This is my first post at Library Grape and I want to thank Gherald and Metavirus for the invitation to write here and the support they’ve shown. It’s great to be here, to have a new venue for my writing as well as a new dynamic to work within, that of the group blog. It’s all very new to me and quite exciting, and I look forward to the sort of back and forth that the best group blogs have to offer. I’ll have more to say for myself in the days to come, but until then, please enjoy this semirambling introduction.

For the past few years I’ve been tending my own solo blog that focuses on politics, with the occasional random thing I’ve found on the internet. I attempted for a while to run a parallel blog focused on culture, but it eventually turned into a very infrequently-updated side project that I’ve only contributed two things to this year (though one of those things was contributed today, randomly enough, which would be an assertion that last year’s album by the band Rancid is, in fact, their masterwork. Check it out here if you have any interest). I’ve done actual political activism as well from my home in California’s East Bay, most recently for the 2010 midterm elections. And not “blog activism” either, but rather actual talking to people and getting stuff done in the real world to re-elect this guy. Our team beat the odds and helped a very vulnerable Democrat win another term in Congress (Nate Silver gave him less than one-in-three odds of sticking it out). I’m still a little jazzed about that, as Jerry McNerney is exactly the sort of guy we need more of in Congress: smart, well-informed, and possessing a background in the sciences. It’s too bad his victory was an outlier this year, but there’s always next time.

My politics are generally left-of-center. I’m a big believer in the importance of labor organizing as one of the essential drivers of middle-class growth. I was briefly a member of a union in college when the UAW organized the tutors that worked for the school, and I saw a raise almost immediately after this happened (which helped my poor college self a lot). My conservative Republican mother became much less antagonistic to organized labor when she joined the union to work in the education field and found that she liked the regular pay raises. So I’ve personally experienced the benefits that organizing brings, and while it might be simplistic to note that America’s economy was best during the period when labor was strongest, I think there’s more than a passing relationship there. But that’s for another time.

I’m generally a believer of stronger safety nets and the taxes that have to pay for them, though these things can be taken too far (as is the case with the French, who take almost everything too far and have created all sorts of incentives not to work, despite their kickass healthcare system and their having one of the coolest heads of state in the world). I am, though, a big free trader and a supporter of much more open immigration, which I suppose means I’m not a “populist”, whatever that term means anymore. And I’m in line with, say, a Matt Yglesias when it comes to deregulating industries where the regulation serves no useful purpose (i.e. not protecting consumers, the environment or workers), or in pondering different tax structures like the VAT.

On social issues, I’m a pretty reliable liberal. I believe in a society that promotes justice, truth, and stability, which I suppose makes me a temperamental conservative, if not in any other sense. I used to be an actual conservative (though not, however, a wingnut), until I gave up on all that when Abu Gharaib broke and suddenly all these “limited government” types were talking about how there shouldn’t be any limits to government power to make us safe. Of course, you can easily argue that nearly everything the government does is to keep us safe, if not from external enemies than from internal unrest that would come from, say, not having clean water. So, this argument is literally an argument for dictatorship. The slope there is so slippery that it’s hard to imagine how anyone stands atop it for any length of time, though when you shoot from the id I guess you tend not to concern yourself with silly things like “coherence”. I wish I could say I saw all this coming, but the truth is that I was mostly put off by the harshness and lack of humanity coming from people who talk about “terror suspects” as though they’re faceless abstractions instead of (often innocent) human beings. There’s just a darkness there that I could never relate with, though it would appear I’m not the only one. And before you say, “You should have known better in the first place!” I would like to point out that I grew up here, in the homeschool/SUV/smooth jazz/Limbaugh capital of the West. It’s not exactly like I had access to lots of different points of view growing up. Like most people, once I went away to school and actually interacted with people with different points of view, I changed quite a bit. Once abstractions become concrete, you have to take them at their face value. There is just no other choice.

What guides me in my writing are the real-life stakes to these discussions, the paramount importance of truth, and my faith in progress and in something greater than ourselves. From what I gather, this puts me close to alone among the crew here, but there is no need to worry, as I’m as thorough secularist when it comes to politics as you’re likely to find. I mean, when you look at it, Christianity is probably the most individualistic religion there is. There is no group aspect to it, in the way that there is to religions like Judaism and Islam, where the legal codes are literally written into the faith. So I don’t get that at all. What governs Christianity these days is more tribalism than any real coherent theology, and if all Christians read the Bible closely, they’d undoubtedly find a quite harsh critique of tribalism (as represented here, among other places). Sometimes the perversion of my faith really gets to me, just as sometimes all the ugliness and hatred and greed and violence just seem like too much to bear. But this state of affairs, like all things, is transient, and even changing as we speak. Whenever things start to seem hopeless, it’s this we have to remember (courtesy of my favorite Beatle):

But until they do, we have to keep pushing and prodding to make things better. To the extent that I can do that, I do, and I will keep on doing so. And now that this post is longer than the 1,000 words I wanted to keep it to, I’ll just say again that I’m glad to be here.

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  1. Gherald says:

    Ah, the inevitable lengthy intro post. I’m guilty of the same. Takes me back… : )

    Great to have you aboard, Lev.

  2. Lev says:

    Thanks, Gherald!

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