Thursday, March 13, 2008

Defining Liberalism

Ugh. I cannot believe how tired I am of the presidential election already. Miss Tessmacher and I were just bitching about it this morning in fact, about how we still have a seemingly-endless 8 months left until it all goes away. And even THEN things might get stretched out, because the last two elections have been deemed so close that the courts have been required to step in and help sort things out. (Up to and including actually APPOINTING the president, apparently.)

Well, at least I figured I could do something positive with all that pent-up frustration. And, since I don't own "Guitar Hero," and since my drums would definitely wake up The Rozzle, I suppose I need to blog. I've been hearing an awful lot about who stands for what as the election ramps up: people claiming to "be for" a particular party or candidate because of what he or she "stands for," or because the candidate in question "mirrors my beliefs." Okay, that's cool. Keeping in mind that so many people vote according to their beliefs, I wanted to share MY beliefs, and see how many of you agree - or disagree - with me. Here we go.

According to Webster's...

Liberal (in the political sense) is defined variously as 1) "associated with ideals of individual (especially economic) freedom"; 2) "one who is open-minded"; 3) "an advocate of liberalism, especially in individual rights."

I am proud to refer to myself - and to have someone ELSE refer to me - as a liberal. There are some conservatives (defined as "a person who is reluctant to accept changes and new ideas") who are trying to turn "liberal" into a pejorative term, but it just won't stick. See, I believe in economic freedom: the idea that I get to earn and spend my money the way I see fit. I believe that economic freedom is especially important in the regulation of an open-market that we claim to have here in the United States. I do believe I am open-minded: I take my point of view and present it in what I hope is a logical fashion, and then I listen to what others have to say. Participants in this theoretical discussion exchange points of view, respect the opinions of others, and at the end of the day either reach a consensus or agree to disagree...but the topic (whatever it was) has still been discussed openly and fairly, with no point of view being squashed. And finally, I CERTAINLY believe in individual rights! The concept of individual rights is so important in the creation of this country that it's the subject of the lead-off amendment to our Constitution, as well as the beginning of the second paragraph of the Declaration of Independence.

So, to recap: being a liberal means that you are open-minded, and that you believe in economic freedom and individual rights. By a show of hands, then: who DOES NOT WANT to be liberal?!? And if you raised your hand just're a feckless liar. Or, you truly do not want to live in a country that embraces economic freedom and individual rights...which I guess would make you closed-minded by default.

The reason I'm ranting about all of this is because I was subjected to an interview with Mick Huckabee on the NPR this morning, and I'm no longer able to laugh at conservatives' attempts to wrongly categorize liberals. I'm just tired of it. I'm like the kid who has been bullied, and picked on, and beat up, and now I'm pissed and I'm fighting back. Among other incorrect or scandalous statements, The Huckster had this to say (the elipses are not missing segments of the quote, but rather places where Huck put a natural, period-less pause):

...there's a dramatic difference between those who would believe that we need to take MORE money out of workers' paychecks, and those of us who think we oughta take LESS...whether or not we need MORE government interfering in our lives, or if we need LESS government intervention...I think those are two fundamental things that will truly make the big difference in this race this year.

He keeps trying - and failing, thankfully! - to paint the idea-frozen Republican party as the party of "less," and the forward-thinking Democratic party as "more." I said in a previous blog, and I'll keep saying it, dammit: liberals DO NOT want to take "more" money out of "workers' paychecks!" Jesus H. Tap-Dancing Christ, get OFF it, you dipshit! The concept of a "tax-&-spend Democrat" is a perfect example of how outmoded and archaic most conservative thinking is. When Fuckabee (whoopsie, a typo!) claims that his party is the one of "less government intervention," I guess he's forgetting how much the government can "intervene" in the lives of private citizens (in the name of Domestic Security), or how the government "intervened" in Iraq (in the name of Spreading Democracy, supposedly). The conservatives would LOVE to have a nice, big fat government full of laws about what you CAN and CANNOT do: you CANNOT have an abortion, you CAN have the 10 Commandments on your courthouse lawn, you CANNOT have inexpensive quality healthcare, you CAN have a huge population of poor people.

On the contrary, liberals actually want LESS government intervention. The whole abortion thing really defines that divide, don't you think?

• Liberal: We should work to diminish the number of abortions through education, but acknowledge that it is a safe medical procedure and ultimately is up to the woman to decide about her own body. If you don't want one, don't have one.
• Conservative: We need laws to forbid abortions, and a huge bureaucracy in place to arrest, convict, and imprison those who violate those laws. The government replaces the will of the people.

See? Conservatives = more government intervention, fewer freedoms. It's that simple.

I want to live in a country populated by free thinkers. I want people to talk openly and respectfully about the issues that are important to them. But most of all, I want to be free to live my own life without having someone else's views about it forced upon me. If you want those things're a liberal. Welcome to the party.


Blogger L*I*S*A said...

What am I when I DON'T want to be the taxpayer paying for everyone else's mistakes? Paying for other people's bad decisions, no healthcare, etc.

Let me know, so I can define it.

As of right now, my party affiliation would be 'pissed off' and 'sick of always being the one to pay for others'.

3:57 PM  
Blogger Animal said...

I'm right with ya, Mac: I don't wanna pay for someone else's bad decisions or mistakes either. (But, y'know, just so we're clear: which/whose mistakes are we talking about?)

As for "paying for others," I don't mind the CONCEPT of paying for others; that's the "one for all & all for one" idea that just might GET us the good healthcare & decent roads! But, of course, there are always going to be people who try to get more out of "the system" than they deserve. Rather than just cut the system OFF, however, I'd prefer to see loopholes closed, even if it's only one at a time.

I like the idea of your new party: the Pissed Off Party. "Vote for POP!"

6:52 PM  
Blogger Becca said...

I think that I would prefer paying a little into a system that would honestly and truly make a difference for those who have less advantage and/or opportunity, even knowing some will take advantage of those funds, than pay a lot more of my take home pay at the pump, the grocery store, or my spankin' new HDHP with HSA, where the money immediately line the pockets of a select few who are beyond needing it.

I suppose that's a really long-winded, run-on way of saying that while I support a free-market, our free-market is seriously out of control. It cannot support the inflation in the home prices and lack of adjustment for the cost of living vs. the cost of labor. Something is seriously wrong the gap grows wider between the privileged and those in need, and those in need begin to include the middle class.

While I would stop short of advocating complete socialism, I do support (as a liberal) nationalized health care, welfare programs, increased spending in public education (including arts and music), and a pursuit of alternate energy (outside of corn. Forget corn.).

Here's where I think the divide is the greatest--I remember when it was possible to discuss sides of the political spectrum and understand the ideas behind a stance, even when I didn't agree those ideas. Today, I can't fathom where these lunatic ideas came from, where the hell the idea that we are Christian nation started, or who the hell these 25% of the people are who still support this sham of a president. I not only cant fathom these things, I can't fathom what kind of person could buy into these ideas, and I find myself not mentioning political concepts at all because I'm afraid I'll discover someone I dearly love might be irreparably insane.

OK, so I only know you through Suze's blog, but thanks for the post, thanks for making me think, and thanks for a space where I could feel like I could get this off my chest.

10:53 PM  
Blogger Strangeite said...

Hear, hear!! It is high time for liberals to no longer allow their ideology to be defined by the right-wing radio talk show hosts. A crucial step in the realignment of the political divide in this country is for open-minded Christian indviduals to take back Jesus. I am not exactly sure when the Prince of Peace and one of the biggest liberals in history became associated with the conservative movement.

Does these quotes sound liberal or conservative to you?

"If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven.
[Matthew 19:21]"

"But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the maimed, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed,
because they cannot repay you. [Luke 14: 13&14]"

"But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your
trespasses. [Matthew 6:15]"

Look, I am not the most religious of individuals. My wife and I joke that we gave up church for Lent; but, I know my bible and I cannot stand when people more religious than me advocate war, persecute "sinners" and argue for cutting funding for the poor. For as Jesus said "Truly, I say unto you, it will
be hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. [Matthew 19:23]"

9:26 AM  
Blogger Steph said...

What Becca said, and Strangeite.

I'm not sure where the idea comes from that we are paying lots of tax dollars to support other peoples' mistakes. Unless you count the mistake of invading Iraq.

Sometimes people have no health care not because they are irresponsible but because they a) can't afford insurance or b) were denied it because their health records indicate they might actually need it someday.

1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey there,
I'm not actually american, but I did live there for a bit. While living in the United States, I had the pleasure of meeting some great people. One of the guys I met, is a guy without health insurance. A college student with a 4.0 grade point average and the recipient of many academic awards and scholarships...despite his intelligence and obvious contributions to the society he cannot afford the ridiculous cost of health insurance. This has meant that simple things like ear infections turn into ordeals for him. While I understand why someone wouldn't want to pay for other peoples mistakes or bad decisions-the idea that college students already struggling with the extreme costs of their education shouldn't receive some basic levels of healthcare by the country they live in is mind boggling. After all, their education is the country's future.

3:04 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

I guess it's the cynicism and bitterness coming out in me when I say I don't want to pay for other people's bad decisions. I work in healthcare and see on a daily basis, people scamming the system. It's disheartening and depressing.

Those folks ruin it for the truly needful peeps who need something to get them by.

If there was a way to hold people accountable for the help they are getting, perhaps I would change my frame of mind.

9:05 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

I agree with you on the concept of scammers, Mac. The idea that "folks ruin it for the truly needy peeps" is something I have to deal with in my own (extended) family. I think that a government for ALL the people needs to HELP people who NEED help...but, I've watched a blood relation play the system to get "help" he doesn't really need; he just needs to fuckin' work harder.

I'd rather err on the side of caution and risk system-abusers, but there ought to be some way to ferret them out so that the system works in the way good-intentioned lawmakers set it up to work.

11:54 AM  
Blogger Becca said...

Working in healthcare, you might understand why I would be tempted to find a way to scam the system with my new HDHP. I miss my copay.

11:50 PM  
Blogger L*I*S*A said...

Well, I think one way to help this situation was the Welfare to Work initiative. Whatever happened to that?

9:28 AM  
Blogger Animal said...

I had never heard of it; I Googled around a bit and found many references to "welfare-to-work" programs, with perhaps the largest being mainly the brainchild of V-P Gore in 1997. This site looked promising:

I suspect that this is the very kind of program that Conservatives rail against as "big government," a thoughtful discussion I'd be eager to engage in. I don't see much of a difference between 1) handing out "rebate checks," and 2) hiring workers. Either way, the gov't is spending money to try to stimulate the economy. But, in the old "give a fish/teach to fish" philosophical argument, a refund check can only be spent once; a job is (potentially) a much more permanent thing.

6:33 PM  

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