Playing for keeps

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I was an innocent—not pure as the driven snow, but certainly unwise as to the level of the stakes at which we were playing. I entered the debate believing it would be an intellectual exercise; we would joust with each other and after it was all over shake hands and exit with mutual respect. I couldn’t have been more wrong. Mutual respect? The Black panelists on my side of the question were called Uncle Toms, the White member was accused of seeking to repeal the civil rights act.

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Honesty? No lie was too large to tell; statistics were made up, facts were created to suit the argument. And there would be no shaking of hands at the conclusion of the debate, in fact barely a graceful word was spoken. It was in that moment I realized the left not only disagreed with me; they hated me. I was not only wrong; I was evil. That slap in the face knocked the rose-colored glasses from my eyes and I am now seeing clearly: we are in the midst of a cultural and ideological war and while conservatives concern themselves with civility and rules, progressives are playing for keeps.

It is a continuing fascination for me that conservatives are constantly depicted as wearing jackboots and engaging in intimidation, violence and general thuggery. However, current events suggest that more often it is the new left that is wearing jackboots and not the right.

For instance who was doing the goose-stepping when radio host Rush Limbaugh was booted from an investment group trying to buy the NFL franchise St. Louis Rams? The new left lied and slandered Limbaugh with the aim of denying him an economic opportunity. Denying a man opportunity because we don’t like what he believes, what he says or what he looks like is (or should be) anathema to a free society. Shame on Dave Checketts and Roger Goodell for giving in to cheap intimidation and ideological bigotry! By their cowardice we are all diminished.

Many on the left disagree and are no doubt satisfied at the outcome. But for whom does the bell toll next? Who else’s opinions will be objectionable? What makes a football team any different from any other business that employs people? Should anyone with unpopular beliefs be barred from owning, say, a Burger King franchise? Should we then also check ideological credentials at the gates of certain neighborhoods? The doors to our schools?

The left often dons the coat of righteous indignation because it tends to give one an air of civility. They are not, however, above some good old fashioned name calling or back alley beat-downs.

Recall the response of Dennis Rivera, health care chairman of the Service Employees International Union, (SEIU)—as well as a master of irony—following the arrest of two of his esteemed members for allegedly pummeling a conservative protester senseless. Rivera denounced conservative “terrorist tactics” aimed at derailing the debate on health care reform. Terrorists tactics are now defined as peaceful protest.

Rivera is not the only one with a rather elastic definition of terrorism; Rosabeth Moss Kanter, a professor at Harvard Business School, writing in Politico justifies the depiction of tea partyers, conservatives and health care reform protesters as racist buffoons because they are enemies of America. Kanter writes: “President [Barack] Obama is marginalizing not just his enemies but those of the American people. He is attacking organizations standing in the way of progress toward reforming health care or cleaning up the conditions that led to the financial crisis. He is putting on notice advocates of greed—instead of the greater good—that they no longer have public legitimacy.”

Yes, you read it correctly. America’s enemies are not Islamist, North Korean demagogues or even Maoists and admitted communists working at the highest levels of our government. Rather they are American citizens that disagrees with this president and other new liberals on the degree to which government should interfere and control our economic and cultural institutions. No doubt they had better keep their opinions to themselves lest they be greeted with some of what Rush got.

I have been working on a collection of thoughts by Americans on their love of America. After agreeing to participate, a comedian friend of mine reneged. He joked that he didn’t want to be dragged from his car and beaten for having his name appear in a conservative book. Two things struck me as peculiar: first that loving one’s country and writing about it is a “conservative” activity (not my belief but apparently his), and that he would joke of his concern that the liberal thought police would find him and give him a beating for stepping out of line.

As my mother used to say, “Many a truth is said in jest.”

Obviously my friend had discarded his rose-colored glasses long ago.

(Joseph C. Phillips is author of “He Talk Like a White Boy” available where ever books are sold.)

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