blanche. I think about how pornography affects my own ways of thinking and action and the picture isn't necessarily a pretty one. I may stop consuming it in the near future.
Porn may, in fact, be a social harm.
Does that mean it should be regulated? Well I think that it's probably fair to have laws that prevent porn from being foisted on the unwilling (like laws against unsolicited pornographic mailings or projections of pornographic movies in public spaces.) I don't think this because I believe rights have limitations but rather because I think the right to privacy and to not have yourself infringed upon by predictably obnoxious and harmful messages is an important one as well. I'd say preventing other types of unsolicited mailings and offensive blaring advertisements would be fair too.
Should pornography be kept from the hands eyes and ears of adults who want it, and should those who wish to produce it be kept from doing so? In no way, shape, or form. I don't value pornographic expression as particularly important to my way of life. I fancy myself an intellectual and while you can argue intellectually about porn, the vast majority of it has the cerebral content of Kato Kaelin, which is to say not a lot. On the other hand there are people who very much value sexual expression and care just as much about sex and its discussion as I do about Plato or Weber. Do I think that my interests are superior to theirs? Honestly, yes I do. Do I think that there is any reason why laws should favor my value system over theirs? I do not.
Men like Ashcroft don't understand Voltaire's most famous quote. Not only wouldn't they defend to the death the right of someone to say something that they didn't like, but they would gleefully trample over such a defender to get at the offending party. They would love for speech to conform to their beliefs and for America to be reduced to a nation of bleating sheep.
You might not care about that. There are obviously plenty of people who oppose free speech, at least in its most extreme forms, all over the world. There must be some right that you cherish though. Feminists cling fiercly to the right to abortion even as they work to remove the right to tell off-color jokes. Aetheists clamor about freedom of religion even as they attack the second ammendment.
In my opinion these people are no different than those who clamored for self-governance in the South even while pushing for Black disenfranchisement. Or those who clamored for Black men's right to vote while ignoring the rights of women. "Me, me, me." They say. "I want I want I want." That's not what good politics is about.
Even worse are those who vote on the basis of "economic" or "security" policy. We should all know by now that economic policy is pretty much a crapshoot and while there are some controls that governments can implement to aid or hinder the economy, the administration in power is not nearly as important as technilogical advances and world markets. Security is another issue that's pretty arbitrary since those who claim to be for it are often those who fuck it up the worst (Bushie Bushie. He has prevented terrorist attacks on American soil by sending a honking load of Americans overseas so the terrorists can concentrate on killing them. The soldiers dying in roadside bombs in Iraq are the true human shields of American life. Way to go George W. Fill Arlington national cemetary so the folks at home remain temporarily safer. Good plan that. Bushie Bushie.)
Even if that weren't the case though, even if you could make money or save lives with a vote, how much of each is freedom worth? We are always talking about how freedom costs lives and money, but we are so afraid of spilling a drop of our blood or spending a cent from our purses to obtain it. Oh no! We lost 3,000 people in the World Trade Center. Boo-FUCKING hoo! That's the price we're willing to pay for freedom? That's enough for us to shut the books on civil liberties, clasp American citizens in chains without explanation, tap phones without reason, hide evidence from courts and judges?
Oh how easily is our slavery bought. In the Civil War the South was willing to lay down over 250,000 lives to protect its ILLEGITIMATE freedom to own slaves. The North sent over 300,000 young men to early graves to preserve the union and free 4 million people from bondage. These days we encounter 1% of that number and we're rushing to the nearest registration center to turn in our freedoms.
And those who vote on economic lines? Let me ask you a question. How much money would it take for you to overlook the enslaving of a fellow man? How much money would you have taken from your fellow Southerners to vote Democratic in the 1870's and return the South to de facto slavery for 90 years? How much is another man's freedom worth to you. Put a dollar amount on it. Quote me a figure. I don't think there is one. I'd rather be a pauper among the free than a prince among slaves.
Economics are BULLSHIT in the voting arena.
Freedom is the ONLY policy that matters in the long run. Rights are it. There are policy arguments that can be made. You can argue whether Welfare is a boon or a bane to the poor. You can argue about abortion (That's one legitimate reason to vote Republican. If you truly believe that life begins at conception and you are protecting the freedom of all those thinking fetuses. That I can respect. I'll think you're a deluded fool believing in a pack of lies, but I can respect your dedication.)
Politics should be very simple. They should be a discussion about how best to distribute freedoms among the population as a whole. Real freedoms like speech and a just trial, not made up ones like "The freedom to keep the money you earn." Everything else is just icing on the cake.
This was a much better essay when it was concieved, but I didn't have time to write it up then and the wording left me. I'm posting it anyway, sloppy and inconsistant as it is, but I WILL post again on this issue in the future.