PROUD LIBERAL! But, What Does That Mean?

Liberalism –noun

1. a viewpoint associated with free political institutions and religious toleration, as well as support for a strong role of government in regulating capitalism and constructing the social-welfare state.

2. a political or social philosophy advocating freedom of the individual, parliamentary systems of government, nonviolent modification of political, social, or economic institutions to assure unrestricted development in all spheres of human endeavor, and governmental guarantees of individual rights and civil liberties.

3. (often Liberalism) the principles and practices of a liberal party in politics.

4. a movement in modern Protestantism emphasizing freedom from tradition and authority, adjustment of religious beliefs to scientific conceptions, and development of spiritual capacities.

5. a movement favoring free intellectual inquiry, stressing ethical and humanitarian content, and de-emphasizing theology.

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I’m a Proud Liberal!

Why Liberal values are American values

Since the days of the Reagan Revolution, conservatives have successfully convinced themselves, and too much of the American public, that being a Liberal is equivalent to being a card-carrying member of the Communist or Socialist Party. While this moniker may make for an effective smear tactic in an election campaign, for one to actually believe such a notion only serves to prove the believer is uneducated in the fundamentals of the American political system and its promises.

The United States was founded on Liberalism! Embodied in the Declaration of Independence are three primary tenets: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The very term, “Liberal,” originates from the same root as the second of these precepts, Liberty.

To be a Liberal is to defend the freedom – the Liberty – of all US citizens.

To be a Liberal is to trust individuals and families to define and create their own lives as they see fit.

To be a Liberal is to establish legal prohibitions against one’s lifestyle or actions only at the point that such behavior infringes on others directly.

To be a Liberal is to fashion a nation where citizens may excel at their self-determined pursuits.

To appreciate the true nature of Liberalism, and to dispel the misconceptions fomented by those whose fear-based agenda is counter to true freedom, the tenets of Liberalism must be defined and then publicly advocated.

Liberalism is “Life.”

The Liberal believes it is a nation’s job to protect citizens from physical harm, whether from external sources, such as hostile nations, or internal sources, such as crime, disease, or hunger. Without the solid ground of physical wellbeing, a nation and its citizens cannot enjoy the benefits of Freedom.

Liberals believe in a strong military, well suited to defend the nation. Liberals believe in good laws, respected and respectful police, and a just legal system to protect  citizens’ rights, both as victims and as the accused. Liberals believe in health care access for everyone — providing both health security and economic security, as health issues are economic issues for America’s citizens. And Liberals believe in facilitating the availability of food and shelter for all citizens, but especially those in need — not as a “give-away” but as a reasonable step in moving all Americans toward self-reliance and the freedom that comes with it.

Liberalism is “Liberty.”

Liberalism as Liberty is the freedom to do as your conscience dictates without impeding another’s rights. Fleeing oppression in mother Europe, our founders established a nation where personal belief and self-determination are protected, not persecuted, where diligent effort is rewarded, not demanded, and where each person is bestowed with the ability to better his or her life because of citizenship, not class.

Liberals believe in freedom of speech to protect us from political oppression. Liberals believe in sound regulations to protect us from economic oppression. Liberals believe in just laws and courts to protect us from social oppression. And Liberals believe in universal, quality education to protect us from the oppression of ignorance.

Liberalism is “The Pursuit of Happiness.”

Liberalism is to create an environment where freedom motivates the individual to excel, to better our lives and, thus, contribute to the betterment of our entire society. A truly free society must be one where its members may rise above their limitations, disabilities, or fears to expand their futures. The U.S. names it, “The American Dream,” and it’s alive and well in the heart of the Liberal.

Liberals believe in equal opportunities and available support for all to rise above our original means. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our basic education levels. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our current social status. And Liberals believe each and every family must have an equal opportunity to protect and preserve this world, leaving it better for the children.

Based on these tenets, Liberalism is not the monster it’s made out to be by the opposition. Liberalism is pro-individual and pro-family. Liberalism is pro-community and pro-society. Liberalism is, by its very definition, the heart and soul of what it means to be American. It stands against tyranny of any kind, whether international, domestic, or economic. Liberalism works to remove abuse and fight crime. Liberalism strives to eliminate the idea of a wasted life by not wasting resources and opportunities.

The question is then begged, “If that is a Liberal, then what is a conservative?”

Liberals and conservatives received their names for good reasons. Just as Liberals earned their label by standing for Liberty, conservatives receive their label from a desire to “conserve” a style of living. Conservatives, too, claim they are fighting to conserve our personal rights and our economic opportunities, but they do it with a different ideal than the Liberal. The term they use for the different ideal is “Values,” norms or codes by which people live their lives.

While most Americans share some common values, such as the desire to own property and the impulse to protect our families, we also have many divergent values with which we were raised and by which we raise our children. So, when conservatives speak of imposing “values” into the political framework of the nation, the question is begged, “Whose values?” In the search for such absolutes, the question must also be posed, “Which generation’s values?”

As the nation ages and new generations take over leadership, the values of its citizens change. Where once a woman was valued for how well she cooked, cleaned and entertained, today’s contemporary women offer as much, if not more, to the work force than men. Where once African Americans were forced to live as second-class citizens, now they have a legal status equal to that of white-anglos, even if we still have some distance to go in actual practice (electing Obama as President proved a milestone).

Changing values usher in threatening, disconcerting times for many – especially for those who believe that America was better with an older set of values. These people want to “conserve” a style of American living they believe once existed, what they call, “traditional family values.” They want to conserve the system they genuinely believe made America wealthy and strong. Unfortunately that effort also requires forcing all of us to live according to their values, not our own.

Conservatives don’t actually fight for our rights — conservatives fight for what they think our rights should be — putting limits on our freedom of speech in order to “conserve” an older, more traditional norm of what should be said.

Conservatives don’t actually fight for our family values — they fight for what they believe our family values should be — placing limits on our behavior, especially even behavior between consenting adults, in order to “conserve” an older, more traditional view of acceptable personal activity. Conservative used to maintain that white and black ethnic persons could not marry or procreate, until the Supreme Court intervened and guaranteed individual freedoms. Conservatives today maintain that same-sex couples may not marry or adopt, and they will do so until the Supreme Court intervenes and once again guarantees individual freedoms.

Conservatives don’t actually fight for our rights to income — they fight for little or no regulations — placing limits on individuals’ rights to be treated fairly, equitably by powerful corporations, which if left without restriction, will form oligopolies/monopolies that choke out competition and drive down wages, or which will create new financial vehicles in an international Ponzi scheme for quick financial returns. Conservatives fight for the right of free speech to be applied to lifeless, valueless corporations whose money speaks louder than any individual citizen’s voice.

Conservatives willingly curb individual freedom of speech — if it clashes with their interpretation of “traditional” values, values from an older time where woman were in domestic servitude to men, where child abuse, sexual abuse, wife abuse, and homosexuality were all kept locked in closets, where minorities were second-class citizens and discrimination was free from incrimination, and where the inability to thoughtfully plan a family’s growth meant an explosion of mouths to feed — a population explosion that today threatens to bankrupt our nation’s retirement funds.

The conservative position, therefore, is inherently contradictory. One may not advocate legislating away freedom in the name of “family values” and also proclaim the protection of individual and family rights. Reality is just that simple.

As new generations have sought to expand Liberties into the laws that govern our society, conservatives have sought to limit the size and abilities of government — one that conservatives ostensibly support as a “Government of the people, by the people, for the people,” and which, “shall not perish from the Earth.”

Conservatives are willing to discard the very power needed to protect our liberties in the work place and lives. Their idea of a smaller, less-intrusive government means a return to the days when business decisions and profits were more important than clean air and clean water, when a business could abuse its employees without incrimination, and when minorities and women could be passed over for jobs or paid less then white males for the same jobs.

Again the Conservative position is at odds with itself. You cannot claim you are fighting for “family values” at the same time that you allow the family bread winner to be overworked and underpaid and allow neighborhoods to be overrun by non-regulated big business. The conservative would effectively shift power away from the people who can elect public officials to fight for their rights, and into the hands of private businesses, which lifeless entities need not answer to the public when making decisions that affect us all.

Liberals fight to protect every citizen from having other people’s values imposed on them. Thus, conservatives seek to label Liberals as being evil. Accusations and reality paint the true picture of Liberals and conservatives:

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-family.

However . . .

  • Conservatives want to define what your family should be

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals put you in charge of your family
  • Liberals support your right to define what your family will be
  • Liberals fight for your family’s rights against economic and political oppression

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-business.

However . . .

  • Conservatives are pro-money, and that preference often translates into monopolies, hurting small business and competition, hurting us all

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals protect small businesses by regulating the larger ones and by breaking up monopolies
  • Liberals protect workers in order to create a healthy workforce that will help businesses grow

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-religion.

However . . .

  • Conservatives are often for one dominant religion and, therefore, oppose all others

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals support complete freedom of religion and from religion so that all citizen are free to choose the manner in which faith is a part of their lives
  • Liberals strive to keep government completely out of a family’s religious choices, neither supporting nor stifling any establishment of religion

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-freedom.

However . . .

  • Conservatives want to demonize homosexuals, halt abortions, stop the women’s movement, and curtail freedom of expression through censorship

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals respect the parents right to teach such values to their children
  • Liberals believe each person or family should be free to choose how to behave so long as it does not interfere with another’s rights

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-morality.

However . . .

  • Conservatives seek imposition of one specific kind of morality

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals are for the morality of free choice, where each person or family determines their own values
  • Liberals want the government to protect our freedom to choose what is important to us rather than to impose the laws and codes of another’s morality

Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-military.

However . . .

  • Conservatives see the military as a means to impose their values and standards on others (domestically and internationally)

Whereas . . .

  • Liberals see the military as vital protection of our freedoms and liberties at home against foreign attack, giving us a space in which to pursue happiness

Liberalism’s Stance on Specific Issues

With the desire to promote Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness as central motivation, the Liberal defends these tenets when determining a stance on a particular issue:

Abortion/Contraception – Liberty means the freedom to control your body, your reproductive system, and your future.

Affirmative Action – Liberty means having fair opportunities for those in society who are discriminated against.

Education – Liberty means the freedom to learn in order to build a better future for yourself, your family, your community, and your country.

Environment – Liberty means the responsible use of our nation’s natural resources for all citizens. Where possible, without unreasonable restriction to private enterprise, the government must strive to protect our natural environment because it is an asset and benefit to the lives of all citizens, not just the property owner. The polluter has no ability to restrict environmental degradation to just their specific property, and so they harm the environment, safety, health, and quality of others’ lives and property. Preserving the larger Liberty requires regulation.

Gun Control – Liberty means the freedom to protect yourself, your family, and your property. Today, does this right require an armed citizenry? “A well regulated Militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear Arms shall not be infringed.” The 2nd Amendment is written to ensure that the young nation could promptly call up a ready, armed militia. To do so, the People’s right as a whole is protected, not the right of the people, as in person. The conservative trend in courts now is toward an unlimited individual right rather than a restricted collective right meant for maintaining battle-ready government militias in the Eighteenth century. Most certainly, though, we are accorded a right to use guns in sporting activities. We do not, however, have a right to own all the latest people-killing technology. The People, through the government, can restrict some of the more deadly weapons being sold today.

Health – Liberty means the freedom to overcome physical limitations in order to better yourself, your family, your community, and your country. Without access to health care, one is not ensured the opportunity for good health and, thus, not afforded full opportunity of potential.

Regulations – Liberty means the freedom to live and work in an environment that best allows individuals and families to grow in their pursuit of happiness. Polluted air, toxic water, unsafe living and working conditions only stifle or forestall that liberty.

Sexuality – Liberty means the freedom to share mutual intimate affection with the person of your choice, regardless of gender, so long as the other is equally in agreement.

“Substance” Use – Liberty means the freedom to decide what you take into your body. Unless the use of a substance is a danger to unwilling victims, its use should be kept legal. This freedom requires full disclosure and labeling such products by their manufacturers or sellers. In situations where use of a substance is likely to effect bystanders, regulations – such as in the case with tobacco – should be enacted to protect bystanders without denying the individual’s choice to use the substance. Smoking and non-smoking areas in public places are a prime examples.

Taxation – Liberty is enshrined within a system. That system does not happen by itself. It is created and supported by us, the People, and it is funded by our labors. The money we pay in taxes allows us to thrive in Liberty and work in fairness. Taxes are the cost of civilized society. Reasonable taxation is necessary because without it, most of us would find it difficult-to-impossible to secure our own rights. Thus, those who benefit more from the system established by the People should expect to pay more to help support it.

Women’s/Minority Rights – Liberty means the freedom to be valued and judged on talent and work performance, not on the physical characteristics over which we have no control.

Final Thoughts

Freedom usually invites influences or situations we may not individually prefer. Some citizens will simply choose to use their freedom to engage in activities that go against our personal values, stimulating a powerful temptation to use our democratic rights to enshrine our own personal values — whether they come from religious or secular-humanistic origins — in the laws of the nation. The inherent problem, here, is that when Liberty is restrained by any one group’s values, even if that group represents the majority of the population at the time, Liberty can easily be changed from one generation to the next, meaning that persons could easily be forced to live under someone else’s values as easily as you might force someone to live under yours.

The only true defense of values is the defense of our liberties.

If you do not want to be forced to live under an offensive set of values, don’t force fellow citizens to live under yours.

Instead, fight for the freedom to believe as you want, while others believe as they want. Freedom of choice, as long as it does not infringe on another’s rights, is the foundation upon which this nation was built. Liberalism is the ideology that strives to defend freedom for everyone. For this reason, I am a proud Liberal!



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