Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Price of Liberalism

If you read the title and thought, finally, John is going to say that he has come around to the conservative way of thinking and he understand that liberalism is destroying America, you are going to be disappointed. No, the price to pay for liberalism is not one exacted upon other people. I am referring to the price we pay as liberals living in a country full of right wing fundamentalists and extremists.

But first, let’s make sure we all understand what I mean by liberal. From Microsoft Office Encarta:

broad minded: tolerant of different views and standards of behavior in others

progressive politically or socially: politics favoring gradual reform, especially political reforms that extend democracy, distribute wealth more evenly, and protect the personal freedom of the individual

I believe that, while our behavior and opinions support the second definition, the price we pay is a direct result of the first.

Now, an example. I believe that fundamentalists in this country spend far more time preaching values than living them. They are more interested in finding out what I am doing and with whom than with what good they could be doing in the world. They are concerned about a woman having an abortion more so than they are with a veteran living on the streets.

I do believe all of those things are true. But I also know that there are many Christians in this country who self-identify as fundamentalist that are different. They live a life of example, helping their neighbors and strangers alike, and actively help to alleviate the reality and pain of homelessness.

So the price of being a liberal? I always feel like I have to acknowledge that my opinions are not meant to be a brush that tars everyone. “No, not you, Bob, because I know you aren’t like that.” And the price is only required of a liberal, because conservatives feel no such responsibility to acknowledge that they may not have all the answers.

When a Right Wing loony like Rick Santorum makes comments that equate same-sex marriage to bestiality, he doesn't step back and say, "well, except for people like John and Ric, who are just a gay couple living their life, paying their bills, and being good people." And when an idiot like Ann Coulter says that liberals hate America and want to see it destroyed because they are godless, she doesn't qualify it with, "…except for liberals like John who loves this country and joined the Marine Corps out of a sense of honor to her."

I could go on and on, of course, but the point is that people like me, who understand that black & white thinking is dangerous and that much of the reality exists in the middle, are trying to make our points while respecting others. We are conceding the possibility that we don't have all the answers. We have to make our point respectfully and gently, lest we offend.

And that is the price we have to pay for being liberals.

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