Tuesday Tolerance: Why I’m a Liberal (And You’re Not)

I may be the last real liberal.

Nancy Giles, courtesy Oberlin College Alumni Assoc CBS Sunday Morning looked at the line in the sand between liberals and conservatives by asking Nancy Giles and Ben Stein to do essays on why they come down on one side or the other.

Ms. Giles quoted what she called the Oxford English Dictionary definition:

liberal adj. Willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own.

“I’m a liberal,” she said. “I love the mix of voices and the larger perspective.”
I’m down with that.

In fact, I couldn’t agree more that we need a mix of voices. Mine is right, of course, but others do add color and flavor and nuance and, yes, more data to what I say.

Hey! I must be a liberal.

The bad news is two-fold. One is the simple fact that none of the other liberals I know are actually willing to listen to other voices or see the larger perspective. The most recent example is that of picketers trying to shut down the voice of Lenore Broughton the driving force behind the Vermonters First super PAC.

Oh. I must be the only liberal.

And then there is the case of Islam. Many believe Islam is a religion of terror and war and destruction of women but, according to American liberals, there are only a “few warlike Muslims so we can’t damn the whole religion.” And yet. And yet, my liberal friends damn everyone to the Right of them for a few right wing nutcases at abortion clinics.

“I could only listen until that woman read that definition of Liberal and claimed that was what she was,” Rufus said. “Libruls are the least liberal people I know.”

Rufus leads us to the second bit of bad news. See, I own an O.E.D. “Willing to respect or accept behavior or opinions different from one’s own” ain’t in it. On the other hand, Merriam-Webster does call liberal, “not literal or strict : loose <as in a liberal translation>.”

Looks like I am indeed a liberal in the first sense but Ms. Giles and the other self-proclaimed “liberals” I know hew to the second. They are as incorrect or inaccurate with the facts as possible. Or perhaps it was just an inexact translation.

Let’s go back to Ms. Giles’ dictionary.

liberal adj. Of or pertaining to representational forms of government rather than aristocracies and monarchies.

That’s interesting but it’s not in my printed copy of the O.E.D. Here’s her next definition.

liberal adj. believing the government should be active in supporting social and political change.

Oh, boy. That’s out of Wikipedia or the Socialist’s Bible but it has everything to do with politics and nothing to do with the dictionary.

liberal adj. Tending to give freely; generous.

Ooo. I’m down with that, too. Of course most people know that the leader of the American liberal party, Barack Obama, grudgingly started giving more than a pittance to charity about the day after he decided to run for president. In other words, once people would actually notice. The leader of the other guys (that would be Mitt Romney) has given away a big percentage of his, quietly, every year he’s had income. On a more personal level, all the liberals I know want to control my income while my efforts go into an arts council and Anne’s into the Special Olympics. Our choice.

Money and politics. Ms. Giles wants control of both and that’s not very liberal.

OEDIn fact, my actual O.E.D. includes definition #5 as

liberal adj. Favourable to or respectful of individual rights and freedoms; spec (in politics) favouring free trade and gradual political and social reform that tends towards individual freedom or democracy.

I may not respect but I do accept your incredible naivete, behavior, and opinions that differ from mine. I give of myself without asking you to do the same. I believe in local control, free trade and social reform that moves us toward individual freedoms and democracy.

Yup. I’m a liberal. And you’re not.

4 thoughts on “Tuesday Tolerance: Why I’m a Liberal (And You’re Not)

  1. If you want to really have some fun, do a little research on the common characteristics of conservatives.

    Here, I’ll help:

    Four researchers who culled through 50 years of research literature about the psychology of conservatism report that at the core of political conservatism is the resistance to change and a tolerance for inequality, and that some of the common psychological factors linked to political conservatism include:

    – Fear and aggression
    – Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
    – Uncertainty avoidance
    – Need for cognitive closure
    – Terror management

    For what it’s worth, I’ve not been able to find any research connecting political conservatism with tolerance (other than tolerance for inequality.) So, if you actually are tolerant, then you’re almost certainly not a conservative. Nice to know, isn’t it?

  2. MyGhod! All my homosexual friends and Negro neighbors are conservatives! I can’t wait to tell ’em.

    — George

  3. Not to worry, George. It was a Berkeley study of apartheid about a decade ago, so your Texas neighbors are safe.

    The study was refuted the following year by six American Psychiatric Association researchers who found
    – Fear and aggression
    – Dogmatism and intolerance of ambiguity
    – Uncertainty avoidance
    – Need for cognitive closure
    – Terror management

    mostly occurred in two political systems (communist Russia and the apartheid of South Africa) but that true conservatives in a controlled (glass walled) environment actually exhibited
    – extreme fishing skills
    – concerns over herring loss
    – complete certainty
    – a disdain for Coca Cola™

    I’m pretty sure the penguin studies trump the apartheid studies.

  4. Thanks. Then, I’m definitely a conservative because I’m concerned about losing my herring…er, make that *hearing*, because I wear muffs over my ears when I go shoot, and I quit mixing coca cola with bourbon when I discovered branch water.

    — George

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