Check out what the Brits read about America, but that you might have a hard time reading about here in the states. This piece, entitled "Holiday girls held in orphanage after mother fell ill" by Martin Hodgson of The Guardian, was sent to me by a friend Mike who calls himself a conservative, although he despises Bush and Bush's police state mentality as much as I do (Mike is an avid Ron Paul enthusiast). He sent it to me as an example of government out of control, which is both true and well represented by this piece. But because it involves an abuse by a New York (gasp!) children's social services (gasp again!) agency, naturally, it's an example of liberalism out of control as well. From http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk_news/story/0,,2245898,00.html :
"A mother whose two teenage daughters were placed in an orphanage when she fell ill during a post-Christmas shopping trip to New York has been told she is under investigation because her children were taken into care.
"Yvonne Bray, took her daughters Gemma, 15, and Katie, 13, to New York shortly after Christmas for a shopping trip but was taken into hospital when she fell ill with pneumonia during their visit.
"The girls were then told they could not wait at the hospital and as minors would have to be taken into care. Social workers took them to a municipal orphanage in downtown Manhattan, where they were separated, strip-searched and questioned before being kept under lock and key for the next 30 hours. The two sisters were made to shower in front of security staff and told to fill out a two-page form with questions including: 'Have you ever been the victim of rape?' and 'Do you have homicidal tendencies?' One question asked 'are you in a street gang?' to which Gemma replied: 'I'm a member of Appledore library.'
"Their clothes, money and belongings were taken and they were issued with regulation white T-shirt and jeans. Katie said: 'It was like being in a little cage. I tried to go to sleep, but every time I opened my eyes, someone was looking right at me.'
"Eventually Bray discharged herself, and - still dressed in hospital pyjamas - tracked down the girls. She said: 'It is absolutely horrendous that two young girls were put through an ordeal like that. They were made to answer traumatic questions about things they don't really understand and spend over 24 hours under surveillance.'
"Since returning home, Bray has received a letter from the US Administration for Children and Families, notifying her that, because the children were admitted to the orphanage, she is now 'under investigation.' " END
Mike's comment is the result of one of the many lies told about what liberalism is and what liberals want, lies foisted by conservatives onto the public. Nonliberals attribute the fascistic abuses to us as well. I want to discuss a couple of points here just for the hell of it. I realize that I am preaching to the choir here, but it is useful to make our all of our thoughts explicit at least once to make them more clear and vivid in our minds thereafter.
WHAT DOES A LIBERAL WANT?
First, it's worth noting that a monstrous and sadistic social services department is called a liberal idea and creation, and that such an idea is not challenged. Why? Because liberals have no voice in America to speak of. Virtually everything that citizens who don't read liberal publications or partake of other liberal resources like websites such as this one learn about liberals comes from conservatives, not liberals, and it is a long, complex lie.
This truth comes out in my conversations with Mike all the time, who knows that I call myself a liberal but thinks that I'm a bit of a hypocrite because I care about accumulating money. He 'accused' me recently of being a capitalist pig just like him. The presumption was that we liberals are opposed to people accumulating wealth, and that we want wealth redistributed to prevent anyone from enjoying the fruits of their labors (economic freedom). Instead, because we resent success and want to punish it, we want to redistribute that money to undeserving people like crack whores on welfare and illegal immigrants coming for their jobs.
It doesn't matter that I say that although some liberals are communists, most American liberals are fervent supporters of capitalism, including me, and that this is not inconsistent. A liberal would say, go ahead; get filthy rich if you can. Just don't do it with monopolies or other nonlevel playing field arrangements. Don't do it while harming or exploiting your employees. Don't do it by polluting our common air and water and otherwise hurting the public. Don't do it by preventing enforceable regulation or castrating effective enforcement of that regulation. Don't do it while evading liability with cronyism, elitism or a corporate shield (incorporating is acceptable as a means of minimizing economic risk, not as a means of avoid legal responsibility or exerting undue influence on legislatures). And pay a fair tax according to a just tax law. Do all of that and the typical American liberal will say that you have earned your wealth and to enjoy it. Where's the hypocrisy? I admire the engine of properly tempered capitalism, and how it inspires people to innovation, industry and efficiency.
But conservatives have been told the lie described above, and so, I'm a hypocritical liberal because I'm just like him when it comes to wanting economic success. He is thinking of a communist, and equates all liberalism with communism. Incidentally, Mike agrees with my limitations in principle even if he might disagree about what is reasonable regulation or a fair tax law. Also, note that my brand of capitalism is more in line with Adam Smith's vision of the invisible hand than the neocon vision which places profit as the highest value. If profit is everything, then monopolies and market control are desirable. Smith would disagree. But that is a digression.
The conservative lie about social services is that liberals want to take control of your children and raise them indoctrinate them, really. I explained that the fascistic approach to social services implied by the article he sent me is not the liberal vision. Liberal means liberate, and liberate means empowering the individual by liberating him from the unnecessary grasp of the state and from irrelevant accidents of birth, like being born into a poor or non-WASP family.
I explain to Mike that the liberal vision in this area is one of a social safety net to catch falling children when their mothers collapse in public places and there is nobody else to fill in for her. Catch children, not snatch them. Liberals aren't looking for excuses to take and raise your children. Nor to treat them like they're in Gitmo or Abu Ghraib. That, as a matter of fact, is a conservative vision. Our bleeding hearts want to help children, not abuse and terrify them, nor inculcate them with Communism or atheism as Mike has been led to believe.
Incidentally, I take issue with calling a state controlled economy liberalism. But that is also a digression that I will indulge for just this paragraph, because it is relevant to what a liberal is. I, like most other American liberals, advocate for a healthy dose of socialism in the form of progressive taxation to finance a reasonable social safety net and certain public services such as public education (and by public, I mean no utilization charge after paying taxes), public roads, public courts, a public fire department, and some other public services. This might cost 20-30% of a typical household's income. By that reckoning, I'd call myself an alloy of 75% capitalist and 25% socialist. I see the beauty of each and wish to partake of them both. They are neither mutually exclusive nor incompatible with the spirit of liberalism. I remain liberated from the government even though I am compelled to pay a quarter of my earnings to the government because I do it willingly and because the government is me. That 25% is not a kickback or a payment. It's meant to be spent on me if I need it, or people just like me.
WE LIBERALS HAVE NO VOICE AND NO POWER.
The second issue that I would broach concerns the fact that cynical conservative liars get to define liberalism for America, not liberals. It's no wonder that most conservative voters have a misunderstanding of what it is that we advocate. We are portrayed by the public voice as stupid, cowardly, envious of class, dangerous and destructive. We object to faith and to freedom. That is why Mike considers me a closet conservative and "capitalist pig" instead of a full-blooded liberal because I don't fit Tim Russert, Bill Kristol and Sean Hannity's description of what I supposedly advocate.
And why is that? Because, as stated earlier, we have no 'audible' voice in this culture. The principle voices of liberalism and progressivism are relegated to liberal websites such as this one and several excellent blogs and journals that are read only by liberals. Mike never hears what The Nation or Liberal Opinion or The Daily Kos or Air America or OpEdNews or MoveOn.Org or The Smirking Chimp or AlterNet have to say. I can't say why that is other than the fact that the media are largely controlled by a handful of corporate friendly interests. Our entire publicly audible apparatus is Michael Moore, Al Gore, and until recently, Cindy Sheehan. Dennis Kucinich is not heard. Most people don't know who Paul Krugman or Helen Thomas are even though they are published through major outlets owned by corporatist interests, the New York Times and UPI, respectively. Perhaps they are unknown because they are only on the editorial pages and they are viewed with suspicion when viewed at all. I can only speculate.
But what is painfully true is that liberals are so poorly represented in both government and the media that we have no voice or political power, and our opponents enemies, really get to define us. And that keeps us disempowered.