At what point did liberal become a four-letter word in the United States of America? It seems strange to me that a country founded on its revolutionary ideals – a country which inspired much of the world to free itself from the bonds of British imperialism – could nurse a spirit of modern conservatism to the extent that it has almost become an insult to call people a liberal.
With the Presidential Push trudging along longer than any political season I’ve ever followed as a political pundit, I’ve been forced to listen to the conservative talking heads quite a bit, and I’ve noticed something. There are three words which, in the eyes of Rush And His Parrots, are perhaps the dirtiest, slimiest descriptors of human beings: communist, Muslim, and liberal.
Now, the first two, I can at least see where the animosity comes from. Our country was attacked by Muslim terrorists, and we were in a Cold War with communism for decades. Liberals, however, were the very founding fathers we so revere in American History classes. Don’t believe me? Let’s define some terms.
Liberal vs. Conservative
liberal (lib’er al, lib’rel), adj. 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs. 2. designating or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform. 3. pertaining to, based on, or having views or policies advocating individual freedom of action and expression. 4. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies. 5. free from prejudice and bigotry; tolerant. 6. free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc.; open-minded. 7. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts.
conservative (ken sur’ve tiv), adj. 1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change.
Positive thinking and generosity a bad thing?
These are from Webster’s, and I think that’s a reliable enough source to focus my thesis sufficiently. I suppose I can understand disagreeing with current liberal politicians’ policies if you think the current system, unchanged and uncriticized, is okay. However, to use the word ‘liberal’ as if it is a bad thing goes against the very definition of the term if you don’t think everything is working right.
I don’t even know how to make this point clearer than the definition already has. “Favorable to progress or reform” certainly seems like a good trait in a politician or a person, if you don’t believe our government is functioning at its maximum capacity. I’m personally a big fan and advocate of “individual freedom of action and expression,” and I like to think I am “free from prejudice and bigotry.” Where does any of this become a bad thing?
Liberal as the American ideal
It seems to me, reading that definition, Webster could replace the entire liberal entry with a much more concise definition: one who believes in the American ideal. What could be more American than believing in a society free of bigotry; a government that is run by the people instead of a monarch; and a government which is favorable to progress and reform? So, no longer be afraid to self-identify as a liberal, all you real Americans. Don’t let the conservatives fool you. America was once the most liberal nation on Earth, and that’s what made the rest of the world emulate us. If the Adams cousins and John Hancock had been conservatives, we’d still be paying tea taxes to England.