Sunday, March 4, 2012

Rush Limbaugh -- The Price We Pay for Freedom

A silver sun, white snow, some free time on a Sunday morning. What could be better? We certainly live in a prosperous time, despite the hardships many of us face. The inalienable rights we enjoy to choose our own paths and by and large make our own way in the world is an unprecedented freedom in the long history of mankind. Of course those rights were hard won; we cherish them and are reminded of how precious they are when we look around the world at people struggling to attain the levels of well-being as a country that we have. There is however, an unfortunate history of allowing pragmatic and economic considerations to trump what would be our natural inclination to aid nascent democracy movements in other parts of the world. Many would argue that democracy is not right for everybody, that there is no certain proof that freedom is appropriate for some men and women at any given point in time. But look at the villagers in China this week who were finally allowed to hold free and fair elections for their village leaders. The language they use to describe the experience, the elation they feel at finally freeing themselves from the corrupt officials who ran things their way for so long - it reminds us that people everywhere do long for the same things. Of course in the macro sphere, the Communist party bosses in Beijing will not let local village chiefs, no matter how they were chosen, hold up the land acquisitions that are fueling that country's massive and some would argue out of control industrial development, as former rice paddies give way to factories and worker housing. But freedom, in the long run, has to be more conducive to a utilitarian development that benefits the greater good then a top-down model that decides by executive order when and where things get done, even if the autocratic model is certainly more efficient in the short term.
If I was party boss though, I tell you what I'd have done long ago. That Rush Limbaugh would have been off the air in about 1992. It's amazing that it has taken this long for advertisers to repudiate him, as many are doing in the wake of the latest in an eternal line of his egregious and hateful slurs, calling Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a slut last week for speaking out in favor of access to contraception under health insurance plans. It's typical of his bullying and mocking ways to try to shame someone into silence. It's what we have instead of outright censorship, the bullying on the airwaves that has been dominated for so long by right-wing bigots like Limbaugh. Say what you want of his stance in the health care debate regarding access to contraception, and I for one am interested in a genuine public discussion on this topic, the methods the right has used, employing loudmouths like Limbaugh to herd people into agreeing unthinkingly with positions on topics as disparate as war in Iraq, tax policy, women's rights, etc., have only done democracy a disservice by coarsening the public's ability to discern. His apology yesterday can only be seen as a self-serving ruse to save his skin now that he seems finally to be on the ropes in the arena of public opinion.
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