Republicans, Community and Hypocrisy
Last week I dedicated three evenings to watching the Republican National Convention. Like many Americans and Canadians, I was appalled.
One theme of the Convention was achieving the “American dream” by your own hard work, without help from anyone else. Another theme was how small business is the backbone of the American economy. Speaker after speaker recounted stories of immigration, hard work, building a small business without relying on any government help. The Convention’s theme was “We Built It,” in reaction to President Obama’s reminder that in fact, no one can build any business in America without government-provided infrastructure such as roads and bridges (and, I would add, sewage systems and clean water, responsible for much North American prosperity).
The first speaker I watched was an African-American woman whose parents immigrated from Haiti, and who by dint of hard work—or so she said—had built up her own business. To me, it seemed that the implied message to African-Americans was “I succeeded, why can’t you: Get off your butts (welfare) and work hard like me.”
|Sher Valenzuela speaking in Philadelphia, 4 April 2012|
Retrieved from http://abcnews.go.com/meta/search/imageDetail?format=plain&source=http://abcnews.go.com/images/Politics/ap_sher_valenzuela_jef_120828
Back in 1995 I wrote a book, Human Rights and the Search for Community. I argued that there was a significant social trend in the US toward what I called “reactionary conservatism.” Reactionary conservatives look backward to a mythical past, stressing the values of family, religion, and community. I’ve wondered since then whether I exaggerated, but it turns out I was too charitable. Republicans appear to be interested in family but not community. Families are supposed to hang together to help each other out in times of trouble: It’s OK to draw on your religious community too (although in the Republican world, the only religious communities worth mentioning are Christian or Jewish). But those who can’t make it on their own, the poor, the downtrodden, the ill and the troubled, are responsible for their own fate. If their families and their religious communities can’t help them out, too bad.
Two speakers at the convention, both members of Mitt Romney’s Mormon congregations, talked about how generous he had been to them when they had sick and dying children. I have no doubt he was. But his generosity did not extend to all those people whom his own company, Bain Capital, put out of work. Nor does his, or Republicans’, sense of community seem to extend to anyone outside their own narrow circle.
|Paul Ryan (L) and Mitt Romney (R)|
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, retrieved from
I used to joke that given its imperial influence, the entire world should be allowed to vote in US elections. Then, I was thinking about protecting non-Americans from the US, but now I think everyone in the world should be allowed to vote in US elections to protect Americans from the Republicans.
Nicholas D. Kristof, “The Secret Weapon: All of Us”, the New York Times (distributed by the Hamilton Spectator, Canada), Sept. 1, 2012, p. 15.
Rhoda E. Howard, Human Rights and the Search for Community, Boulder: Westview Press, 1995, pp. 176-81.