Dear Dr. Progressive

web posted February 12, 2001

(Important Note: Dr. Progressive suffered a major nervous breakdown earlier this week. He has been temporarily institutionalized in a hospital and is heavily medicated. He has a lap-top with him and is still accessible for questions. However, it is recommended that letter-writers keep questions short and to the point). Send your letters to

Dear Dr. Progressive,

After I got full-time employment with a company and a good paying job, I found that the government had axed my pay check by 1/3. I near immediately opened my mind to the Republican view point, and I think I understand the world a little more differently. However, my (former) girl friend did not understand my spiritual transformation. How, can I open her mind, when she doesn't want to change? Please hurry with the response, as our relationship is on the rocks. And there aren't any Republican's in San Francisco, so there's a short supply of new girl friends.


San Francisco, CA


Let me try to say this in a nice way: This column is meant to give advice to aspirant leftists on how to be good leftists, not to counsel right wingers on how to convert leftists to their cause. It is precisely because of people like you that my nerves are shot. In any case, your reluctance to share your hard-earned money with others is very disappointing. It is precisely because of people like you that socialism doesn't work. Don't you know how many people there are out there who don't want to work and need welfare? So what if government handouts, welfare and redistributive policies have all created more poverty than existed in the first place? Who cares? All because socialism makes things worse does not mean that we still shouldn't follow its principles. It feels good to argue for social justice. I suggest you join the cause. It has pay-offs for the simple fact that, as a progressive, you will always be able to arrogate the moral high ground to yourself. I really wish you would listen to me. I really do, honestly.

Dear Dr. Progressive,

Hi Dr. Progressive. I am a 47-year-old liberal gay male who has a lot of respect for you. I read your column religiously and think that you are really performing an important service. Now it is my turn to come to you for advice, and I am really depending on you for this one. Yesterday my boyfriend, Jerome, and I got in a huge spat about something we have disagreed about for years. We ended up breaking up over it. He threw a ring that I gave to him down a drain and ran out of the house. I chased after him but he didn't come back. Now I am wondering who you think is right or wrong. Our disagreement is basically ideological. I am a great fan of French philosopher Michel Foucault and have tried to write an essay about him, but Jerome doesn't like Foucault or my writing. I have tried to read excerpts of my work to Jerome but he just won't listen. In fact, he is very rude while I read. He yawns, makes a point of showing he is not interested and, the other day, he said that my writing is "boring." I find this very personally offensive.

The other day I was trying to read a part of my essay that talks about how Foucault was important because he was interested in how sexuality and the body had become the sites of power and politics in Western society. I read this one part, that I am very proud of, where I summarize how socially imposed structures have objectified sexuality. I read to Jerome how Foucault was interested in what we can call historical construction. It is from Foucault, after all, that we learn that the history of sexuality is the history of language, and how it is used to objectify the "norm" of things. All of this explains how capitalism marginalizes people like me and Jerome from the center of power and forces us into invisibility.

While I was trying to read all of this, Jerome blurted out, "You know, I wish you would just shut up, because your writing is really bad." He then said that I was "stupid." He said he didn't want to hear anymore about it and said that I needed to see a shrink. I find this totally uncalled for. He is very verbally abusive. What do you think of all this? Why should I accept his insults if he won't even listen to what Foucault is trying to say? Do you think we will get back together?

Larry Meyers
San Francisco


Do I think you will get back together? Oh shucks, I left my crystal ball at home. How unfortunate that I am presently hooked up to an I.V. and can't predict the future. Listen, eight-tenths of this letter should be directed to Ann Landers, and one-tenth to a psychic hotline. To be truthful with you, right now the problems you and Jerome are having are the last thing on my mind. You basically belong on Jerry Springer. By what I see in your letter, however, I think that Jerome might have a point about your writing, let alone your personality.

Nonetheless, your political commitment is impressive, since Foucault should be praised for his stand against heterosexist patriarchy. As you know, Foucault's practical application of his intellectual wisdom led to him catching AIDS and spending the rest of his numbered days cruising the bathhouses of San Francisco -- deliberately transmitting the deadly virus to as many sexual partners as possible. All of the sophisticated phraseology that filled his thick manuscripts, which were all filled with hundreds of footnotes, had finally been synthesized into one crystallized theme: the celebration of depravity, death and destruction. But it was all for the sake of fighting capitalist sexual repression, so, as a progressive, you should believe that it was all worth it. In any case, if you ever write me again, the moment I see anything about Jerome and you guys having a "spat" I will rip up the letter and throw it in the garbage - where your essay on Foucault, incidentally, also belongs.

Dear Dr. Progressive,

Sometimes I am not sure whether I am a liberal or a Marxist. How do I find out?

Ida Jenkins
New York

Dear Ida,

You can't.

Dear Dr. Progressive,

What do you think of Noam Chomsky?

John Cardonni

Dear John,

I don't. But since you ask, he is a good progressive because he criticizes a society that gives him the freedom from draining routines and leisure time to sit around and think up everything he hates about it. He has reaped incredible cultural and political rewards from a society that he condemns. This is what a true progressive is all about.

Dear Dr. Progressive,

Is there going to be a socialist revolution soon in the United States?


Dear Peter,

This is a very stupid question. Of course there isn't going to be a socialist revolution. Socialism has no practical application and the American democratic system is too flexible and assimilative to be overthrown by any kind of revolution. But this doesn't mean that, as a progressive, you should not spend all of your time talking about, and fighting for, a revolution. Now, it will never happen and you are obviously wasting your entire life by being a progressive radical. Nonetheless, in order to be a good leftist, you should focus more on what you want to believe, rather than on what reality actually is. In other words, if reality doesn't match your beliefs, then too bad for reality.

Jamie Glazov holds a Ph.D. in History and is the author of 15 Tips on How to Be a Good Leftist.

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