Political Definition or Redefinition? Which do you choose? Today’s Word – LIBERAL
Posted Jun 21 2010 12:00am
Erg. Politics. I am irked by polarizing politics and politicians and political commentators today. Irked by the failure of leadership in both political parties to address the real issues facing us, and their tacit approval of everything that seems to harm us. And I am irked by the poisonous political atmosphere that redefines words and ideas for no other purpose than to further polarize the nation into unreasonable left and right and make it impossible to do anything other than play to the extremes. I am irked, and since I believe that in the cause of freedom, the pen is mightier than the sword, I simply must raise my digital pen and blog about it. In so doing, I seek to depolarize the polarizing words, and retrieve the useable aspects of them to help in bringing about positive change.
Lest’ you wrongly tag me as a leftie or rightie, I’m going to take turns with tags for both. This week’s word is the often used and much maligned word ‘liberal.’ As in ‘She’s a liberal, pinko, commie atheist,’ or ‘He’s a socialist whose liberal agenda will take away your freedom.” As in, ‘the Liberal Media.’ You know, because you’ve heard it used like this many multiples of times in the last 20 years. These days, just about the only time you even hear the word ‘liberal’ is when it is used as an insult.
Ironic, that, since the meaning of the word (and the political movement) is so opposite to the relatively recent redefinition. Consider the dictionary definition: Liberal: adj. Marked by generosity. n. ORIGINAL: One who is open-minded or not strict in the observance of orthodox, traditional, or established forms or ways.
By that definition, then, every great movement for positive change (women’s rights, civil rights) came about because open-minded people unwilling to settle for orthodoxy could see a better way.
So the term as used now in politics is completely inaccurate. In its least insulting form, it is used to refer to someone who is on the far left of the political spectrum. More commonly, it is used as a pejorative, with the intent to intimidate and humiliate.
Yet, in the 18th and 19th century, “liberal” was associated with disciples of John Locke (thus the authors of the U.S. Constitution would have been liberals), who believed in minimalist government (government as a protector of rights, not an instrument of social policy).
I fit the dictionary definition of a liberal to a T. But not the false political one. I’m neither a leftie or a rightie. I’m neither selfish nor selfless. And I’m certainly not a fan of big government, any more than I’d be a fan of anarchy and everyone fending for themselves in a dog eat dog world, or of unregulated predation by companies whose only interest is their bottom line and damn the cost to everyone else, like the corporate carelessness currently killing the Gulf of Mexico. I believe that what is best for the country may not always be best for me, and in that case, the good of the country comes first in my political thinking, because I see that ultimately, the many blessings of liberty bestowed on me by virtue of my American birth were the result of good people doing good things for the common good. Oh, and I like to conserve, too (More on that next week.)
My American forbears put on uniforms, saddled up, and boldly stepped out onto whatever battlefield they were sent to because they believed they were doing the right thing for the good of the country (unlike so many of the chicken hawks that make the policies that send our troops into harms way these days.) They worked like the dickens so that their families would prosper, their children could afford to receive an education. The founders of this nation were willing to sacrifice everything for their descendants, including their lives and fortunes. These were not selfish people, nor were they foolish about sacrifice. They understood that the common good delivers the greatest good for all of us. That’s why I’m willing to pay my fair share of taxes, make certain economic sacrifices for the good of my community, and also why i care so much about the quality of our education system and the success of our space program.
To those who been persuaded that liberal is a dirty word, I wonder if your mind is too encased in fear to hear that you are being played, deceived by wolves in sheep’s clothing who roam amongst you gathering the strength to devour. That’s what you get back for giving agreement to their campaigns of deceit and distortion. You’re better than that, smarter than that! C’mon, deep down, past all your prejudice and anger at what has become of US, you don’t actually believe that the loud-mouthed self-aggrandizing sore-loser double-standard politicians and media pundit types are putting the country first, do you?
You have noticed, haven’t you, that those who squawk the loudest about the liberal media are in the media? And that, just a couple of years ago, they supported without any hesitation every political and business action that squandered our fortune? You noticed, didn’t you, that you paid for their nation building abroad and gambling at home? You can tell, can’t you, that the values you were raised with are the opposite of the ones driving the loud-mouth crowd? That their protestations and proclamations are for their own advantage and gain, but done in your name, and with great emotion so you won’t be able to think it through? That almost to the man (or woman) they are liars and grandstanders snorting their disdain for ‘liberals’ but with no trace of the consistency and accountability they demand of everyone else?
I’m not wanting an argument, just a reality check. Because it seems to me that the talking heads on the right have found that they can best make their living specifically by polarizing the populace, tearing the fabric of the nation at every turn. They seem willing to burn everything down for the sake of being right that there’s no place for liberals or the left in our political landscape. They make up in volume, histrionics, lies and distortions for what they lack in decorum, civility, and facts. And just as Bill Clinton is not going to be the arbiter of what ‘is’ is, so these bullies ought not get the last word on what a liberal is.
Next up, the word ‘Conservative.’ First, though, I’m curious to hear your reactions to what I’ve written here.