Why Liberal values are American values
“You are a contentious person….and probably a Liberal,” started a recent response to an article I published on abortion rights.
Seems these days Conservatives have convinced themselves, and some of the American public, that being a Liberal is akin to being a card-carrying member of the Communist Party. While this may be a great smear tactic for an election year, to believe such a notion proves that the believer is uneducated in the fundamentals of the American political system. Our nation was founded on Liberalism. Embodied in the Declaration of Independence are its three tenets: “Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.” The very term, itself, is taken from the same root as the second of these precepts. To be a Liberal is to defend the freedom – the Liberty – of all people who make up our great nation. To be a Liberal is to trust individuals and families to run their own lives as they see fit. To be a Liberal is to create a nation where anyone can excel if they are willing to do the work.
In order to understand the true nature of Liberalism, and to dispel the misconceptions fomented by those whose agenda is counter to our freedom, I will detail the tenets of Liberal thought and dispel the misconceptions so often put forth by Conservative rhetoric.
Liberalism is “Life.” It is freedom from physical dangers that can kill or disable us. The Liberal believes it is a nation’s job to protect its citizens from physical harm, whether from external sources, such as hostile nations, or internal ones, like crime, disease, or hunger. Without the solid ground of physical wellbeing, our nation and its citizens cannot enjoy the benefits of being free. Liberals believe in a strong military, well suited to defend the nation. Liberals believe in good laws, hard-working police, and a just legal system to protect its citizens from crime. Liberals believe in affordable health care for everyone, to keep our people strong. And Liberals believe in the availability of food and shelter for its needy, not as a hand out but as a reasonable step in moving all Americans toward self-reliance and the freedom that comes with it.
Liberalism is “Liberty.” It 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 hard work 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 to protect us from social oppression. And Liberals believe in quality education to protect us from the oppression of ignorance.
Liberalism is “The Pursuit of Happiness.” It is the freedom to create an environment where the individual can excel. What is freedom if it cannot be used to better our lives? A truly free society must be one where its members can rise above their limitations and expand their futures. We call it “The American Dream,” and it’s alive and well in the heart of the Liberal. Liberals believe in equal opportunities for all to rise above our means. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our education levels. Liberals believe in equal opportunities to rise above our social status. And Liberals believe each and every family should have an equal opportunity to make this world better for their children.
Based on these tenets, we can see that Liberalism is not the monster it’s made out to be by the opposition. It is pro individual and pro family. It is pro community and pro country. Liberalism is, by its very definition, the heart and soul of what it means to be an American. It stands against tyranny of any kind, whether international or domestic. It works to remove abuse and fight crime. And it strives to eliminate the idea of a wasted life by not wasting resources and opportunities.
By this time someone might ask, “if that is a Liberal, then what is a Conservative?”
Liberals and Conservatives received their names for good reasons. Just as Liberals get their label by standing for Liberty, Conservatives get their label from the desire to “conserve” a style of living. They, 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 difference is “values.” Values are norms or codes by which people live their lives. While most Americans share some common values, such as the right to own property and the right to protect our families, we also have many divergent values with which we raise our children. So if we try to impose values into the political framework of the nation, we are forced to ask, “whose values?” And in the search for such absolutes, we must also ask, “which generation’s values?”
As the nation ages and new generations take over leadership, the values of its population change. Where once a woman was valued for how well she cooked, cleaned and entertained, today’s women are gaining recognition that they 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 whites, even if we still have a ways to go in actual practice. Changing values brings confusing 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 that they believe made America wealthy and strong. Unfortunately that also means they want to force all of us to live according to their values.
Conservatives don’t really fight for our rights – they 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 really fight for our family values – they fight for what they believe our family values should be – putting limits on our behavior, even behavior between consenting adults, in order to “conserve” an older, more traditional view of acceptable personal activity. Conservatives don’t really fight for our income – they fight for little or no regulations – putting limits on our ability to be treated fairly by large companies, who if left without restriction, can form monopolies that choke out competition and drive down wages.
Conservatives are willing to curb our 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 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. You cannot be for legislating away freedom in the name of “family values” and also claim you are protecting individual and family rights.
As new generations have placed their own values into the laws that govern our land, Conservatives have sought to fight back by limiting the size and power of the government. Conservatives are willing to give away the very power needed to protect our liberties in the work place. Their idea of a smaller, less-intrusive government means a return to the days where business decisions and profits were more important than clean air and clean water, where a business could abuse its employees without incrimination, and where 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 families 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, who need not answer to the public when making decisions that affect us all.
Because Liberals fight to protect every citizen from having other people’s values imposed on them, Conservatives like to label Liberals as being evil. The following list shows what Conservatives like to say against Liberals, and then goes on to show why such assertions are false:
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, but that often translates into monopolies, which hurt small business and competition, which hurts 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 are, therefore, against 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
Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-freedom.
However . . .
Conservatives want to stop homosexuals, stop abortions, stop the women’s movement, and stop freedom of expression through the use of censorship
Whereas . . .
Liberals leave it up to the parents to teach such values to their children
Liberals believe each person or family should be free to choose how to behave as long as it does not interfere with another’s rights
Conservatives say that Liberals are anti-morality.
However . . .
Conservatives are for one specific kind of morality
Whereas . . .
Liberals are for the morality of free choice, where each person or family decides 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
Whereas . . .
Liberals see the military as a vital protection of our freedoms and our liberties, 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 the central motivation, the Liberal always defends these tenets when deciding how to stand on a particular issue. The following will show why Liberals often take the stance they do:
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 fair use of our nation’s natural resources for all citizens. Where possible, without unreasonable restriction to private enterprise, the government should strive to protect our natural environment so all can enjoy its bounty.
Gun Control – Liberty means the freedom to protect yourself, your family, and your property, with deadly force if necessary. People have a right to keep guns for such a purpose. People also have a right to use guns in sporting activities and in the event that citizens should be called on to form a citizen militia. 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.
Regulations – Liberty means the freedom to live and work in an environment that best allows individuals and families to grow in the pursuit of happiness. Bad air, bad water, bad living and working conditions only stifle that liberty.
Sexuality – Liberty means the freedom to share mutual intimate affection with the person of your choice, regardless of gender.
Substance Abuse – Liberty means the freedom to decide what you put in your body. Unless the use of a substance is a danger to unwilling victims, its use should be kept legal. In situations where use of a substance may or may not effect bystanders, regulations – such as in the case with tobacco – should be enacted to protect the bystander without denying the individual’s choice to use the substance. Smoking and non-smoking areas in public places are a prime example of this.
Taxation – Liberty is found 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 is what allows us to thrive in Liberty and work in fairness. Reasonable taxation is necessary because without it, many of us would find it difficult to get paid even a fraction of what we are paid now. And those who benefit more from the system 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, not on the physical characteristics over which we have no control.
In closing let me state that freedom sometimes brings situations we don’t like. Some people will choose to use their freedom to engage in activities that go against our personal values. It is a great temptation to use our democratic rights to try and enshrine our own personal values – whether they come from religious or humanistic origins – in the laws of the nation. The inherent problem with this 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, it can easily be changed from one generation to the next, meaning that you could 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 our values is the defense of our liberties.
If you don’t want to be forced to live under a foreign set of values, don’t force others 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 that freedom for everyone. And for that reason it pleases me to no end to state that I am proud to be Liberal.
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Copyright © 1999-2008 Brian Elroy McKinley
Ten thumbs up! ‘Cause that how many it feels like I have when I try to explain the concept myself. 😉
All I can say is this, and I say it from a place of deep seated fury: I do not want to be a citizen of any country where the Right is holding the reins of government. These Republicans are not the ones of Eisenhower or even of Reagan. They are a pestilent brew of racists, nativists, Dominionists, plutocrats and the defiantly ignorant. I’ll go further—I would actively work for the overthrow and defeat of that country. I would engage in “treasonous” activities.
If the people who elected the lawmakers I see now in the House, and to a lesser extent in the Senate, represent “real Americans” then I hate this country—just as I despised the Third Reich. To me, the only thing differing between the US under the Right and the Reich is our current system of laws and our separation of powers—and those are now in jeopardy. We are not at this point Nazi Germany. But the people on the Right are no different from the Nazis and would eagerly work to make the US just like it. That’s how strongly I feel about it.
Each day brings a new outrage, a new reason for despair at the direction the voters want us to go in. And If I am not disgusted at the voters who elected these pieces of excrement, I am tearing my hair out at the idiots on the Left who stay home and allow these enemies of the state to get elected. I can hardly comment lately about current events because I am so nauseated. I torture myself watching the MSNBC evening lineup and feel my blood boiling at the crystal clear plans for the corporate takeover of America, while the media mumbles banalities and while most people go about their lives like dumb cows grazing near the abattoir.
I tell you, if 2012 turns out to be a good year for the Repubs, I will redouble my efforts to convince my only child, my son, to leave this country forever. That will break my heart, but I love him too much to want him to be an American.
I totally hear you and agree. My son (age 20) wants to leave here in the worst way, as do I. My husband is semi open to it when we retire (assuming they don’t move the retirement age to 70 and dismantle social security-then I don’t know what we will do!) but I don’t know if this country is going to be intact long enough to do that since that is at least another 13 years for me. This is NOT the country I loved.
ASmom– where does he want to emigrate to?
Just about anywhere, really. He wants to eventually live in Japan and is actually taking Japanese lessons as we speak but we have talked about being willing to start in Canada or the UK if it were easier to start there and he even mentioned Mexico if it were necessary this morning. Belize is English speaking and is a possibility. Personally, I would prefer Europe but am pretty open minded to anywhere at this point. Would love a country with socialized (GASP) medicine that actually takes care of its people, and I plan on learning whatever language were necessary as does he. But in answer to your question, Japan is his first love. But, lots could happen.
I’m right there with you. We are seriously thinking about leaving this country in 2 years when my husband retires.
Sabreen, I know I will not be able to leave. My husband won’t for a variety of reasons. And even my son is opposed for now. he told me, “Why should I give up MY country to them?” Because, I answer, because you lost, and they won. It won’t be your country once they are in power. He also wonders where he can go that is better, given US hegemony and influence–surely not the UK. I tell him that he will have to learn another language and that’s daunting. He also says it’s not that easy to get a green card in other Western democracies. But with his computer skills, I don’t know if that’s true.
I admit I am just plain tired of fighting. My plan is simple. Maybe too simple. I want to retire to Barbados. I’ve been twice and love it. It’s getting expensive, but it’s peaceful. I feel as though we don’t need much – maybe a small condo. I, too have a son who is 34. I hate the thought of being far away from him and from my 4 month old grandson. But truthfully, he’s grown and has to make his own decisions about what he wants in his life. If we stay here, I don’t what good I’ll be. But seriously, if we can’t go then we’ll do what we’ve always done – try to make the best of the situation.
Oh, now that sounds niiiiiicccceeeeee!
There’s nothing that can make me leave this country. This is my home. A land that gives me every opportunity to be great if I choose to put in the effort.
A political Party can’t scare me away. This country has seen real hardship, real upheaval already. And it survived. Come out stronger in fact.
And I’m suppose to believe that the pack of morons representing the Republican Party are going to be the death of this place? I don’t think so.
I’m a proud American and I always will be. If we stumble and fall, I will accept it. But I can’t accept giving up. Can’t accept not trying. I owe this place so much more than that.
That’s fine, of course. We disagree. I may be wrong but did I remember you saying you don’t even vote? But even if you do, I hope that you are also sincere about not giving up and trying. I’d sure like to try too to change things. What do you do? I ask not to challenge your claim, but to give me ideas of how I could effect change too.
It has nothing to do with actually accomplishing anything. And even less with voting. Voting is such a small part of what it means to be a citizen. You could try your whole life to affect change and never succeed. But that doesn’t mean you’re a failure. The failures are the ones who never bothered to even try.
And it can be simple things. I volunteer time at the unemployment center to help people find jobs. I donate to community concerns whenever possible. That’s all. Nothing earth shaking or revolutionary. I don;t care if I ever get credit for it. Whether or not it changes society.
It’s just the right thing to do. I owe it to this land and these people. It’s people like that which make this place special. Which ensures people like the Republicans will never win.
The only problem with this is about the comment about “card-carrying Communist”. I am not a Communist (although Communism, the actual framework originally proposed, does have some good points), but I have to wonder what is wrong with Communists.
Much like, when I was a kid and heard people using gay as an epithet, what was wrong with gay people. Incidentally, the kids using the word also did not know what it meant.
Communism is a silly concept invented by failed businessmen who wanted to give American college students something to bullshit about while they got stoned.
Sounds like a line from World, the book.
It’s my own version of a line from the Daily Show’s new book: Earth
I think this article does a good job of explaining why communism is incompatible with modern human societies– and it’s differences with socialism and capitalism:
Q: How do you tell the difference between a liberal and a conservative?
A: Easy. Watch a man drowning fifty feet offshore.
The conservative will throw out 25 feet of rope and shout “swim for it!”
The liberal will toss out 50 feet of rope, drop his own end, and go off to do another good deed.
What you don’t understand about Liberals is a LOT.
Well, there’s not really A LOT to understand.
You could if you tried. It isn’t that difficult. For the record, the way I see your scenario:
The Liberal will get a rope and perhaps even pass it along to others to make sure that it gets to the person who needs it.
The Conservative will shrug their shoulders and say “oh well. Survival of the fittist. Maybe if he hadn’t been so lazy and worked out more he would not have needed help. It is his own fault. Why should I risk my life to save him?”
It was just a joke my friend. It’s for the best if you don;t take most of what i post too seriously.
Sorry-I will know better in the future! 🙂
I’m a big fan of FDR, and he made this wonderful statement about the opposite of a liberal:
“A conservative is a man with two perfectly good legs, who, however, has never learned how to walk forward.”
Cons try to portray themselves as Sir William Wallace (“Braveheart”) fighting the “good fight’ in the name of Freedom. [exclaiming “Freeeedddooommm..!” at any opportunity]
In reality, they don’t truly care the least about Freedom/Liberty/Justice. They’re just mere words; used for political expediency and discarded at the merest whim when they see fit to do so..!
In their own words:
“Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead!”
— Rush Limbaugh
“None of your civil liberties matter much after you’re dead.”
— Senator John Cornyn
Dang! Fine article..! [Well done!]
Just to add my two-cents worth (in regards to how Cons purport to be the true “defenders” of freedom) as seen on a website a few years ago…
“If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who fought against the American Revolution?
If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to take that freedom away from us, especially women and minorities? Why did they fight against the effort to end slavery, or to give women and minorities the vote, or to protect them from discrimination? Why are they still supporting efforts to disenfranchise minorities?
If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who bitterly opposed the New Deal at a time when Americans were ravaged by the Great Depression and the only freedom they were desperately seeking was from unemployment, starvation, humiliation and death? We should give thanks for their efforts ever since then, though, as they’ve been kind enough to keep trying to liberate seniors from the hell of receiving their Social Security benefits, bravely volunteering Wall Street to carry that burden instead.
If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always trying to control other people’s sexuality? Why are conservatives always telling us whom we can sleep with and what we can do in bed, even including whether we can use birth control?
If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who are always blocking the environmental regulations which are the only hope to keep our bodies free from carcinogens and other harmful effects?
If conservatism is the ideology of freedom, how come they’re the ones who refuse to allow us to die with dignity when we have a terminal disease, instead thrusting the state into the most personal and private decision a human being can make?”
Really well explained!
I’d be happy to be a card carrying member – well said Brian!
Fabulous! Very well done. Thank you for taking the time to write it all out!
awesome- what a perfect outline of the differences.
I just thought that this said very eloquently what I think and feel but could never say it this well. Thanks, Brian!
ASmom, it was perfect. Please give kudos to Brian for allowing you to post it. I will surely use it for future reference, giving him the credit for the content.
I’d say someone should post it on HuffPo if I thought for once second that the mods would actually allow it to post!