Thursday, January 01, 2004

Isn't it disappointing, as Kirby Olson suggested yesterday on the Poetics list, that the United States is not more like Finland--98.7% white--or that the rest of us "others" have not yet been driven out by the harsh climate or repeated beatings.

And it's also convenient that the American left is able to continue to blame its failings (as it has since the end of the 1960s) on those "separatist" groups--Kirby Olson's and Haas Bianchi's catalog includes African-Americans, feminists, gays and lesbians--that have worked to open up American politics to a full range of voices. (It's ironic, in this respect, that Bianchi would follow up his take on the left's "splintering" with a post bemoaning the all-Nordic good guys of Lord of the Rings.)

I don't pretend to have a solution for the challenges to the left that Bianchi, Olson, and others have usefully put forward. But I certainly don't think that the left is going to succeed by seeking to turn back the clock to a moment of imagined unity, or by casting out its one of its most vital constituencies: those groups that have historically been disenfranchised by racism and sexism. I'm not sure there's much place for me in a left that looks like Finland--that's a left that sure isn't going to produce a "new Lincoln."

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