Tuesday, February 17, 2009
LiBeRaL: Not a Four-Letter Word
I've always been proud to be a Liberal. I've never gone the "Progressive" route, and I probably never will. I see the word "Progressive" not as the definition of an enlightened liberal, but as a way to be liberal without having to admit to it.
The Right Wing never gives up on trying to convince everyone that Liberals hate America. Their mantra: The Liberals are all that stand in the way of true economic success . The Liberals want to hug terrorists, and hug trees, and hug Welfare moms driving Cadillacs. The Liberals want Big Government, a Nanny State, and the abolishment of all signs of Christianity, including slogans on tee shirts saying things like, "Jesus Loves Me, How About You?" (No, I don't love you and I think you look silly, but I'm a Liberal. So, whatever. . .)
We Liberals got wimpy for an unconscionable number of years--I admit it--but now we need to work hard to make up for it. I'm not good at numbers, but I know enough to be terrified when I read that over 600,000 people lost their jobs in one month, or that more than 80 million people have health insurance that ranges from inadequate to none, or that home foreclosures doubled last year from those in 2007: From 404,000 in 2007 to 861,000 in 2008.
Those are big, big numbers, signifying abject misery for every single American affected by them. If you've got any Liberal leanings at all, start thinking of those big numbers in terms of real people. Get on the damned bandwagon and do something, for God's sake! Nobody else is going to do it.
I get it that after all that Right Wing blabbering and battering, you need a little pep talk first. Start here. This is "Seven Habits of Truly Liberal People", K. Anthony Appiah's review of Alan Wolfe's "The Future of Liberalism".
In the review, Appiah says: "Temperament, substance, procedure can all be liberal, and understanding liberalism requires a grasp of all three and of the connections among them. Wolfe's distinctive claim, however, is that the key to liberalism is a set of dispositions, or habits of mind—seven of them, in fact, each of which gets its own chapter.
Four of these dispositions will be familiar: 'a sympathy for equality,' 'an inclination to deliberate,' 'a commitment to tolerance,' and 'an appreciation of openness.' We're used to the portrayal: liberals as talky, tolerant, open-minded, egalitarians. It's not surprising, then, that these types are at home in the garrulous world of the academy—or that bossy preachers, convinced they have the one true story, do not care for them much. But Wolfe's sketch of the liberal adds three unfamiliar elements to the picture: 'a disposition to grow,' 'a preference for realism,' and 'a taste for governance.'"
We Liberals know down deep who we are, but it's that "taste for governance" that hasn't been talked about much. We've let ourselves be convinced that Big Government is death to civilization as we know it. What ninnies we've been! Have you seen what a non-governing Government (deregulation, look-the-other-way, favor our buddies and nobody else) has done to us?
Appiah paraphrasing Wolfe again (Maybe he should write a book.) : "Anti-liberals think that we should have as little government as we can get away with because the real achievements of humanity come from the self-organized activity of the economy and of private life. This conviction is to be found both to liberalism's left—Marx, after all, hoped the state would wither away—and to its right, among those modern conservatives who believe, as Ronald Reagan put it, that government is the problem. For liberals, the problem is bad government, and there is a vast range of government that, when done well, is as creative and important as anything human beings do."
Okay. That's us in a nutshell. So go ahead and read the book when you have time, but right now we have bigger fish to fry. Millions of people are hurting in our country. They're not all Liberals, but with our Big Hearts and Open Minds (see above) we can do this. Yes, we can. (Or so it says on some of the better tee shirts I've seen.)