Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The 'L' Word


I AM A LIBERAL.

There… I said it, and I meant it. Deal with it. Don’t like it? Too bad for you, boo hoo.

It’s not easy being an avowed LIBERAL these days because for some weird, unexplainable reason, the meaning and inference of the word LIBERAL has been cast as a red flag, a scarlet letter, a degrading moniker to be assigned, ridiculed and dismissed with malice. With all due respect, I beg to differ (with thanks to www.dictionary.reference.com):

lib•er•al (adjective) 1. favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs. 2. noting or pertaining to a political party advocating measures of progressive political reform. 3. of, pertaining to, based on, or advocating liberalism. 4. favorable to or in accord with concepts of maximum individual freedom possible, especially as guaranteed by law and secured by governmental protection of civil liberties. 5. favoring or permitting freedom of action, especially with respect to matters of personal belief or expression: a liberal policy toward dissident artists and writers. 6. of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies. 7. free from prejudice or bigotry; tolerant: a liberal attitude toward foreigners. 8. open-minded or tolerant, especially free of or not bound by traditional or conventional ideas, values, etc. 9. characterized by generosity and willingness to give in large amounts: a liberal donor. 10. given freely or abundantly; generous: a liberal donation. 11. not strict or rigorous; free; not literal: a liberal interpretation of a rule. (noun) 14. a person of liberal principles or views, especially in politics or religion.”

I choose to live by the precepts set forth in the popular definition of the word LIBERAL. I can think of nothing better than to continue to integrate these concepts into my life, into my interpersonal relationships, into my philosophical makeup. To do any less seems antediluvian, archaic, antiquated, mired in the smelly goo of Dark Age regressivism.

I AM A RADICAL PROGRESSIVE LIBERAL.

  I want a political system that serves the interests of ALL the people, not 53% or 1% or this ethnic category or that income strata or some other social level. In an ADD-addled country like ours, we need to make sure we govern with compassion and strength, with wisdom and empathy, with intelligence and humor and maturity. I dream of the day when our current brand of scorched-earth adversarial politics will be replaced by a lively consensus government made up of people from all walks of life, from every income level and every strata of our great country, but where money does NOT buy influence or votes and is no longer a viable political weapon. Yes, this means there will be a plethora of differences to be shared and exposed and debated ad nauseum, but only in that way can we truly be a nation built on the principals that helped to start this democratic enchilada rolling.

I AM A MEXICAN-AMERICAN LIBERAL.

I want there to be true equality among the many beautiful and vibrant lines of ethnic heritage that make us the most diverse and unique country in the world, with no quarter given to any who would try and divide us because of those amazing differences. I hope to live long enough to see our country become a place where, as Bob Marley wrote, “the color of a man’s skin is of no more significance than the color of his eyes.” We are a nation of intense diversity and should celebrate that singular, special fact. Before I take the dirt nap, I hope we’ll see the last vestiges of racism and racial inequality tossed into the smelly dumpster of history, replaced by the reality that we are indeed “one nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”

I AM A PRO-CHOICE FEMINIST LIBERAL.

I want all women to hold their lives in their own hands, released from the primitive shackles of forced childbirth and unwanted children. I want every woman to know that she alone controls her destiny, and that no one else can decide what her life will be simply because of her biology or their theology. I want every woman who CHOOSES to give birth and raise children to do so without having to worry about their health and well-being, to know that no matter what, they will never want for food or clothing or shelter or healthcare or education, and in that she will be freed to be the Most Awesome Mom Ever. I want every young girl to have a path to create any future they choose, whether in an office or a jobsite or in a racecar or as a Mommy at home or in the Oval Office or in orbit around Mars. I want every young girl to learn in school about what it will mean to be a woman in control of her own destiny, about being equal to boys in every way, even though she secretly knows she really is better than any smelly boy (hee hee).

I AM A FREETHINKING SECULAR LIBERAL.

I want practitioners of every religion, spiritual philosophy and guiding light to know they have the freedom to hold that faith close to their heart, knowing they will never be branded as ‘the other’ simply because of the icon they wear around their neck, the piece of cloth on their head or the house in which they worship. We should celebrate our country’s religious diversity and be grateful for the charitable and loving grace the faithful provide to those who need it most. By the same token, we must always be mindful that while our nation enjoys such a diverse and vibrant religious community, our government must also be strongly secular in thought, word and deed in order to ensure that no single faith holds sway against or over any other faith, nor against those who choose no faith at all. You know, like ME.

I AM AN EQUALITY-LOVING LIBERAL.

I want every person who is lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender to finally be considered as an equal to every heterosexual man and woman with whom they share this country. The time has come for the concept of love and marriage to be pulled from the basement closet of tradition and exposed to the sunny patio of 21st century equality. Ask me if I chose to be heterosexual and my answer will be “I didn’t choose to be hetero... I just am.” It eludes me how anyone could convince themselves that our LGBT brothers and sisters chose their sexuality and the terrible stigma of hatred and vilification that comes with acknowledging and asserting their sexual identity. What are we… ignorant rabid wolverines? As my religious friends like to say, ‘God don’t make no junk.’

I AM A CAR-WASHING LAWN-MOWING LIBERAL.

I support any and all people from other countries who come to our shores to earn a living, pay taxes, support their families and make a life for themselves here, regardless of their nationality. We are a land that once welcomed immigrants and allowed them the chance to achieve the American Dream, and we should be grateful to anyone who chooses these United States as their homestead. No human being should ever be classified as ‘illegal’, and every immigrant who works hard at their job is as vital, as needed, as important as any other American. No matter what job a new √©migr√© takes on, they are another cog in the giant machine that drives our common fortunes forward, adding to the foundation and casting more strength into the working class.

I AM A BLOOD-DONATING LIBERAL.

I want every single person living in this country to KNOW they will never be without affordable, accessible and competent healthcare, no matter how much or how little money they have stuffed in their mattress. As we move into synch with the rest of the modernized world, we must strive to ensure that no one ever lies awake at night, worrying about how they will pay for the hospital and doctors and nurses and specialists that are caring for them or their loved ones. When a college grad strikes out on her own with a burning desire to start a new business, she should be able to do so knowing that her dreams will not be stymied by an unplanned illness or accident or pregnancy that could devastate her savings and livelihood. When we all share in the costs to support universal healthcare, we all reap the benefits of a healthy, happy and motivated society of non-rabid wolverines.

I have been called many bad, degrading and insulting names in my lifetime besides LIBERAL. I suspect we all have at one point or another.

Usually the names were the result of schoolyard rumbles, failed relationships, angry confrontations at work or perhaps car-to-car shout-outs with the single-finger salute, waved vigorously. In grade school, the alliteration of my last name resulted in ‘Messy Ass’ (ouch) or ‘MaCockus’ (even ouchier), or ‘Dirtman’, owing to the grease I usually had under my fingernails from constantly working on my bitchin’ Schwinn StingRay. As these things usually do, the names just rolled off my hairy back and dropped onto the ground in a steamy heap, pointless and unaffecting of my youthful self.

As I became an adult, the name-calling was limited to those special moments when there’s simply nothing left to do but cuss out someone, insult their intelligence and label them as a (insert your favorite derogatory slam here). Yeah, I know the old ‘sticks and stones’ meme is supposed to be the fallback position in these instances, but sometimes the names hurt and leave a psychic mark that either goes away or sticks around. It all depended on the situation, the name-caller and the connection with that person, because words MATTER.

With all that in mind, recent events have me thinking about how casually we tend to label those with whom we have alternate points of view. Specifically, our current seething political brouhaha seems to have created an environment that incites name-calling, whether justified or not. Let me be clear (as Barry is wont to say)… I am human and guilty of the same thing, having called our 43rd President all manner of really REALLY unfortunate names, which was wrong and I knew it but I did it anyways because I WAS RIGHT, DAMMIT, or so I rationalized. It’s what we humans do.

And so it goes for #44, the Black Panther Muslim Fascist Tyrant Communist Kenyan Socialist Usurper Jesus-Hating Collectivist Illegal Alien Dictator Appeaser Terrorist-loving America-hating Not-The Real-President, Barack HUSSEIN Obama (black man). I would suspect he gets a pretty good laugh at the names and labels that are attached to him these days... at least I hope so. Think about it: if you are a conservative and want to offer a dismissive categorization of the opposite thinker you are jousting with, no word is better suited than calling them a LIBERAL and then crossing your arms and smiling, job done, NAILED IT. It doesn’t work the other way around, you see… trying to stuff someone by calling them a (gasp!) CONSERVATIVE gets nothing but blinking eyes and a sense of ‘Yeah… and?’ I’m often confused about how The ‘L’ Word came to wield such negative force when the accepted and official definition is seemingly so positive.

For context, here is the same source’s definition of ‘conservative’:

con•serv•a•tive (adjective) 1. disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change. 2. cautiously moderate or purposefully low: a conservative estimate. 3. traditional in style or manner; avoiding novelty or showiness: conservative suit. 4. of or pertaining to the Conservative party. 5. having the power or tendency to conserve; preservative. 6. a person who is conservative in principles, actions, habits, etc. 7. a supporter of conservative political policies. 8. a member of a conservative political party...”

Am I missing something here? After reading through both definitions, I cannot think of any other personal philosophy that would suit all humanity better than being considered a LIBERAL.  I know this much: nothing short of (another) lobotomy would convince me to schwing over to the dark side and embrace conservatism, and from this vantage point, only removing the remaining portions of my frontal lobes and cerebral cortex would do it.

I am not ashamed to call myself a LIBERAL.  I am not concerned when someone calls me a LIBERAL, whether their intention is upbeat or not.  I am not devastated when tagged that way, I do not shrink away from it.  It is what I am, and since words matter, I am more than pleased the active online dictionary defines the word LIBERAL in such a positive and progressive manner.

So what next?

How do we LIBERALS take back the positivity of this word and turn it into a verbal sword for progressivism?  I know for sure that conservatives will never EVER stop trying to poison the waters with their vilification of all things LIBERAL, but that's just how they roll, innit?  They fear change, they fear shaking up the status quo, they fear the unknown results of doing things differently.  They like everything being the same as it always was, because it is a known known, heh heh heh.  The problem with conservative philosophy is the stagnation that results from never changing, doing things the same way, day after day, year after year.  To re-use a quote:

"Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past or present are certain to miss the future.” ~ John F. (I banged Marilyn Monroe) Kennedy

For my own bad self, I'll just keep on pushing for the egalitarian, equality-infused society that I hope to see, but will likely not live long enough to experience.  I will strive to support anyone who sees injustice, inequality and unfairness as the old way of doing things, the way that I do every day as a self-proclaimed LIBERAL.  I will continue to educate myself with the facts of modernity, while never ignoring the past for fear of repeating it.  I will speak to the corporate executive or the janitor or the homemaker or the middle-manager with the same level of friendship and respect they deserve as human beings, not according to the role they play in our conscious existence.

I AM A 100% MOTHERFUCKING LIBERAL.

Don’t like it? Too bad for you, boo hoo.



Lead image, muchismas gracias de leveeblog.com; ZZ Top "I'm Bad, I'm Nationwide" and Johnny Cash "The One On The Right" videos, muchismas gracias de youtube.com.