An article yesterday morning in The Washington Post unveils the republican’s latest strategy for winning in the November mid-terms: using the word ‘liberal’ as if it were a four-letter adjective. It isn’t.According to Merriam-Webster, a liberal is “A person who believes that government should be active in supporting social and political change”.
According to the Oxford Dictionaries, a liberal is one who is:
- Willing to respect or accept behaviour or opinions different from one’s own
- Open to new ideas
- Favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms
- Favouring individual liberty, free trade, and moderate political and social reform
- Concerned with broadening a person’s general knowledge and experience, rather than with technical or professional training
I see nothing in any of these definitions that makes being a liberal a bad thing, and yet I hear the word spat out by republicans, almost as if by being a supporter of a liberal ideology, we are something vulgar, something akin to the unidentified substance on the bottom of your shoe.
For decades, people on the left or center of the political spectrum have been referred to as “bleeding heart liberals”. So, what exactly, does that mean? By one definition, it is “Someone who is particularly compassionate and concerned about people who face disadvantages, whether temporary or institutionalized.” But to those who would use the term as an insult, it implies that caring about anyone other than yourself and your immediate family is somehow “bad,” and caring for those less fortunate than you is somehow “stupid.”
By any realistic definition, I have no problem with being called a liberal. I would, of course, prefer that the word not be spat at me such that I need to clean my glasses after being called such, but still, I do not consider it an insult. And I have no problem being called a ‘snowflake’, for as I tell those who call me that, it is a compliment– snowflakes are beautiful and unique. The one that really offends me is being called a “libtard”, for it indicates something that nobody with a brain should use. Perhaps we should simply remember that it is a reflection of those who use the term and their intellectual capacity, or lack thereof.
Back in the day, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s liberal ideas earned him the titles “Moosejaw” and “momma’s boy”, by journalist Westbrook Pegler, who coincidentally also coined the term “bleeding heart liberal”. The term came into its own during the 1950s when Joe McCarthy, called Edward R. Murrow one of the “extreme Left Wing bleeding-heart elements of television and radio.”
On the other side of the aisle are the conservatives who see the world as a challenging place in which there is always someone else who is ready to steal your lunch. Confronted by a potentially hostile environment, the best course is to take precautions and to ensure your own well-being and that of your family. Most sane people, liberal or conservative, democrat or republican, would agree that the first priority in our life is taking care of our family. It is why we go to work every day and come home every night. But taking care of our families and helping others need not be mutually exclusive.
The difference, I think, comes in the definition of what ‘taking care of our family’ means. For most of us, it means having a job so that we can meet the needs of a place to live, food on the table, bills paid, a car to get around in, health care, and the ability to put aside a bit for a rainy day. That is enough for me. My needs are met … there is no need for a bigger house, a fancier car, or steak on the table every night. If that makes me the object of scorn by conservative republicans, so be it. I am far more content than they, for I am not always wanting more.
The divisiveness in this nation today is both toxic and dangerous. We have a so-called president who is inciting violence against the free press by calling them the ‘enemy of the people’, and we have the opportunists like Alex Jones who intentionally rile the masses and drive a wedge between right and left. And now, in desperation, for the GOP must surely realize that people are getting fed up with their antics, the republican candidates’ modus operandi will be to denigrate democrats by calling them liberals in a tone that indicates nothing good.
Being a liberal is not a bad thing – it simply means we care more about people than we care about wealth. It means we are willing to settle for a bit less if it means somebody can feed their children tonight. If that is scorned and mocked by certain politicians and their followers, then in my book, it says something about them, not us. Liberal is not a bad word … it is a perfectly legitimate ideology and it is past time that people wake up to the reality that we are all, like it or not, on this planet together and will survive a lot longer if we learn to get along.