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This might not be completely relevant to the subject of this blog, but there's a song I've been listening to for the last two days that I can't get out of my head. Written and performed originally by James Taylor, the song is called "Shed a Little Light". I heard it for the first time on Friday, during an episode of West Wing (where else?). The song begins:

"Let us turn our thoughts today
To Martin Luther King
And recognize that there are ties between us
All men and women
Living on the earth
Ties of hope and love
Sister and brotherhood
That we are bound together..."

It's a little bit sappy, perhaps, but at the same time, it's all I've been able to think about for 48 hours.

A few weeks ago, I was asked by a conservative friend of mine to define my beliefs. Am I liberal or progressive? And if I saw a difference, what was it? A few weeks before that, I attended a conference held by People for the American Way's Front Line Leaders Academy. We spent much of the weekend talking about the same questions: What did we believe? Why did we believe it? How do our beliefs manifest themselves?

I'm not going to say that listening to a little James Taylor changed my life. That would be overly simplistic and, you know, not true. But I do know that in this song Taylor is saying something, and it's something important.

There is a section of Ephesians (Again, with my West Wing education. It's possible I should skip the rest of school and just keep watching West Wing.) that tells us that we must be subject to one another, and now James Taylor's singing the same refrain. It's gotta mean something-- this responsibility to one another that everyone's talking about-- right?

If you boil down my beliefs... really reduce my progressivism to its most basic principles, I believe in that same responsibility. I'm committed to affordable health care, a quality education for all, civil rights and civil liberties, conservation, and helping those who need it the most. All of it is pretty much common sense if you start with a fundamental responsibility to your brothers and sisters.

Anyway, I just couldn't get the song out of my head. Give it a listen, and maybe post a little about your progressivism...

5 comments:

leaveonlyfootprints said...

i love that song, but i don't think i realized it was on the West Wing.

Liz Fossett said...

that's totally the way i used to feel after watching the deval patrick 'proud' ads (which i can't find anywhere online anymore!).

Matthew Burke said...

Jenna asked to write a bit about our progressivism, so here goes.

I've been told that I am either a closet or future Republican. While I usually chuckle at this, it may not appear so illogical. I consider myself a religious person, and am somewhat conservative even among fellow Catholics. I'm not a fan of gratuitous sex and violence on TV and films and I believe our culture has become more superficial and shallow. Most people where I grew up are conservative, and I jokingly deride East Coast and "Left" Coast liberal elitists.

Despite what seems like a conservative personality, most of my positions on political issues line up differently. However, my core values are what serves as the base for my political affiliation--not because I check "Agree" next to most of the planks of the Democratic platform. I am not liberal, progressive, etc. because I want to see more wind turbines or an increase in the minimum wage. Put another way, it is not a laundry list of issues that informs my politics; rather, it is the fundamental philosophy that manifests itself on various issues.

I am a strong believer in individualism--indeed, I think it's one of the things that made America both unique and great. I don't think government can solve all my (or anyone else's) problems, nor I do I want it to. However, along with the that pillar of responsibility for oneself, there is a twin pillar of compassion for others. It's the latter that says we share a common bond, a social contract, that compels us to treat each other with respect and empathy.


I may find it aggravating that the shallow lifestyles of celebrities are splattered across our newspapers and television sets, but what is much more morally reprehensible is the poverty and homelessness I see just walking around in the richest neighborhood in the capital city of the richest nation on earth. The strain of compassion within all of us screams out: How can our society allow this? This thinking, on a macro level, most accurately summarizes my view.

These core values can be summed up by any number of simple mantras. All men are created equal. We're all in this together. You stand with the person next to you. Empathy, not apathy. I am my brother's keeper. Love thy neighbor. Be excellent to each other. (...Bill and Ted reference...check!)

I don't have much of an ending here for my first blog post, so I'll leave it to a man who put it a lot better than me, Robert Kennedy:

"Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great. But we can perhaps remember, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life that they seek as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, surely this bond of common fate, this bond of common roles can begin to teach us something, that we can begin to work a little harder, to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

Matthew Burke said...

Jenna asked to write a bit about our progressivism, so here goes.

I've been told that I am either a closet or future Republican. While I usually chuckle at this, it may not appear so illogical. I consider myself a religious person, and am somewhat conservative even among fellow Catholics. I'm not a fan of gratuitous sex and violence on TV and films and I believe our culture has become more superficial and shallow. Most people where I grew up are conservative, and I jokingly deride East Coast and "Left" Coast liberal elitists.

Despite what seems like a conservative personality, most of my positions on political issues line up differently. However, my core values are what serves as the base for my political affiliation--not because I check "Agree" next to most of the planks of the Democratic platform. I am not liberal, progressive, etc. because I want to see more wind turbines or an increase in the minimum wage. Put another way, it is not a laundry list of issues that informs my politics; rather, it is the fundamental philosophy that manifests itself on various issues.

I am a strong believer in individualism--indeed, I think it's one of the things that made America both unique and great. I don't think government can solve all my (or anyone else's) problems, nor I do I want it to. However, along with the that pillar of responsibility for oneself, there is a twin pillar of compassion for others. It's the latter that says we share a common bond, a social contract, that compels us to treat each other with respect and empathy.


I may find it aggravating that the shallow lifestyles of celebrities are splattered across our newspapers and television sets, but what is much more morally reprehensible is the poverty and homelessness I see just walking around in the richest neighborhood in the capital city of the richest nation on earth. The strain of compassion within all of us screams out: How can our society allow this? This thinking, on a macro level, most accurately summarizes my view.

These core values can be summed up by any number of simple mantras. All men are created equal. We're all in this together. You stand with the person next to you. Empathy, not apathy. I am my brother's keeper. Love thy neighbor. Be excellent to each other. (...Bill and Ted reference...check!)

I don't have much of an ending here for my first blog post, so I'll leave it to a man who put it a lot better than me, Robert Kennedy:

"Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great. But we can perhaps remember, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life that they seek as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, surely this bond of common fate, this bond of common roles can begin to teach us something, that we can begin to work a little harder, to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."

mbh said...

Jenna asked to write a bit about our progressivism, so here goes.

I've been told that I am either a closet or future Republican. While I usually chuckle at this, it may not appear so illogical. I consider myself a religious person, and am somewhat conservative even among fellow Catholics. I'm not a fan of gratuitous sex and violence on TV and films and I believe our culture has become more superficial and shallow. Most people where I grew up are conservative, and I jokingly deride East Coast and "Left" Coast liberal elitists.

Despite what seems like a conservative personality, most of my positions on political issues line up differently. However, my core values are what serves as the base for my political affiliation--not because I check "Agree" next to most of the planks of the Democratic platform. I am not liberal, progressive, etc. because I want to see more wind turbines or an increase in the minimum wage. Put another way, it is not a laundry list of issues that informs my politics; rather, it is the fundamental philosophy that manifests itself on various issues.

I am a strong believer in individualism--indeed, I think it's one of the things that made America both unique and great. I don't think government can solve all my (or anyone else's) problems, nor I do I want it to. However, along with the that pillar of responsibility for oneself, there is a twin pillar of compassion for others. It's the latter that says we share a common bond, a social contract, that compels us to treat each other with respect and empathy.


I may find it aggravating that the shallow lifestyles of celebrities are splattered across our newspapers and television sets, but what is much more morally reprehensible is the poverty and homelessness I see just walking around in the richest neighborhood in the capital city of the richest nation on earth. The strain of compassion within all of us screams out: How can our society allow this? This thinking, on a macro level, most accurately summarizes my view.

These core values can be summed up by any number of simple mantras. All men are created equal. We're all in this together. You stand with the person next to you. Empathy, not apathy. I am my brother's keeper. Love thy neighbor. Be excellent to each other. (...Bill and Ted reference...check!)

I don't have much of an ending here for my first blog post, so I'll leave it to a man who put it a lot better than me, Robert Kennedy:

"Our lives on this planet are too short, the work to be done is too great. But we can perhaps remember, that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short moment of life that they seek as do we, nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and in happiness, surely this bond of common fate, this bond of common roles can begin to teach us something, that we can begin to work a little harder, to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again."