Black Max, or sometimes Max Black, is the nom de plume of a middle-aged high school teacher, amateur historian, and amateur Web designer and slapjack computer guru. He grew up a staunch Republican in the footsteps of his father, but began to change his political stance in his teens as he followed the Watergate scandal with growing astonishment and disgust. Though deeply liberal, he is neither a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, or a Green, preferring to remain independent and work for those political candidates and issues that he feels will most benefit his beloved United States of America. His wife, the love of his life and a truly amazing woman who makes everything Max does possible, characterizes herself as a former "card-carrying member of the NRA and a faithful follower of Brother John Birch" who now feels that the Republican Party has abandoned her and her ideals, and admires Dennis Kucinich and Barry Goldwater with equal fervor. In his limited spare time, he helps raise his videogame-obsessed stepson and attempts to entertain his houseful of feline companions, all with varying success. He is a great fan of science fiction, progressive rock, and 90's grunge music, while his wife prefers mysteries, opera, and R&B. The family lives close to their beloved ocean, and hits the beaches whenever they can.
Politically, I am a liberal, boldly, proudly, unashamedly. Liberals like Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin founded this country and headed it towards the establishment of a society of equals. The liberal Abraham Lincoln freed the slaves and gave African-Americans the beginnings of a chance for a free and equal existence. Liberal Susan B. Anthony showed this nation that women were worthy of respect as free and equal citizens. Liberal Franklin Roosevelt not only guided this country through the worst war in its history, but revamped and revitalized the American economy after conservative corporate stooge Herbert Hoover nearly destroyed it. Liberal John F. Kennedy gave this country the mandate to pursue civil rights for African-Americans, and the courage to pursue the dream of space exploration. Jimmy Carter, a political moderate with grassroots-liberal leanings, showed that liberals could work for the common good of humanity from a basis of true spiritual and religious faith. Bill Clinton, who had his liberal moments, showed that the American economy could grow and prosper without kowtowing to the interests of the plutocracy, and extended this country's mandate for acceptance of women, gays, and minorities. But liberals do not have a corner on what's right and proper for America. Conservative Barry Goldwater believed passionately in the rights of the individual; so do I. Republican Dwight Eisenhower believed strongly that the US military should serve the interests of the American people, and not the corporations, the plutocracy, or itself; so do I. Right and wrong transcends political boundaries.
I believe that an unfettered free-market economy only works for the interests of the filthy rich and the large corporations. Capitalism works, when it is restrained and controlled by a government that won't allow it to use and abuse the workers on whose backs the economic structure of this country rests. No one, be it an individual or a corporation, has the right to earn a profit at the expense of someone else.
I believe that Americans ought to own guns if they choose to do so, but that the citizenry doesn't need military-grade weapons capable of gunning down their entire neighborhood.
I believe in every American's right to choose: in their sexuality, in their religion or lack thereof, in their political and social beliefs, in control of their bodies, in the way they choose to live their lives and celebrate their culture. Americans do not have the right to push their choices on anyone else, whether it be their next-door neighbor, their employee, or the citizens of another country.
I believe that Americans have the right and the duty to protect the environment, especially from corporate raping and pillaging for profit. We have the responsibility to help other countries manage and use their own natural resources; we do not have the right to go in and take what's theirs for our own use. Iraq does not sit on a sea of "our" oil.
I believe in the absolute separation of church and state. Every American has the right to worship as he or she pleases, or not to worship at all, without interference from anyone else. The government has the mandate to ensure that freedom, and the responsibility to stay out of the argument otherwise. Government and religion cannot and should not mix, not in a democracy. Those who wish to live in a fundamentalist Christian theocracy should understand that they don't want to live in America -- and they do not have the right to transform America into a country that suits their views. Their "right" to push their beliefs on me or anyone else does not exist.
I believe in the absolute and unfettered right for every American to express himself or herself in any way they please until it causes damage to his or her neighbor. We not only have the right, but the responsibility and the duty to examine and criticize the workings of our government. A government that operates outside the scrutiny of the American people is a government that no longer represents America. The American media is central to the exercise of this freedom. Once it becomes too entwined with governmental and corporate interests, a fundamental and defining element of American society is lost. The only difference between this year's Fox News and the Pravda of the 1970s is that the two work for different governments. The American media should be the adversary of the government, not its lapdog.
I believe in a strong and responsibly wielded military. I believe that the American military can and ought to be the finest, strongest fighting force on the planet. I also believe that with this power comes tremendous responsibility. We have no business conducting pre-emptive strikes on other countries. We have no business using our military to create a global hegemony. Our military is due tremendous support and respect; it is up to the government to employ the military sparingly, with respect for the soldiery as well as respect for the citizens and governments of other nations. To use American soldiers as tools for corporate and political power-grabbing is to betray everything this country stands for, and a betrayal of the finest soldiers the world has ever seen.
I believe that America has the responsibility to encourage freedom and democracy around the globe, along with the responsibility to understand that not every country wants to be an American-style democracy. Freedom to choose extends to our neighbors in the global community; if the populace wants a Communist government or an Islamic theocracy, it's their right to have one, no matter how distasteful we may find it.
I believe that conservative and corporate interests in this country have betrayed the absolute core values of America. It is up to liberals, along with citizens of other political stripes, to take the power out of the hands of the plutocrats, the neoconservatives, the religious fundamentalists, and the corporate executives, and provide the opportunity for the people of this country to once again take control of their own destiny. In Lincoln's words, this government is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. Anti-Americans like George W. Bush shall not be allowed to make it perish from this earth.
There is one absolute truth about American liberals: when we fight for what we believe, we win. The fight is upon us. We must fight, with honor, integrity, and unflagging resolution. The responsibility of the future lies in our hands. And the future is now.
John F. Kennedy said in his September 14, 1960 speech to the New York Liberal Party, upon accepting its nomination of him for President:
What do our opponents mean when they apply to us the label "Liberal?" If by "Liberal" they mean, as they want people to believe, someone who is soft in his policies abroad, who is against local government, and who is unconcerned with the taxpayer's dollar, then the record of this party and its members demonstrate that we are not that kind of "Liberal." But if by a "Liberal" they mean someone who looks ahead and not behind, someone who welcomes new ideas without rigid reactions, someone who cares about the welfare of the people -- their health, their housing, their schools, their jobs, their civil rights, and their civil liberties -- someone who believes we can break through the stalemate and suspicions that grip us in our policies abroad, if that is what they mean by a "Liberal," then I'm proud to say I'm a "Liberal."
I believe in human dignity as the source of national purpose, in human liberty as the source of national action, in the human heart as the source of national compassion, and in the human mind as the source of our invention and our ideas. It is, I believe, the faith in our fellow citizens as individuals and as people that lies at the heart of the liberal faith. For liberalism is not so much a party creed or set of fixed platform promises as it is an attitude of mind and heart, a faith in man's ability through the experiences of his reason and judgment to increase for himself and his fellow men the amount of justice and freedom and brotherhood which all human life deserves.
I believe also in the United States of America, in the promise that it contains and has contained throughout our history of producing a society so abundant and creative and so free and responsible that it cannot only fulfill the aspirations of its citizens, but serve equally well as a beacon for all mankind. I do not believe in a superstate. I see no magic in tax dollars which are sent to Washington and then returned. I abhor the waste and incompetence of large-scale federal bureaucracies in this administration as well as in others. I do not favor state compulsion when voluntary individual effort can do the job and do it well. But I believe in a government which acts, which exercises its full powers and full responsibilities. Government is an art and a precious obligation; and when it has a job to do, I believe it should do it. And this requires not only great ends but that we propose concrete means of achieving them.
Our responsibility is not discharged by announcement of virtuous ends. Our responsibility is to achieve these objectives with social invention, with political skill, and executive vigor. I believe for these reasons that liberalism is our best and only hope in the world today. For the liberal society is a free society, and it is at the same time and for that reason a strong society. Its strength is drawn from the will of free people committed to great ends and peacefully striving to meet them. Only liberalism, in short, can repair our national power, restore our national purpose, and liberate our national energies. And the only basic issue in the 1960 campaign is whether our government will fall in a conservative rut and die there, or whether we will move ahead in the liberal spirit of daring, of breaking new ground, of doing in our generation what Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt and Harry Truman and Adlai Stevenson did in their time of influence and responsibility.
Our liberalism has its roots in our diverse origins. Most of us are descended from that segment of the American population which was once called an immigrant minority. Today, along with our children and grandchildren, we do not feel minor. We feel proud of our origins and we are not second to any group in our sense of national purpose. For many years New York represented the new frontier to all those who came from the ends of the earth to find new opportunity and new freedom, generations of men and women who fled from the despotism of the czars, the horrors of the Nazis, the tyranny of hunger, who came here to the new frontier in the State of New York. These men and women, a living cross section of American history, indeed, a cross section of the entire world's history of pain and hope, made of this city not only a new world of opportunity, but a new world of the spirit as well.
Harry Truman said in his 1948 acceptance speech of the Democratic Party nomination:
...I will win this election and make these Republicans like it -- don't you forget that! We will do that because they are wrong and we are right, and I will prove it to you in just a few minutes. This convention met to express the will and reaffirm the beliefs of the Democratic Party. There have been differences of opinion, and that is the democratic way. Those differences have been settled by a majority vote, as they should be. Now it is time for us to get together and beat the common enemy. And that is up to you.
"...The reason is that the people know that the Democratic Party is the people's party, and the Republican Party is the party of special interest, and it always has been and always will be. The record of the Democratic Party is written in the accomplishments of the last 16 years. I don't need to repeat them. ...The record on foreign policy of the Democratic Party is that the United States has been turned away permanently from isolationism, and we have converted the greatest and best of the Republicans to our viewpoint on that subject. The United States has to accept its full responsibility for leadership in international affairs. We have been the backers and the people who organized and started the United Nations, first started under that great Democratic President, Woodrow Wilson, as the League of Nations. The League was sabotaged by the Republicans in 1920. And we must see that the United Nations continues a strong and growing body, so we can have everlasting peace in the world.
"...I would like to say a word or two now on what I think the Republican philosophy is; and I will speak from actions and from history and from experience. The situation in 1932 was due to the policies of the Republican Party control of the Government of the United States. The Republican Party, as I said a while ago, favors the privileged few and not the common everyday man. Ever since its inception, that party has been under the control of special privilege; and they have completely proved it in the 80th Congress. They proved it by the things they did to the people, and not for them. They proved it by the things they failed to do. ...Now everybody likes to have low taxes, but we must reduce the national debt in times of prosperity. And when tax relief can be given, it ought to go to those who need it most, and not those who need it least, as this Republican rich man's tax bill did when they passed it over my veto on the third try. The first one of these was so rotten that they couldn't even stomach it themselves. They finally did send one that was somewhat improved, but it still helps the rich and sticks a knife into the back of the poor. ...They are going to try to dodge their responsibility. They are going to drag all the red herrings they can across this campaign, but I am here to say that Senator Barkley and I are not going to let them get away with it. Now, what that worst 80th Congress does in this special session will be the test. The American people will not decide by listening to mere words, or by reading a mere platform. They will decide on the record, the record as it has been written.
"And in the record is the stark truth, that the battle lines of 1948 are the same as they were in 1932, when the Nation lay prostrate and helpless as a result of Republican misrule and inaction. In 1932 we were attacking the citadel of special privilege and greed. We were fighting to drive the money changers from the temple. Today, in 1948, we are now the defenders of the stronghold of democracy and of equal opportunity, the haven of the ordinary people of this land and not of the favored classes or the powerful few. The battle cry is just the same now as it was in 1932, and I paraphrase the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt as he issued the challenge, in accepting nomination in Chicago: "This is more than a political call to arms. Give me your help, not to win votes alone, but to win in this new crusade to keep America secure and safe for its own people." I must have your help. You must get in and push, and win this election. The country can't afford another Republican Congress.
Joe Conason writes in his book Big Lies, excerpted in Salon:
Are liberals unpatriotic, a favorite conservative canard? No. The record of loyalty (and military service) among liberals equals that of conservatives. Do liberals despise the work ethic? No. Liberals defend the interests of working Americans against the fake populism of corporate conservatism. Don't liberals always tax and spend the economy into ruin? No. The numbers prove that liberal Democrats have been the most competent, fiscally trustworthy stewards of the economy for the past seven decades. Aren't liberals determined to restrict freedom in the name of political correctness? No. In fact, liberals have been the most consistent defenders of the Bill of Rights for the past century. Is "liberal" a synonym for "immoral?" No. Liberals do preach less about "family values," but they're just as likely as conservatives to honor those values.
If your workplace is safe; if your children go to school rather than being forced into labor; if you are paid a living wage, including overtime; if you enjoy a 40-hour week and you are allowed to join a union to protect your rights -- you can thank liberals. If your food is not poisoned and your water is drinkable -- you can thank liberals. If your parents are eligible for Medicare and Social Security, so they can grow old in dignity without bankrupting your family -- you can thank liberals. If our rivers are getting cleaner and our air isn't black with pollution; if our wilderness is protected and our countryside is still green -- you can thank liberals. If people of all races can share the same public facilities; if everyone has the right to vote; if couples fall in love and marry regardless of race; if we have finally begun to transcend a segregated society -- you can thank liberals. Progressive innovations like those and so many others were achieved by long, difficult struggles against entrenched power. What defined conservatism, and conservatives, was their opposition to every one of those advances. The country we know and love today was built by those victories for liberalism -- with the support of the American people.
Columnist David Hunter writes:
If the conservatives of that day [the late 1700s], the loyalist Tories of the 13 colonies, had won out, we'd all be singing 'God Save the Queen' and having afternoon tea. The people who rose up against the British were not members of the status quo; they were men promoting a radical, new doctrine about the individual liberty and dignity of all human beings and would have been hanged by the conservative Tories had they lost. ...From the very beginning, the Tories and their ilk have feared liberty and free speech. ...We should have learned by now that the Constitution is not a set of suggestions to be followed only when it's convenient. It is the only difference between liberty and tyranny by the few. From day one, the Tories and their spiritual descendents have been trying to tell us that liberty is too dangerous for the common people. And liberty is dangerous. Our very openness leaves us vulnerable to attacks that totalitarian governments don't have to worry about. Terrorists undoubtedly will strike again because the religious fanatics behind that movement of hatred despise individual liberty as much as the Tories ever did. And, when it comes, it will be no less horrible than the last time. Still, we have a choice -- to live with the risks of liberty and remain a free people who tell the Tories what to do or pretend we don't see what's going on and let them do as they will. Make no mistake, the enemies of liberty are as dangerous now as they were in 1776 -- maybe more so because technology makes spying easier than ever. And, as always, they are trying to rob us of our personal freedom to save us because they know what's best for the masses. As for myself, I've thrown my lot in with the radicals, people like Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Benjamin Franklin, Patrick Henry and John Hancock. Do I hear an amen?
And perhaps it's most appropriate to close with a poem.
Let America Be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed--
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There's never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this "homeland of the free.")
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the Negro bearing slavery's scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek --
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
* * *
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath--
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The rape and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain --
All, all the stretch of these great green states --
And make America again!
-- Langston Hughes, 1938