Addendum to We need more than religion and guns, an op-ed piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (April 21, 2008).

Addendum to "We need more than religion and guns", an op-ed piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer (April 21, 2008). The aim of my essay was to expose some of the lies behind conservative talking points. Click here to see a Flash animation that examines this issue via annotated images.

Politics is largely a matter of marketing (framing).

Conservatives say "We'll defend you from terrorism, lower your taxes, get government off your backs, reduce wasteful spending, increase your freedoms, protect your gun rights, and uphold your religious values."

Liberals should respond with:

Hey, don't be duped. The so-called 'war on terror' in Iraq was really a war for oil; it had no relation to 9/11. Lower taxes benefit mostly the rich and burden us with debt. Small government will reduce services on which we all depend and will give corporations free reign to pollute and cheat. In any case, when Republicans controlled Congress and the White House we got bigger government, less freedoms, and rampant waste and corruption.

Are guns and religion really so important to you that you're willing to sacrifice so much else? Besides, liberals aren't going to stop you from hunting; we just want to keep handguns and assault weapons out of the hands of criminals. And if you really want to uphold religious values, how about paying more attention to the values of charity (care for the poor, the weak, and the sick), tolerance of differences, and ending war?

Of course, it's not for liberals to decide what's important to the "values" voters. But we're free to make our case by exposing the lies and distortions behind conservative talking points. Bit by bit, the values voters are starting to get the message.

Do you think maybe, kinda, sortof I should've said some friendlier things about religion and guns? I agonized over that question.

On the one hand, as a de facto spokesperson for liberals, my saying warm, fuzzy things about religion (and guns?) would have contributed to the "inclusiveness" and "bipartisanship" that America desparately needs and that Obama in particular is trying to promote.

On the other hand, religious folks don't need me to remind them that their religion is good. Moreover, I believe in calling a spade a spade. Given the very un-Christian things the Republicans have done, I hold the values voters responsible for their past actions in support of the Republican machine. I'm sure their intentions were good, but still: the damage done has been incalculable.

And while I have no problem at all with people using guns for hunting, I lose all sympathy when gun rights activists oppose reasonable restrictions on hand guns and assault weapons, or when they imagine that private gun ownership is necessary to defend citizenry against the US Army.

One final point. The essay argued that we need competence in government. But competence is not enough. Government also has to be free from corruption. Big Government can be misued; often it just serves the interests of the rich and powerful. (On this liberals and libertarians can agree.) Both Republicans and Democrats are corrupted by money. I am under no illusions about the difficulties involved in establishing good government that serves the people. It's a life-long struggle that requires vigilance. Open media and publicly financed elections are two important steppingstones along the path to achieving good government.


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