Why I’m a Liberal (And You’re Not)

I may be the last real liberal.

I have been offline and sort of out of touch for a few.
Please enjoy this commentary from 2012. I didn’t have to update it much at all…

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. Or most any Christians.

“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, circa 2012, or Donald Trump today) 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.